– Summary –
Director : Adam Green
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Rileah Vanderbilt, Ed Ackerman, Adam Johnson, Christopher York.
Approx Running Time : 95 Minutes
Synopsis: A trio of friends are trapped half-way up a ski-lift on the last night of the weekend’s ski-field opening – nobody is coming back for a week, and they have no way of communicating with the outside world.
What we think : Better than average thriller, with the obligatory gore only featured in key moments of absolute necessity – Frozen is most definitely worth a look. The acting is a little average, but the direction and pacing (as well as the tension) are superb. A great genre piece that deserves more attention than it got in theatres.
Frozen, which I’ve affectionately retitled “Open Water on Skis“, was one of those blink-and-you-miss-it entries into the thriller genre earlier this year – to the point where I don’t think it even received a cinema release here in Australia. Which is disappointing, because Frozen deserves a wider audience than it received. Direct to DVD normally indicates a certain level of film proficiency that more discerning audiences avoid. Frozen isn’t one of those kinds of films. I mean, it is, but it isn’t, if you catch my drift. It’s a B-grader, that’s for sure, but it’s so well made (considering the production values) that it defies both the conventions of its inherent genre deficits, but is damn entertaining as well.
After scamming their way onto the ski slopes at a local resort, Dan and Parker, together with Dans best friend Joe spend the day in the snow before they are due to return home. In one last fit of rebelliousness, the trio decide to go up on one last run, late into the evening when the slopes are due to be closed. Due to a mix-up in communication, the lift operator turns the chair-lift off while the trio are half way up the side of the mountain, meters into the air and with no form of communication to call for help. As luck would have it, the resort is due to close down for the week, which means the chances of anyone coming back to find them are virtually nil. With a cold front heading in, the temperature dropping and nerves becoming frayed, the trio of friends must try to remain alive in the most hostile of environments.
Frozen has a fairly simple premise. It also has fairly simple characters. That’s not to say these people are uninteresting, it’s just that sometimes the script feels a little predictable as the Jock, his Studly Best Friend and the Blonde Bimbo cliches are rolled out once more – only this time, they’re central characters and not merely on the sidelines. It’s like director/writer Adam Green has tried to give us a character study and a thriller in one go – but the characters aren’t well defined or written enough to draw us into the emotional depth of their plight. Were merely watching a couple of folks stuck up high panicking, and wondering just how they’re going to get down. While the cynic in me would normally tear a film with such poorly constructed characters apart, I actually found Frozen pretty entertaining regardless. That’s not to overlook the films faults, but to simply accept that the film isn’t there to focus on character development as much as it is in applying thumbscrews to the audience with the tension.
Indeed, the bulk of the film is set around a single chairlift, stuck high above the ground in the driving snow and ice. The term “Hitchcockian” was derived for a concept like this, with the Master’s Rope being the closest I can think of as an approximation of the tension involved here. Where the two films deviate, though, is that Hitchcock’s film had better characters, if not a more claustrophobic setting. Frozen, while being set out in the open, with the elements and nature taking their toll on the central characters, still feels quite intimate; a rare feat for a modern genre film such as this. The cast do their best to act scared, terrified and (in the end) broken, and the end result is a series of average performances that only just scrape in above mediocre Midday Movie material. One of the characters (I’m not going to tell you who) tries to jump down to the ground in order to go for help, only to seriously break both legs and go into severe shock. As you’d expect in the US mountains, wolves abound and come running when they catch the scent of bone through skin. Much like the aforementioned Open Water, it’s only a matter of time before the unthinkable actually happens.
There’s a lot to like about Green’s film, and most of it is in his editing and camerawork. We’re right there, constantly, with the characters swaying on the chairlift, pummelled by snow and ice, frozen to the metal and rapidly developing frostbite. Green doesn’t dwell on gore (unlike his contemporary directors in Eli Roth), and thankfully, spares us the sight of a body being torn asunder by ravenous wolves – the downside is that we get to hear it in hi-def surround sound. Green understands that often, not showing us the graphic gore is actually more impactful than the pornographic violence depicted in the Saw films, for example. I actually giggled at one point, wondering if Tom Hanks was going to come around the corner Cast Away-style, and instruct our heroes on survival techniques. This, unfortunately, didn’t happen. Ed Marx makes the most of Greens shots, his editing style ensuring the tension is developed by long holds on facial expressions, a refusal to cut away to an insert shot and plenty of atmospheric, shadowy establishment.
Film buffs will be quick to scoff at this films genre influences and probably deride it as a knock-off of some other, more impressive film. As it stands, Frozen doesn’t deserve the lack of status it’s currently accorded. While the acting may be sub-par, the tension and sheer nail-biting drama of the narrative is more than enough to keep you interested in the outcome. Will any of them make it through to the end? If so, who? The token female? The sex-mad best friend? Or the square-jawed jock? One thing’s for sure – before you watch this film, make sure you rug up nice and warm and make yourself a hot cup of coco. You’re going to need it.