I love horror, which is why I review a bit more of it on this site than others. I'm not calling you out, others, I'm just saying you all have more taste than I do. And then I may be under-analyzing. Whatever. I'm speaking to all of you now when I say, only watch Frozen if you've never ever watched any "trapped in one location" movies before. I don't find myself detesting it so much as giving it a cold shoulder. That's a high-water mark.
Adam Green wrote and directed the indie horror Hatchet, lorded by lowly websites as being the comeback of the slasher flick, amongst other ridiculously misdirected compliments. Hatchet is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, including webcam porn. If I'd have swallowed 30 dollars in quarters and shit them all out, I might have bought and reviewed that Blu-ray. But no, there's just Frozen, and I thank all that's holy that this wasn't a similar disaster, either in mood or theme. Side note: I liked Green's Spiral well enough, but it suffers from the same predictability that comes with the subjects for his other movies.
Frozen asks the simple question, and delivers an equally simple road to an answer, as to what happens when three people get stuck on a ski lift with no sign of rescue. The trio consists of boyfriend and girlfriend Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Parker (Emma Bell), and Dan's best friend Lynch (Shawn Ashmore). Dan and Lynch have always gone out to the slopes together. No girls, man. You bring girls to the movies, not on sporting ventures. But Parker tags along and is the one that swindles their way up without buying a pass, which are apparently really expensive. That the movie takes 10 minutes to get us only that far is telling, but character development is apparently optimal for Green's filmmaking. Fake friendly dialogue and cheesy acting mean nothing to me, but I expected all of these things.
I also expected the rest of the movie to carry on this way, and although the tense ebbs and flows are entirely predictable, I won't hold that against the flick. Our trialsome threesome has an unadventurous day in the snow, but they have to go up one more time, to take the biggest slope back down, making up for Parker's bunny trails all day. Unfortunately, miscommunication leads to the lift operator assuming no one is left on the mountain, so all machinery is powered down, leaving Dan, Parker, and Lynch dangling all alone. I will admonish it for describing too much on the back of the box, though you'd have to be a mong not to see it coming.
It would be a disservice to us both if I spoke in detail about the plot's progression. Panic fades in and out. Tempers flare. Shitty decisions are made. Rescue options are discussed. And then, on the other side of a non-climax, the credits roll. There isn't a whole lot packed into Frozen. Try as I might, I can't blame any of it on Adam Green, the director. Granted, there are too many establishing shots of snowy trees and vacant lift chairs, but they're beautiful and drill the desolate isolation home. I choose to blame it on Green, the writer, and Green, the idea-haver. I can't deny that he does as much as he can within this thinly designed story; it's just nowhere near enough to comprise a multi-dimensional film.
Being stuck that high in the air in the middle of the winter doesn't allow one more than a handful of options as a means of passing the time. While things are actually active, Frozen will raise your heart rate and definitely makes you question what your own reflex response would be as one of the characters. Unfortunately, these active bits are separated by mundane conversation. In particular, Lynch has a sympathetic, but overused, habit of making small talk to draw attention away from the hopeless situation. I appreciate this as instinctive realism, but it's still shallow writing. Lynch's troubles with women may exist, but in no way do they alter his ability to withstand freezing conditions, so they don't matter to me. I realize that almost any movie can be micro-analyzed that way, making all additional character development irrelevant. But seeing as how there's absolutely nothing else going on here, much less any subtext, the dialogue feels incredibly light and useless.
So there you have it. Nothing is particularly scary here, just nerve-grating, in a generally positive way. The make-up work is adequate through-out. I speak more of the ice covering the characters' faces than the gore, of which there is little. The local-music soundtrack is okay. The real faults here lie with the one-note cast and the simplistic story, all better suited for a televised anthology. The Chiller network will be all over this in a few years.
There are a decent amount of features here, especially if you dug what you'd just witnessed. There are two commentaries, one with Zegers, Bell, Ashmore, and Green. It's decent, and full of goofing around and acting anecdotes. They justify everything that's done without convincing me, but I feel sorry for what they had to go through. Double that for the stories told during the crew commentary, featuring Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, and editor Ed Mark. They hit home how hard it was to pull this film off with little financial backing and the elements at their back. So if this felt worth it to them, fine.
There are four featurettes that equal 90 minutes of conception, weather horrors, and shooting process. Again, even though I didn't necessarily make it clear earlier, I admire everyone involved with the making of the film for putting up with the cold for that long, in the middle of the difficult filming of Frozen. But this is almost 45 minutes of descriptions of how tough things were in the cold, and how much clothes people wore, and how scary the location got. Anything said about the skill and on-screen charisma of the cast I just glossed over, because really...there are people who could have won Oscars had this been that kind of movie. None of that going on here. Chop half of this thing off, and I'm calling it a should-see.
There are three deleted scenes with optional director commentaries. One is a lodge-set background scene about chicken soup. Another is a puppy story from Parker. The third is another character moment between Parker and Lynch. They're okay scenes, but they deliver character detail in a film where none of it matters much.
I stand on the opposite pole from the people who will and already do love this movie. I love The Blair Witch Project even though it suffers from many of the same faults, to a different extent. If I wasn't such a people person with desires to see characters I can think about after the film is over, I may have enjoyed Frozen a tad more. But these people were just horror victims to me. Kind of like what I see when I look in the mirror sometimes. But the scars are self-inflicted. On my brain, by watching these movies. On the optimistic flip side, it's a well-stocked disc that fans will relish. I can't argue with that.
Reviewed By: Nick Venable
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