★★★★ out of ★★★★★ No not THAT Frozen! A surprisingly solid under-the-radar survival horror piece, that has plausibility plastered all over it.
Written and Directed by Adam Green
I just finished writing about another 2010 college kids get into trouble horror movie, Altitude. That movie had me rolling my eyes at the terrible acting and terrible decisions by the characters, and the lack of authenticity that in the end denied a movie with an interesting conclusion and a fine monster from rising to its potential. To show you that I’m not totally against the genre of pretty teen-to-twenty-somethings int trouble trope, I present to you this little movie, which arrived and left with little fanfare, but deserves a watch. Frozen is a fictional tale that resembles one of those “I can’t believe I’m still alive” television shows, that portray a worst-case scenario of people stranded in a life-or-death struggle with options that range from almost certain death to almost certain critical injuries. It is a film that puts you square in the lift seat, and makes you consider… what would I do in this situation?
Frozen has a promising young cast including Emma Bell (Amy from The Walking Dead Season 1), Shawn Ashmore (Somewhat ironically Ice Man from the X-Men franchise), and Kevin Zegers (Mel from Fear The Walking Dead). The three of them want to squeeze in one last run on the ski lift at a New England ski resort. They bribe the lift operator to let them on, just as the resort is about to close, but in a terrible happenstance, there is confusion about how many people are on the hill, and the resort closes, with the three snowboarders stuck on the ski lift for what will be a five days (until the lift begins operations again the following Friday) in freezing winter conditions.
The threat of freezing, starving, falling to their imminent deaths receive an injection of the most improbable exterior pressure when a pack of hungry wolves arrives on the scene. While this would appear to be a bit of going overboard, it certainly falls within the dynamics of a worst case scenario film, and it adds a definite x-factor into the thought process of our protagonists. The movie, unlike the aforementioned Altitude allows the actors to behave like real people, and the acting is more understated than you would expect for a low-budget movie of this type. It feels at times like a one stage play, with 90% of the activity taking place along about a hundred yards of lift cable. Scenes from the set clearly show that Adam Greene utilized a real ski-lift for the shoot, in Utah, and used actual wolves on set… so it made for authentic reactions from the cast. And, according to IMdB, some of the wolves got a little too interested in some of the cast in the shots, and the fear from the actors was all too real. (Wolf wranglers to the rescue!)
Some of the promotional material suggests that Frozen plays out like Jaws, which is thematically close in that it is a man vs. nature drama, but the movie lacks the gravitic heft of the Spielbergian classic. The cast, as talented as it is, does not have the charisma or camaraderie of the 1976 blockbuster . I would suggest that the movie strongly resembles Open Water, a much more modestly budgeted movie, and much more about a tale of survival against the odds, with mounting terrifying layers rather than an epic Melvillian hunt of a great monster. It certainly isn’t a complicated plot, and I think the restraint in not trying to do too much with it plays in this film’s favor.
This to me is an example of how to do a young person in peril film correctly. Take that handsome cast, put them up against something tangible to react to, and keep the story throughline direct and to the point. You understand the stakes of the situation explicitly. The protagonists are all relatable, and all of the actions taken can be seen through the lens of desperation, and the logic, though stretched, never completely falls apart. If you are an acrophobe, or if you ever had that nervous worry about getting onto a ski lift, this movie will touch a nerve, for sure. The fundamental design of this movie lines up with the following propositions:
Oooooh, sucks to be them.
That looks like it really hurt.
How could this get worse?
That got worse. Now what?
It’s a simple tale, handled well. And it reminds you sometimes that sometimes the simplest plots can be the scariest ones since they hit on core, primal fears.
Frozen is rated R, and is available streaming on Amazon. This would make for a pretty good gateway film as a jump from PG-13 material. Nothing really pushing the boundaries of offensive, except for some language, as it earns its rating primarily through intense drama.