Anchor Bay // 2010 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 17th, 2010
No one knows you're up there.
Welcome to R-rated version of Ski Patrol!
Joe (Shawn Ashmore, X2: X-Men United), Dan (Kevin Zegers, Dawn of the Dead) and Dan's girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell, the upcoming TV series The Walking Dead) are three freewheeling, avid snowboarders who want to get one final run in before their local ski lodge closes for the week. But this Sunday may end up being their final weekend of leisure when the best friends end up stuck above a desolate winter wonderland with the elements closing in and a pack of ravenous wolves circling below. As frostbite begins to set in and the realization hits that no one will be coming to their rescue, the stranded threesome begin a downward spiral of panic, fear and terror that may end in everyone being Frozen.
Okay, truth time: a few weeks ago I locked myself in my windowless laundry room. I was changing out the hardware on my townhouse doors (goodbye brassy gold and hello aged bronze) and as I was giving a final twist on the last screw from inside the laundry room the door slammed closed, the knob fell out on the other side and I effectively locked myself inside. At first I chuckled and cursed as I tried to jimmy the middle latch open. When that failed I stood back and thought for a moment. I live alone, my girlfriend was out of town and my parents were on an Alaskan cruise. It dawned on me that help would not be coming anytime soon. A small amount of panic set in: now what? I imagined my final moments, crumpled on the floor without food or clean water and I decided I didn't want to die, especially next to my dirty underwear. Finally, I decided (without knowing if I could) to try breaking down the door. Eventually I got out, but for those few brief moments I felt real fear.
And so it goes with Adam's Green's Frozen, a chillingly terrifying deep freeze, worst-case scenario. Three kids, one winter ski lift and a pack of hungry wolves. This is truly the stuff of sweat-inducing nightmares. If you saw the movie Open Water -- about two oceanic divers left behind to face the relentless tide and even more relentless great white sharks -- then you know what to expect in the movie Frozen. I'm finding Adam Green to be an interesting genre director. His first film was the '80s homage Hatchet, an intentionally superficial Friday the 13th knock-off filled with guts and gore and giggles. Frozen is a departure for Green and shows growth and maturity as both a director and a storyteller. Told in an almost theatrical sense (I could easily see this being turned into a stage show with its almost single bleak setting), Frozen plays with your mind and never takes the easy way out.
I was captivated by Frozen, which is not something that happens very often for me after sitting through thousands of movies. The truth is that Frozen is quite simple in its premise and execution. Yet Green is able to wring maximum chills and suspense out of what is effectively three people sitting on a ski lift. This review will be brief, if only because I cannot discuss much of the film without giving away pretty big spoilers, and Frozen is a movie that works best when you know as little about how it unfolds as possible. Suffice it to say some bad things happen, but not before a lot of wonderful misdirection and creepy, dread filled atmosphere.
The actors -- mainly Kevin Zegers, Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore -- all give strong performances as three kids (not dumb but not particularly bright, either) whose weekend plans get derailed, big time. The requirements here are not extensive -- mostly they go from being bickering snowboarders to terrified victims within a half hour. Ashmore is especially a standout (also playing, ironically, the character Iceman in the X-Men films) in a role that requires a lot of tough stunt work. And look for a brief cameo by Green regular and cult favorite Kane "Jason Voorhees" Hodder in a small but amusing role.
Frozen does a lot of things right, but mostly it provides viewers with a very unnerving movie going experience. Although the story shows true originality, the execution is straight out of the Hitchcock/Spielberg playbook -- as the back of the Blu-ray case notes, "Frozen is Jaws in the snow!" I think that's a pretty apt description of this movie. If you've ever had a fleeting moment of dread on a ski lift -- or while trapped in your laundry room after a home repair incident gone horribly wrong -- then Frozen is a movie you'll get an enormous kick out of.
Frozen is presented in 2.40:1 1080p widescreen. This hi-def picture looks very good considering its low budget origins. The film takes place mostly at night so the predominant color schemes are blue, white and black. The picture is close to being crystal clear without any major defects marring the image. While this transfer may not be reference quality, it's still very attractive and should please fans of the film.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital TruHD 5.1 in English. While everything about this soundtrack is good -- the music is effectively moody and the effects and dialogue are well recorded -- it's not an overly aggressive or exciting soundtrack. There are moments when the rear and side speakers kick in but those times are often few and far between (mostly the side speakers are used for ambient noises and especially heavy during the storm scene). Also included on this disc is a Spanish sound mix, as well as Spanish subtitles.
The extra features on this disc include a commentary track by writer/director Adam Green and the three principle actors (Bell, Ashmore and Zegers), as well as a second commentary track by Green and cinematographer Will Barrett and editor Ed Marx. Not surprisingly, the first commentary track leans more towards interesting factoids about the characters and story while the second track is heavier on technical details of the film shoot. "Catching Frostbite: The Originals of Frozen," "Three Below Zero," "Shooting Through It" and "Beating the Mountain: Surviving Frozen" are all interesting if unoriginal making-of featurettes that includes the requisite talking head interviews by many of the main cast and crew members. Finally there are a few deleted (with good reason) scenes and a theatrical trailer for the film.
I can easily say Frozen is one of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time. Rex Reed states that he "was so paralyzed by this movie I chewed through a whole pencil while watching it." While I wouldn't go quite that far in my assessment of the film, I will say it's worth at least half a pencil in pure cinematic tension.
Don't be left out by checking out Frozen at your local rental
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes