Frozen

(2010, Dir. by Adam Green.)

The skiing scene is something I’ve never been a part of.  When I think of skiing, I remember Better Off Dead‘s Charles De Mar telling Lane Meyer: “Go that way, really fast.  If something gets in your way, turn.”  That’s about my entire understanding of the slopes.  And that’s even after I’ve seen and blindly loved Shredder (which I recently found the only other fan of!) a few times.

But when word of mouth caught fire about Adam Green’s Frozen, I was more than ready to head to the ski lifts for a practical, character driven horror film.  It’s an incredibly simple premise – even more than the much-maligned Devil – in that three kids get stuck on a chair lift, high above the slopes, as the resort closes down for the week.  It surely doesn’t seem like enough to fill a 90 minute film, but Green and cast keep the plight interesting.

When I say interesting, I mean that it offers gripping brutality.  In the tradition of survivalist horrors that came before it, Frozen focuses on what these characters go through while trying to figure out an escape.  This gives the viewer their own chance to ponder how they would deal with this predicament.  In the home setting, this allowed me to shout at the screen and share the characters’ pain with each frozen body part or broken bone.  This is the kind of horror that’s set up for audience participation, and I’d imagine couples or friends watching it will have a lot of queries for each other and chances to howl in unison at some graphic effects.

(My escape route?  I’d immediately pull a Tango & Cash.  If you don’t know what I mean, check in with Misters Russell and Stallone and come back later.)

The cast do an excellent job of presenting victims we can relate with.  Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Deadremake, Wrong Turn) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from the X-Men films, ironically) play childhood best friends enjoying a traditional weekend getaway.  Newcomer Emma Bell plays Zegers’ character’s girlfriend (a first-timer on the slopes), and the film does a fine job of presenting the characters’ relationships.  Bell and Ashmore play off each other very well, and their differing relationships with their friend are crucial to the human element of the story.  The film also includes cameos from Green, horror director Joe Lynch, and stunt coordinator/ex-Jason Kane Hodder before the trio’s predicament.  Green’s wife, Rileah Vanderbilt, also appears in a bit role as a potential love interest for Ashmore in the opening scenes.

It took me a while to get in to Frozen – the build up is a little too “rich kids with rich problems” for me – but the film takes off when the characters have to make choices about how to face the situation.  As the tension escalates, Green never cuts corners.  The film still takes time to build its characters in the face of adversity – because, really, what else is there for them to do while they’re trapped on a 5 foot wide chair high above the slopes?

Frozen is successful, unlike Green’s wildly-popular-yet-maddeningly-silly slasher Hatchet, because it stays simple and doesn’t try to go overboard by winking at the audience.  It’s not one of the most shocking films I’ve seen of late, but it’s pure entertainment that should be fun to pop in with friends so you can watch their reactions as the plot unfolds.  While Hatchet promised it, I feel like Frozen is my kind of “old-school American horror”.

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