Saturday, 14 January 2012

Frozen (2010)

Director Adam Green showed versatility here by moving from one sub-genre of horror to another. His directorial debut ‘Hatchet’ (2007) and its sequel ‘Hatchet II’ (2010) were his bloody comedic homages to the slasher film. During the time between those movies, we had the minimalist survival terror of ‘Frozen’. It is a bleak suspenseful tense tale of a skiing weekend gone tragically wrong.

Three teenage friends Parker, Dan and Lynch slowly die while being trapped high up on a chairlift for five whole days when left behind accidentally in a skiing resort that has closed until next weekend. Getting severe frostbite, they are also without food and water, no phones and are isolated from people for help. 

The first act is mostly concerned with getting the audience to know the youthful trio. These thirty minutes are comprised of much witty chitchat amongst the three thanks to some sharp dialogue from Green’s script. The day starts well for them as they manage to bribe the chairlift operator into letting them ride without tickets and Lynch meets a pretty girl and gets her phone number. They are hugely likable characters, which makes the entailing horrifying events all the sadder for us - the voyeurs of their tragic misfortune.

Parker is the girlfriend of Dan they have been seeing each other for a year and Lynch is the childhood best friend of Dan. Lynch is jealous of the couple in that he feels that Parker is intruding on Dan’s and his friendship. Although they all generally get along well there is obviously a little bit of friction with some friendly and amusing arguing. Dan is in the middle trying to keep both of them happy. Because we become more and more attached to these three we later travel on an extremely emotional and fearful journey with them when we witness these immensely likable people who could easily be friends, family or ourselves struggling to survive the most dreadful and dangerous of situations which could easily happen.

All three actors Emma Bell (Parker) Kevin Zegers (Dan) and Shawn Ashmore (Lynch) give strong solid performances. What with all this and a screenplay that oozes rich characterization you will be convinced that Parker and Dan are in love and believe that Dan and Lynch are genuinely best friends since childhood - we can easily relate here.  

The rest of the first half hour consists of the set up. Opening shots of the film show us the chairlifts and the intricate workings that operate them. This creates a chilling (pardon the pun) prelude to the forthcoming disaster. In one scene, while the resort is still open a large number of skiers including our protagonists are stuck on the chairlifts as they stop working. As the three friends wait for them to start moving again, Lynch decides to start having a laugh by arse jumping up and down and we see a close up of the chair loosening from the cable - a plot device for later in the movie.

Lynch becomes annoyed with Parker’s lack of experience as Dan spends most of the time teaching her instead of doing some real skiing with him. Therefore, they try to make up for it by persuading the same chairlift operator to let them go back up for one last run just before closing time. As they go up there is a change in operator. Told by the former that there is three on the way down the man taking over sees three skiers coming down the slope who obviously are not the people we have gotten to know and like over the course of the film so far. With that, a sense of impending doom starts to set in. After we see a close up of the switch for the chairlifts turned off and the friends start complaining thinking it is just a minor fault like before we then see the resort’s bright lights slowly going out behind them. Left alone swinging high up in freezing cold conditions, they realize that they are in deep trouble. The doom has truly set in now. 

For the rest of the movie nobody knows the teens are up there and it is getting colder. They are not able to jump as it is too high they cannot climb to a the tower nearby as the cable holding up the chairlift is too sharp and cuts through their gloves and their clothes cannot keep them warm enough in such freezing cold conditions. After the shock and blaming of each other in their despair and desperation, they resort to life or death decisions in order to escape which is even more life threatening than sitting and freezing to death. Some poor judgment results in the frightening scenes of minimalist horror all taking place in one location - things go from very bad to extremely worse. They also discover another huge danger to their lives briefly touched upon beforehand when we the audience see a notice of a missing skier in the resort’s lodge.

The emphasis is on realism here. Filmed entirely on location in the freezing cold snow of Snownbasin just outside Ogden, Utah the story is actually set in Massachusetts. Green completely avoids the use of technical advances in filmmaking and the use of soundstages and green screens and opts for 100% practical effects. I went to see ‘Frozen’ in a heavily air conditioned cinema here in Thailand. What with this and the extremely cold elements that the three leads experience for real with the aid of some skilled cinematography and the huge use of realistic sound effects with a limited musical score it makes for a cinematic experience which made me shiver for real and believe I was in this terrifying situation with them.

There are many great scenes of pure suspense and terror here but I am not going to talk about them to avoid spoilers. This is edge of your seat stuff, which will make you squirm with its tight taut sequences of survivalist frights. Expertly crafted by Adam Green he delivered here his most mature and strongest work to date as a director. This movie achieves in what it sets out to do by putting you off skiing for life. You will feel every bit of fear alongside these luckless good people and by the end you will feel emotionally drained. 

**** out of ****

Dave J. Wilson

©2012 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.

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