Shawn Ashmore - Joe Lynch
Kevin Zegers - Dan Walker
Emma Bell - Parker O'Neil
Ed Ackerman - Jason
Rileah Vanderbilt - Shannon
Kane Hodder - Cody
Genre - Horror/Thriller/Suspense/Psychological
Running Time - 93 Minutes
I haven't been skiing in ten years, but I do enjoy the sport. I can't say I'm all that good at it, but falling down on the snow and feeling the chilly air hitting my face is a pretty good time, in my opinion. The only thing I like is getting on the ski life. Not only am I afraid of spiders and terrified by clowns, but yes, I'm also afraid of heights. I tend to like having control over things, yet gravity is one thing no one can really control.
Which is why the events of 2010's FROZEN are horrifying for me. I can't imagine being stuck on a ski lift at a high altitude, with no one to hear you scream for help while you're freezing to death during a snowstorm. Not only that, but jumping off of the lift could either physically injure you or kill you. And if you do survive, you also have to deal with a few carnivorous friends that are very hungry. It's like being stuck at the very top of a Ferris Wheel, but worse.
Thankfully, FROZEN is just a movie - and what a great movie it is! Not only will it chill you, make you cringe, and feel sorry for the plight of these characters; but it will also make you appreciate Adam Green's evolution as a horror director and screenwriter. FROZEN is Green's finest work at this point and deserves to be more than just a cult hit.
Parker (Emma Bell), her boyfriend Dan (Kevin Zegers), and his best friend Joe (Shawn Ashmore), spend time at a ski resort for the weekend. Due to Parker's inexperience at skiing and snowboarding, the trio is stuck on the bunny slopes for most of the weekend. This frustrates Joe, who wants to do more challenging skiing, plus doesn't like the fact that Parker is interfering with his "Guy's Weekend" with Dan. As the resort is about to close, Joe wants to hit tougher slopes. He, Dan, and Parker convince the communication operator of the ski lift, Jason (Ed Ackerman), for one last ski, but poor communication leads to the trio being stuck in their ski lift, high above with no signs of life or help around to save them from freezing to death. Realizing that the resort won't reopen until the following weekend, the trio must decide how to save themselves from the cold, their dangerous height, and a pack of hungry wolves that come out of nowhere.
I'm surprised that the idea behind FROZEN worked extremely well as a feature-length movie. It's just so basic and uncomplicated that you'd believe it would work better as a short rather than a 90-minute experience. But Adam Green makes it work so well, to the point where you're captivated by the performances of the actors, the characters, the direction, and the simple story itself. Even though I did find one of the plot devices to be a bit far-fetched, to the point that it took some of the logic away from the realism of the situation, I really enjoyed FROZEN.
It's hard to discuss the narrative of the movie without spoiling things, so I won't discuss the specifics of the story itself. Instead, I'll focus on the main reason why FROZEN works so well - the characters. Green does it right by keeping the focus on the three main characters from beginning to end, instead of bringing in an ensemble cast that could dilute the intensity and fear of the situation. We learn a lot about these characters within 90 minutes, making us relate to each one of them and experience indirectly what they're going through onscreen.
I thought they were all sympathetic for different reasons. Joe and Dan are those best friends who act more like brothers - probably able read each other's throughts and finish each other's sentences. With the addition of Parker, it adds tension between Joe and Dan. While Joe understands that Dan should spend time with his new girlfriend, Joe still wants that bonding time alone with Dan. This tension builds up, especially when all three are trapped on the ski lift. You start to wonder what the jealousy and "third wheel" aspect of their relationship will bring about once the need to survive kicks in. And it's done in a realistic way, where they put that aside, learn more about each other as individuals, and realize that their only way to survive is to work together.
And it's not like any individual is a total prick that you'll hate one of them for being so petty and bitter. Parker, in one scene, suggests to step aside for a while so the guys can hang out together. This shows that she understands the situation and is willing to be a good girlfriend who cares about Joe and Dan's relationship. And at the same time, Joe tries to make it seem as if everything is okay, even when Parker knows it's not, just to please his best friend. And with Dan playing off both sides and willing to make time with both Parker and Joe, it creates a very interesting and humanistic dynamic that most films in general tend to fail at doing it. They're not stereotypes that we usually see in a horror film. They're real people struggling in a horrible situation, which allows them to open up to each other and bond over survival. It's sort of like 2004's OPEN WATER, but I think the characters in FROZEN are more appealing and interesting due to their portrayals.
I also think that Green presents the scenerio as believable. Even though I'm sure it's rare for people to be stranded on a ski lift for long periods of time, I'm sure it could be possible. This is where the psychological aspect comes in. The one question you keep asking yourself is, "What would I do?" "Would I try and jump off the lift to find some sort of help?" "Would I just wait, hoping someone will help me?" I think asking these sort of questions and doubting your gut instincts is truly the terrifying part of the whole deal. I kept asking myself if I would have done what these characters would have done, even knowing the risks. What happens to them physically will definitely make you cringe, but it's the emotional and mental toll that really brings out the horror here. I think Green did a great job building up the suspense, having the characters talk to each other about their options and making their dialogue and actions truly realistic. I found the facial expressions and body language of each character to be more interesting than what they said. I'm not saying the dialogue was terrible - it was actually very well written and each thing that was said actually meant something and moved the story forward. But the silence is always more telling and I bought it in this film.
I think the only issue I have with the story is the appearance of the wolves. Yeah, that sounds truly hypocritical of me since my nickname is "The Wolf". But I felt that their presence, while adding tension to the scenerio and giving the characters another obstacle to overcome, was a bit far-fetched in terms of the realism that surrounded it. If the characters had talked about a story about someone getting attacked by wolves [like a legend or something], or if the workers at the resort had warned people of wolves, I probably would have bought it. But they just appear out of nowhere and at the most convienient of times. It almost comes off as a bit over-the-top. I think the film could have been just as great without the wolf sub-plot, because the characters could still injure themselves by falling, freeze to death, or be buried by the snowstorm. There still would have been danger and obstacles that were physical without adding more to the mix. I understand why Green added them in and for the most part, they worked as a cinematic tool. But I think that because everything was so subtle before their appearance, it took me out of the film for a bit. Instead of me worrying that the wolves were going to eat the characters, I kept wondering where the hell they came from. Less is more sometimes.
FROZEN isn't particularly a gore-fest, but there are moments that will make audiences cringe and cover their eyes. There's a moment where someone falls and the bones of their legs push out of their skin as the legs break. We get a hand stuck to the metal rod that protects one from falling off a ski lift. And of course, we get the wolves doing their thing. The film is more psychological in its horror, but there is blood.
Adam Green's direction is superb. The cinematography is absolutely stunning. The pacing is perfect. There are no over-the-top stylistic shots to compensate for a weak story. Green shoots with subtlety and let's the acting and screenplay tell the story rather than the visuals. Green also displays a fantastic level of creating tension and suspense that I truly appreciated. It probably helped that FROZEN was actually filmed for several weeks during a snow storm, working through the freezing conditions and risking frostbite to create a memorable horror film. I say he succeeded in doing just that. I have enjoyed Green's work on HATCHET and SPIRAL, but FROZEN is his masterpiece so far in his young career. I definitely look forward to more from him.
The acting is very strong and carries the film from beginning to end. Shawn Ashmore, best known as Bobby 'Iceman' Drake from the X-MEN trilogy, was excellent as Joe Lynch [named after the director of WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END, who happens to be one of Green's good friends]. He was truly sympathetic and I found his vulnerability both charming and realistic. Kevin Zegers, best known for his roles in AIR BUD and 2004's DAWN OF THE DEAD, also does well as Dan. The character goes through hell in the film and Zegers plays it off convincingly. Plus he had fantastic chemistry with Ashmore, who are best friends in real life [which helped the performances greatly]. Emma Bell was also very good as Parker. She brought a vulnerability and compassion to a character that could have been stereotypical. I believed her fear and felt bad for her. She also had great chemistry with Zegers and Ashmore. Plus we get cameos by Joe Lynch, Adam Green himself, and even Kane "Jason Voorhees" Hodder. A small, but incredible, cast of actors really push FROZEN ahead of the horror pack in 2010.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE FREEZING MY ASS OFF
- Joe was upset that Dan brought Parker to ski with them, when it was just a thing between he and Dan. Dan better watch his back if this film is any indication.
- Joe got pushed by a guy for touching his girlfriend. Apparently, Iceman attracts a lot of hotheads.
- The trio were discussing what would be the worst way to die as they were stuck on the ski lift. The worst way to die for me is being James Brolin. Two words: Barbara Streisand. Memories like the corners of my mind...that I would like to forget, thank you!
- The trio had to suffer through a bad snowstorm while on the ski life. Looks like Halle Berry was PMSing that Shawn Ashmore got a cool secret assignment. It's not his fault she was assigned CATWOMAN!
- Dan contemplated jumping off the lift to find help, even when he knew he could hurt himself due to the height. I don't know if I would've done what he was thinking of doing. That's a lot of AIR, BUD!
- Joe was freezing to death. Looks like he got the cure after the events of X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. What a wuss!
THE FINAL HOWL
In a pretty crummy year for horror films, FROZEN is a breath of cold, fresh air. With tight direction, believable acting, and a simple yet effective narrative, I would recommend this film to anyone who wants to watch a psychologically chilling horror film. FROZEN is proof that the indie scene is where the good horror is at these days. Definitely check it out if you haven't already.
3.5 Howls Outta 4