by Jason Coffman
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Adam Green’s first film, Hatchet, was a fun little throwback to the heyday of 80s slasher movies. Meaning more specifically that the film was heavy on the gore and jokes and light on pretty much anything else. If it weren’t for his more character-centered follow-up Spiral, the leap from Hatchet’s goofy fun to Frozen’s heavy reliance on character and dialogue would seem nearly impossible. That’s certainly not to say that Frozen doesn’t offer its share of tension and cringe-worthy moments, however. On the contrary, spending as much time with the characters as we do leads directly to Frozen’s most effective moments.
Best friends Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Lynch (Shawn Ashmore) are on their annual boys’ ski trip, but this year they’re joined by Dan’s girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell). Parker can’t actually ski but Dan tries to help her learn, despite Lynch’s obvious annoyance that she has intruded on their Guys’ Weekend. After nearly calling it a day, Lynch insists on doing one more run down the slopes without having to stop for Parker, but Dan and Parker end up coming along anyway. They find that a storm is on the way and the ski lift is closing down for the week, but manage to get the attendant to allow them to go up for one last run. Due to a series of events at the ski lift operating station, the three friends end up stranded on the lift, hanging high above the ground on a Sunday evening— and the park won’t open again until the following Friday.
Frozen has been compared to Chris Kentis’s 2003 film Open Water, which is a good reference for the film’s structure. People find themselves trapped in a situation where they are utterly unable to reach help and must figure out how to survive. However, unlike Open Water, which strands its protagonists literally in the middle of nowhere, Frozen’s setup immediately lends various escape plans to keen audiences. One of the film’s biggest storytelling missteps is the simple fact that in 2010, it’s almost totally unbelievable that not one of the three has their cell phone on them when the ski lift stops.
Despite the fact that the entire film hangs on this particular contrivance, Frozen still generates plenty of tension and shocks once it gets up to speed. The characters make some very poor decisions that lead to swift and unpleasant consequences, and the three leads all offer solid performances. Even though they are clearly implicated by their actions in their share of the blame for their predicament, it’s tough not to get invested in their fate. It may not be as airtight (or as blatantly nihilistic) as Open Water, but Frozen still delivers the “survival horror” goods.
Frozen will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 28th by Anchor Bay Entertainment. Extras include commentary with writer/director Adam Green and the film’s stars, four “making of” featurettes, deleted scenes and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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