The simple concept, well executed: Something of a holy grail for the indie auteur and something that Adam Green (Hatchet) managed to pull off with Frozen.
Too-handsome Dan (Kevin Zegers), his too-sweet-and-innocent girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) and lifelong/douchey best friend Joe (Shawn Ashmore – who played Iceman in the X-Men movies (and whom you can go ahead and make your own jokes regarding that)) are low on cash and visiting a rundown New England ski resort. Joe holds some resentment toward the new couple but that certainly won’t be the focus of character drama later, so don’t worry about it. The handsome/douchey guys convince Parker to get them onto the ski lift for free and, through a surprisingly plausible series of events, the trio end up trapped on the ski lift in the dead of night, fifty feet in the air and with the ski lodge closed for the next five days.
Oh, and there are wolves. So, they’re fucked. Hit the jump for more:
I would like to take another few words to, once again, compliment Adam Green on producing a pretty amazing concept for a horror/survival/thriller. He takes a totally believable scenario and ups the stakes just enough to create an experience that, when it works, creates a palpable and believable sense of dread. For the moment, let’s focus on the parts that work.
Green knows how to amp the suspense and tension. Despite the Blu-ray case’s assertion that “critics” have called it “Jaws in the Snow”, it never reaches that level of classy terror, but it comes closer than any movie I have seen in a long while. He knows the rhythm of suspense: from the right balance of music and silence to the proper use of a closeup, the first forty five minutes or so of Frozen do an exceptional job of ratcheting tension. We all like to think that, when faced with an impossible situation, we would be Mr./Ms. Joe Cool and find a way out. Frozen acknowledges (hell, embraces) the idea that people in extreme situations are prone to doing dumb things. And, while Dan, Parker and Joe each do some extremely dumb (and very brave) things in the course of their time on the ski lift, all of it feels believable and in-character. I just wish that I had cared a little more about them.
Now, to be fair, our trio of stranded skiers are probably more well-realized and less annoying than the most characters you will find in a film of this nature. Maybe a little too realistic, to be honest. I keep coming back to The Ruins when thinking about the characters in Frozen. The young, self-absorbed group of idiots is basically the standard cast for this kind of film, but the dumb-asses in that film were, ultimately, more entertaining to watch. Again, it comes down to realism. Thinking back on my own life, I absolutely believe that the mundane, petty, self-absorbed problems Frozen’s trio would have been what was on my mind when I was in my early twenties, but, it just failed to resonate here (Caveat: Emma Bell delivers a monologue regarding her newly-acquired puppy that, while manipulative as hell, is devastating thanks to the combination of dialogue and performance). Zegers, Bell and Ashmore are great (I wasn’t sold on Kevin Zegers, until he provided a pathetic and heartbreaking transition from courage to terror that stuck with me), so I have to lay most of the blame there on the script.
I can pick a few more nits, such as the fact that things get just a little too unbelievably Action-Movie-Logic in the last act but, really, that’s all they are. Nits.
The Blu-ray features are goddamn fantastic. For the first ten or so minutes of watching the multiple and well-produced documentaries, I decided that I didn’t like Adam Green. Something about him just rubbed me wrong. By the time I had finished the docs and commentaries, my opinion of the man had changed.
For an low-budget indie production, Frozen accomplished some amazing feats and the special features cover them in exhausting detail. Whatever your opinion of the film itself, the specials will improve it.
Minor quibbles aside, Frozen is a really good thriller and an even better testament to what can be done with a small budget, a big commitment and a lot of heart.
Final Grade: A-