Anchor Bay // 2010 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // September 28th, 2010
No one knows you're up there.
Frozen is a nicely sculpted survival picture, a horror film that does a good job of sustaining tension and interest for the majority of its 93 minutes. Directed by up and coming genre filmmaker Adam Green, Frozen starts on a contrived and stupid note, but develops into a nail biting and well-acted fright piece.
After a weekend of skiing, three friends decide to hit the slopes for one last run, conning their way onto the last chair lift as night falls. They are Dan (Kevin Zegers, Dawn of the Dead), his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell, Gracie), and best friend Lynch (Shawn Ashmore, The Ruins), the latter none too pleased concerning the female's presence on the trip. Due to a series of unfortunate coincidences the trio ends up stranded in the chair, halfway up the mountain and with the resort closed for the week. As the cold sets in and wolves begin to circle below, the group has to decide if they're going to wait it out or try and escape their deathly situation by somehow plummeting safely from the massive height.
The setup for Frozen requires a massive suspension of disbelief, Green scripting a frustratingly convenient set of events so that his perilous premise can develop. The director asks almost too much from audiences with this lethargic and unbelievable opening act, after all I find it unlikely that a big ski resort wouldn't have heftier security measures to prevent this sort of situation. A tolerance for the absurd is vital, the film's salvation coming from the fact Green delivers a mightily suspenseful hour following the lackluster opening 20 minutes. Any laziness evidenced at the movie's beginning is washed away in favour of creativity and raw terror. By its finale, the picture wins the audience over, proof that a bad start can be put right by a solid middle and ending.
The three lead performances are very good, with special notice being paid to Ashmore and Bell. Zegers does decent work but isn't given as much to work with, Lynch and Parker being granted a subtly antagonistic relationship that develops effectively as the story moves forward. As with any good survivalist horror movie, Frozen provides you with characters worth caring about, Green imbuing the screenplay with intelligently realized moments of emotional realization and reminiscence. At times the character's actions don't always smack of intuitive thinking, but then again the slightly uneven stream of consciousness each supplies adds to the underlying tone of panic and distress.
Once the nightmare begins and the screen entities become trapped in the claustrophobic setting, Frozen skillfully builds tension right until its desperate and compelling climax. Green displays steady hands when it comes to ladling on the dread, something compounded by a reference to Jaws made during the picture. The movie does a grand job of allowing viewers to imagine what they'd do in the same scenario, presenting universal fears such as frostbite and ravenous predators to help instill an extra dose of fear. Green is also willing to provide respectable yuks, sequences of leg snapping, disemboweled corpses, and skin peeling frost allowing the picture to adopt a properly visceral tone. It's a ferociously taut and visually disturbing effort, furthered by solid cinematography and a suitably imposing musical score. In Frozen nature is the enemy, and from a technical viewpoint the filmmakers do a fabulous job of concocting haunting visuals and an aggressively threatening sound design to trouble the protagonists.
The film runs smoothly enough at 93 minutes, Green pacing proceedings well after the irksome opening section. The film perhaps lacks a truly unforgettable scene ("We're going to need a bigger boat" and Blair Witch's on camera confession spring to mind) but once things get underway Frozen is a consistently entertaining and slickly crafted yarn. Certainly it's an indication that Green might have a classic in him yet.
The DVD presents the icy visuals of the film well; the scenery looks pretty and the image quality is clear and nicely defined. The disc also comes with a raft of good quality added content, including an audio commentary with director and cast. The track is compelling and filled with some terrific insights and stories, with everyone exhibiting an infectious passion for the project. It's a treat to behold, and for once the hosts are more than happy to acknowledge some of the deficiencies in their product. A selection of featurettes run through the production of the movie thoroughly and with a dedication to detail, avoiding the obvious promotional tint that too much EPK orientated material surrenders to these days. The four featurettes run for nearly an hour and a half when combined, and not one second of that respectable running is peppered with silly sound bites or excessive self congratulation. They are sincere and well formed pieces that act as a delightful companion to the movie. Finally some deleted scenes are also included, a rather unremarkable bunch that were definitely correctly excised from the final cut.
Frozen is very watchable and a promising indicator of what Green might be capable of later in his career. It's doubtful the movie will have a high rewatch value (much of the pleasure is derived from deducing each character's fate) but as a rental it's highly recommended. The film is also presented on a smashing DVD, props to Anchor Bay for such a strong release.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes