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Movie Review: Frozen (2010)

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Adam Green arrived as a hot new voice in horror in 2006 with Hatchet, a film that paid homage to the slashers of the '80s golden era while managing to do its own thing. It is not the greatest film in the world and did not quite live up to the hype that had built up around it, but it is still a fun and worthy trip. Adam Green's latest is not a slasher film and can't really be called a horror movie. He has taken a step away from the horror genre and crafted a taut and realistic thriller that steps away from some of the corny elements of Hatchet.

Frozen is based on an idea that seemed ludicrous when I first heard it. It's not that I didn't think it could happen; it's more that I didn't understand how that idea could be turned into a feature film. It seemed more like an idea for a short subject. Well, the movie was made and I was certainly intrigued. My concerns shifted away from the concept — we'll get back to that later — and onto the possibility of seeing it on the big screen. Considering the small number of opportunities for past Green films made it unlikely. Then, there it was on the schedule for my hometown theater! Yes! Now to see if kids stuck on a ski lift can make a movie.

I sat there, opening night, with an audience so small I could count us all on one hand. We all seemed to be in the same boat, anxious to see what it was all about but apprehensive that it would not work. As this thought went through my head the lights dimmed and the movie started. As the company logos began to roll, I realized I don't think I have ever seen Anchor Bay on the big screen before.

If you are wondering what Frozen is about, it has a pretty simple high concept. Three college friends go skiing and when they head up for one last run at closing time, the lift stops, the lights go out, and they are left dangling high above the ground and forgotten. It is the kind of idea that will leave many scratching their heads wondering how this can be made into an interesting feature. 

Having now seen the movie, I am completely satisfied with how they made it work. Is it perfect? No, not really. Many of the pieces that come together to get them into their predicament and their reactions to it can be nitpicked to death, but where is the fun in that? Kind of like the issues that some had with Orphan, Frozen is doomed to suffer from the bug of "reality logic" where many are doomed to require absolute logic to rule what they see and when said film fails to follow that rule it is doomed to be considered dumb and a failure. I look at films a little differently.

When I see a film, even a "realistic" film, what I want is a perception of reality. Actual reality is, more often not, boring. Frozen is presented with a very good perception of reality. It is dealt with in a believable fashion. Could something like this happen? I would like to say no, but cannot say for sure. The reality is palpable — I felt their distress, I was right there with them as they got twisted about what they were going to do.

Frozen is not a movie easy to discuss without going into spoilers. It starts with three friends, Joe (Shawn Ashmore), Dan (Kevin Zegers), and Dan's girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell). They are trying to get up the mountain to do some skiing and snowboarding but don't want to pay for lift tickets, so Parker is enlisted to bribe the lift operator. It works and the trio spend the day on the slopes. However, as night falls and closing time approaches, they head back up for one more run, but something goes wrong and they find themselves stranded.

The vast majority of the film finds us right there on the lift with them. We are there with them as their mood slowly changes and fear and terror begins to set in. I do not want to give away what happens, but it all hits as a very real possibility. Well, mostly real. I will admit a little goes a bit over the top but not by much.

The three performers do quite a good job of portraying friends, although there is some competition for Dan's attention between his longtime pal and his girlfriend. It is a dynamic that feels very true to the situation and actually changes over the course of the film. As good as the three are, it is Emma Bell who delivers the standout performance. There is something genuine about her approach and how she delivers her lines. It cannot be easy to make this claustrophobic film work, but they do it.

Adam Green also deserves a lot of credit for writing an effective script  and making everything interesting. He manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for a lot longer that I would have initially thought possible. It is not the most dynamic of movies, but Green successfully builds tension and conflict with believable outcomes.

Bottom line. This turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting. A simple concept was taken and built into a film filled with terror and dread. You will be guessing just what is going to happen next. I felt the characters' pain and never want to be a in that sort of position. Makes me glad I am not a skier!

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