Writer/Director Adam Green’s newest feature is refreshing. It’s refreshing a the way that I felt his last theatrically released film Hatchet, was not. Hatchet carried a lot of internet support behind it, support that was palpable almost a full year before the film’s limited theatrical released. When I finally got to see Hatchet (a few years ago in the same exact theater that I saw Frozen this Friday) I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. It had some wonderful cameos, a few inventive kills, showed a real reverence for slasher history and was obviously the work of someone who was a true fan, but for me it just could not live up to the weight put on it by the community. Maybe it caught me on a bad day, people still seem to love it, but enough about the past, let’s talk about the present…
Three college kids trapped on a ski lift. They’re stuck up there until the mountain re-opens in a week, they have to get down or they’ll freeze to death.
The claustrophobia and simplicity of Frozen‘s central conceit has many critics comparing it to Open Water (2003). I don’t like that comparison because Frozen is a film where things happen, at times very terrifying things. Green shows a great amount of bravery in tackling a subject that could turn very boring, very quickly and demonstrates some serious skill making sure it doesn’t.
The online video advertisements they’re playing on many genre websites (which I was mostly successful in ignoring before taking a trip to the theater on Friday) are really a bummer, they show way too many of the film’s coolest images. Take my word for it Frozen is a movie you should not watch a trailer for. Green does a good job making us care about the characters (even though in the first act, they can kind of come off as toolbags) by making them approach their problem in a very realistic way. He also fleshes out their back stories and relationships just enough that we can relate to them, but not enough to bore us. Like myself, I’m sure that many of my horror geek brethren will find it easiest to identify with Joe, played by Shawn Ashmore, the third wheel and gym class flunky of the group who must conjure some unexpected heroism. Joe’s name is a nod to director and Green’s buddy Joe Lynch who made the awesome Wrong Turn 2 my review here. The film is chock full of tiny references and cameos (a number of Hatchet cast members make an appearance) like this that never get too distracting.
Making the minimalist concept exciting does come at a price though. Frozen sadly has its fair share of eye-rolling moments, and though none of them ruin the film, they do keep “classic” status way out of arm’s reach. Talking about these parts enters spoiler territory but I will say that there is the appearance of an unexpected advisory for the kids that may give some viewers the chills, but whose appearance may not be so easily swallowed by others.
It’s not perfect, but as I said in the beginning: Frozen is a breath of fresh air. Especially if you see it with a live audience. It’s such a treat to see a literate, well-made and (most importantly) scary horror film in a theater. This is very much one of those “vote with your dollars”-type situations. Instead of whining about a lack of originality and quality in contemporary horror films, get yourself to a theater (if there’s one in driving distance) and see Frozen. Both you and the internet-ers that have to read your boring re-heated rants about the 7th Saw sequel and needless remakes (newsflash: nobody likes ’em, you’re preaching to the choir), will be glad you did.
Tying the premise of a horror film to a recreational activity is going to bring the Jaws comparisons. I’m not sure Frozen will keep me away from the slopes (I don’t go often, but I’m glad I got my most recent trip out of the way a few weeks ago) but it will definitely add an extra bit of stomach acid to future ski lift rides.