Notable Cast: Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers
Review: Frozen is another movie that proves you don’t need a ridiculous monster or a psychotic serial killer to create a successful horror/thriller. It is a one setting thriller, a la Open Water (but done infinity times better), that strives on atmosphere, characters, and story to create the chills and edge of your seat intensity. Director Adam Green (a Hofstra alumni!) first brought us the slasher/comedy Hatchet which established his career, but chose a much more serious route to set the mood for Frozen. Sure there are a few moments where you have to convince yourself the events aren’t completely preposterous, but I have to admit these events are completely plausible compared to the stretches other films make in the genre. I can tell you you’re not going to catch me night skiing any time soon thanks to Mr. Green’s Frozen.
The story starts out introducing us to three college kids on a ski trip named Joe (Ashmore), Dan (Zegers), and Parker (Bell). Joe and Dan are long time friends, while Parker is the new girlfriend of Dan who tags along on their skiing/bonding trip at local ski resort Mount Hollister. After a slow day of watching Parker attempt to snowboard, they decided to get one last good run in before the slopes close for the week. When the chairlift operator informs them everything is being shut down early due to an impending weather threat, they manage to convince him to let them take one last run down. As they are going up the chairlift, the operator is called away and replaced by another one whom he informs there are only 3 boarders left on the mountain. He of course is referring to our three main characters, but as they are still on the chairlift three other borders come down the mountain and pass the new chairlift operator. Yup, you know what happens now. He shuts everything down, turns the power off, and leaves the mountain which will not be opened for another five days. Our protagonists dismiss the stopping chairlift as technical problems, but quickly realize that their worst fears are actually reality. Can they survive for 5 days in a chairlift, or do they even want to chance the five days in the freezing weather? Find out for yourself if you are interested, it definitely is worth the viewing.
I give this movie a lot of credit because it took things we deal with in real life situations and made them the main features our characters fear. It’s one thing to go into a movie featuring say, Jason Voorhees, and be able to walk out knowing he is a fictional character. None of us are ever going to be killed by Jason. That is a fact. But it’s another thing to walk into Frozen and watch the characters battle simple things like hail, frostbite, paranoia, isolation, and wild animals. Things that we see every day. Let’s face it, the situation is not out of the question. Sure, everything that had to happen for it to play out the way it did end up happening. But again, who says it can’t happen like that in real life? Kids are dumb enough to bribe their way onto a chairlift just for one more ride. In the same respect, I’m sure a worker earning minimum wage wouldn’t mind taking some extra cash just to give 3 more kids a last ride. And what happens next is just sheer mis-communication and well, bad luck for our college adventurers. But god, to think of it really happening? Try as you will, but it’s not out of the question. Also, that feeling of abandonment that Green created makes the movie what it is. In between scenes, he would add shots of the mountain, showing it at a complete stand still. It was a ghost town. Even the sun coming up offered no relief because our characters still faced the fact that they were completely alone. There was nothing to fight. No light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing they could do was wait, and even that offered little chance of survival. Even thinking about it now, I can’t even begin to describe how I would deal with the feelings of desperation and despair. Evoking those emotions helps keep you wondering at what the characters can possibly do to better their situation. Definitely a strong point for Frozen, keeping your attention.
Where Frozen struggles though is the ability to believe all the things that happened. There is a scene when they are first stuck on the chairlift where a worker in what looks like a snow grooming vehicle is going to pick another worker up, stops almost directly under them, and then ends up turning around an leaving. They try throwing their equipment (Joe throws his goggles down first…in -0 degree weather?!) in front of the vehicle to catch his attention, but of course the driver does one of those movie clichés where every time he turns around another piece falls and he never actually sees it happen. The rest I could deal with but that was pushing it a little far. There was also the presence of the wolves that I haven’t mentioned. They were the threat on the ground so even if any of the kids got down from the chairlift, they still had to deal with the hungry wolves. I had no problem with them, but I just had to wonder if they would have behaved like that honestly or if it was just the movie. Nothing major really, just some questions. The plus side to these is that they didn’t take me out of the movie even if I questioned it. In a poorly done movie, I would have given up on trying to rationalize what I was watching. But Green never went too over the top and managed to keep everything fairly believable where I was still drawn in by the “No Way” moments of the film.
Nothing made me cringe more in this movie than the frostbite the kids had to face, especially Parker. I won’t give too much away, but at one point when Parker wakes up she finds to her dismay that her bare hand is gripping the metal safety bar that has been exposed to below freezing weather for an entire night (let alone all the other time it’s been in the regular cold). When she tries to pull her hand off of the safety bar, it rises with her hand. Remember that scene where the kid gets his tongue stuck to the freezing metal pole in A Christmas Story? Same principle. Except our kids in Frozen don’t have hot water or anything to make it easier. I’m shuttering still thinking about when she takes her hand off. Major props go to the make-up department here for the work they did making the three struggling survivors look weathered and beaten from the cold. It was disgusting how realistic it looked and how it made me forget there was any make-up at all. Again, I’m still cringing at Parker’s predicament.
Lastly, a major part in these small cast movies is making characters we don’t hate, because those are the only characters we are going to have any interaction with a majority of the movie. If we don’t care, there is no tension. We won’t wonder what crazy idea they’ll hatch next to try and save themselves. Honestly, well just sit there going “fuck ’em, let them die and end this movie.” We have to have sympathy for the characters and we have to want them to live to make the movie enjoyable. Go back to my Legion example for instance. I couldn’t give two shits for any of the characters and when they were killed off, I found it more hilarious and satisfying then wanting them to make it out alive. It takes away from the suspense because live or die, it didn’t matter. Green did a good job developing his characters though, and through dialogue was able to give us a reason to root for them. Joe and Parker especially, making them bond together and showing a soft side to them. Sure Joe starts out as a cocky college kid, but he eventually gets to the point of being purely petrified and wanting nothing more than to just be alive. He is scared. There is no being a hero just for the sake of it. It’s all about survival and necessity, which is a lot more relatable for the viewers. Out of all three characters, I give the stand out acting to Ashmore, trying his best to calm the other two while keeping his own emotions in check. Without the proper development of characters that offer any sort of connection for the viewers, this movie could have taken a turn for the worst (cough cough Open Water).
All in all, I enjoyed this movie. I will say though if you are not a fan of this genre, Frozen probably won’t be the movie that turns you on to it. I appreciate this movie for what it offers, atmosphere driven tension in a closed and limited area, but some people will still find this movie totally unrealistic and ridiculous. If you are one of those, skip it. If you are in search of a good thriller though, give Frozen a watch. I say see it in theaters, but if you aren’t willing to pay it’s a must rent. Frozen is a perfect example of where a simple film can excel if you focus on doing the important things right. The plot? Kids stuck on a chairlift. That’s it. But it’s how Green sets the scene and humanizes his characters, (makes them relatable) that sets his movie aside from the other junk that is cranked out (cough cough Open Water…and Open Water 2?! That warranted a sequel?!) filled with unbelievable plot twists, unnecessary gore, and lack of realism in the characters. Score one for the Hofstra graduate, he deserves it.
Final Rating: 7.5 frostbitten limbs out of 10