Written and Directed by: Adam Green
Starring: Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, and Kevin Zegers
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"What did the 14-year-old girl from New Hampshire say to her dad when she lost her virginity?"
"Get off me, you're crushing my Marlboros."
"Get off me, you're crushing my Marlboros."
Adam Green is a name that’s growing increasingly familiar to horror fans. He burst onto the scene with his 80s slasher homage, Hatchet, and he’s recently garnered attention for releasing that film’s sequel into theaters in unrated form. Between those two gorefests, Green directed Frozen, a taut little thriller that works with some familiar elements and motifs, like an isolated setting that puts characters’ survival instincts to the test. It’s a gimmicky thriller that allows viewers to ponder just what they’d do to survive an extraordinary (but somehow believable) situation; in this case, it’s something as innocuous as a stuck chairlift. Something tells me that all of our acrophobic readers out there are wincing already.
Parker (Bell), Joe (Ashmore), and Dan (Zegers) are all college students who have decided to get away from the stress and anxiety of everyday life by taking a ski trip. They’re a clever bunch who decides to bribe the chairlift operator into letting them onto the lift for a reduced rate. A few trips down the slope aren’t enough, and, even though bad weather is approaching, they beg the operator for one more ride up. He begrudgingly agrees, and a couple of unfortunate events leads to the three friends being stuck on the chairlift as nightfall approaches. Even worse, it’s Sunday, and the ski resort is shut down until the following weekend; but if that weren’t enough, there’s also a pack of hungry wolves roaming around below, making their escape seemingly impossible.
Frozen represents a nearly complete 180 degree turn from the blood-soaked madness that Green delivered in Hatchet. Instead of relying on over-the-top gore and dismemberments, this one is much more psychological and dramatic. It’s a film whose first act builds up its characters to an appropriate, likeable level before tearing them down for the next hour. They’re subjected to a variety of physical and psychological trials, with their interactions carrying the effectiveness of the film. With the exception of a few seat-squirming sequences (one is especially bone-shattering), there’s little in the way of graphic violence. In fact, Green seems to go out of his way to avoid it, choosing instead to withhold the carnage until the appropriate time.
As such, the three principle actors involved should be commended for their effective performances. Within the opening ten minutes, the chemistry between them is obvious, as it feels like you’re watching some long-time friends have a good time. Their banter is of the usual sort in the sense that it’s mostly meaningless to the plot at large, but it helps to define their characters well. Bell is the sweet but sassy girlfriend, Zegers is the somewhat clownish boyfriend, and Ashmore is the affable third wheel. All three handle the range of emotions well, as the movie quickly descends from being a light-hearted jaunt to a white-knuckle thrill ride. There are an appropriate number of breakdowns along the way, and they’re mostly handled fine, though a couple of moments lean towards the sappy side.
The film’s direction is equally as solid; Green has an eye for capturing the setting at large. There are plenty of wide shots that emphasize the characters’ isolation, as they’re seemingly enveloped by the snowy landscape. On the other hand, the low angle shots that highlight the precarious nature of a situation that sees our characters dangling by a thread most of the time. The film is a likewise effectively paced and lean experience that’s balanced with just enough drama and intense sequences to keep a viewer on edge. Some might find the film’s ending to be a bit anticlimactic and terse, but it actually makes sense because Frozen is like a window into this brief, tortuous experience, and nothing more. Andy Garfield’s sweeping score makes for an excellent aural complement to the film’s polished and sleek visuals.
It all adds up to a nicely crafted production that exhibits skill in multiple areas. Most importantly, Frozen is just a nice little edge-of-your seat thrill-ride that taps into primal fears. Even if you never encounter a ski slope in your life, this one will have you contemplating the hopelessness of such a despairing situation and the depths of the human survival instinct. I think any film that can make you wince on both a physical and psychological level has accomplished something, and Frozen succeeds there, whether the characters are saying things they don’t really mean or if they’re dealing with the physical injuries brought on by the frostbite. Either way, the scenarios are cringe worthy.
Hatchet II is getting all the hype lately, with its highly touted unrated release, but Frozen proves that Green isn’t a one-trick pony; hell, he even has Kane Hodder show up in a cameo and resists the urge to have him chop up our characters. Though this one would play nicely to a packed house, it just wasn’t in the cards; instead, Anchor Bay brought it home to DVD, and it’s up to their usual quality. The widescreen anamorphic transfer preserves the film’s scope ratio and is largely free of artifacts. The bombastic 5.1 soundtrack will envelop your room, as you’ll hear everything from skiers whizzing past you to the howling wolves in the distance. Special feature includes a commentary with Green and the principal actors, a variety of features chronicling the making of the film, deleted scenes, and the film’s trailer. Frozen manages to get a surprising amount of mileage out of a seemingly limiting concept, and it’s a reminder that the most effective thrillers are often the most simplistic and primal. Buy it!
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