Opening Friday, February 5
Directed by Adam Green
As high a concept as you can possibly get, Frozen is horrifying and brutal at times but without ever losing sight of important things like creating characters you really care about whether they live or die.
Three friends go on a weekend skiing trip and are left stranded on a ski lift at night in the freezing cold, forcing them to make difficult choices if they want to survive.
The wave of young guns trying to be the new Carpenter, Craven or Romero has reached a rather high watermark in recent years with the likes of Ti West and Eli Roth bringing old school horror sensibilities to modern-day horror fans. Among those ranks is Adam Green, who switches gears quite drastically after his Louisiana slasher flick “Hatchet” to a more high concept reality-based movies where young people are put through a horrifying ordeal that doesn’t involve the supernatural. We’ve seen this sort of thing come out of the world of indie horror before, and the results have ranged from the mediocre (Open Water) to the brilliant (Wolf Creek).
Frozen starts out simply enough by introducing the three friends as they arrive for a weekend of casual skiing and it spends roughly 20 minutes establishing the characters and their relationshipâ€”Dan and Parker are a couple while Dan’s friend Lynch acts as the third wheelâ€”before putting them on the ski lift high above the ground and leaving them stranded there. Thankfully, Green has come up with a logical reason for this to happen, and not just as revenge by the poor schmuck they con to let them on the lift in the first place. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ll already have some idea what to expect next, but it’s a crime going too much into plot details about what the three are put through over the next hour.
Some might find it a little surprising this premise can be stretched out over a 90-minute movie, so much of it showing them dealing with the hazards of the frigid weather and trying to figure out how to escape. Much of this involves watching them sitting on that ski lift talking, either trying to keep the mood light while their situation gets worse and worse, or later on, taking a more dramatic turn as they resort to playing the blame game for their predicament. Green realizes that creating three-dimensional characters early on makes what happens to them later more effective, but those expecting anything even remotely fast-paced might get frustrated with the slow pace, at least for the first hour.
For the most part, the movie isn’t really that scary either as much as it is tough to watch some of the ordeals they endure, including a few bits that will make even those with the strongest constitutions squeamish. That’s mainly since Green handles the gore so realistically and not at all as heightened as we might normally see in a quote-unquote horror movie. The most disturbing bits are scattered throughout all of the dialogue scenes, and Green does a commendable job building the tension so that you really feel the urgency of what they’re facing as their situation worsens.
Even so, being a movie that relies so much on such a simple premise, one really can’t say Frozen breaks a lot of new ground in the realms of real-life horror, but Green’s dialogue is as strong as his direction, and he gets surprisingly dramatic performances out of his talented cast, all of them doing a lot with very little. Emma Bell certainly has the heaviest lifting of the trio in terms of drama and she delivers quite a remarkable performance for someone with so little film experience, and Shawn Ashmore is also quite good, even though it’s hard not to make the obvious crack about the actor better known as Iceman form the X-Men movies starring in a movie called Frozen.
The production values are notably superior to Hatchet despite the minimal setting, Green always going for realism in every situation; in that sense, the wolves that show up to threaten the trio look particularly menacing. That said, Frozen isn’t exactly Touching the Void, and there are more than a few plausibility issues, especially when you try to get your head around three young people going out on the slopes without one of them having a cell phone or PDA. Green barely addresses this, and there’s nothing to make us assume this story takes place in the ’70s or ’80s or anything. That’s really a minor quibble though, and Frozen is ultimately effective at exploring what people might do in this sort of situation in order to survive.