Early on in “Frozen”, the latest film from cult horror director/writer Adam Green, the characters ask themselves what the worst way to die would be. Whilst each of the characters have their different answers for this question, you can be assured that these answers will change by the film’s end credits. A survival horror film akin to 2003’s “Open Water”, “Frozen” is undoubtedly one of the most suspenseful films of the year.
Hoping to escape the pressures of college for a weekend, Joe (Shawn Ashmore) plans for a weekend ski trip with his best friend Dan (Kevin Zegers). However Joe’s plans to tackle some of the tougher slopes are squashed with the inclusion of Dan’s girlfriend, Parker (Emma Bell), a novice skier. As their trip comes to a close on Sunday night, Joe convinces Parker and Dan to tackle one more slope. Things go awry however, and through a series of unfortunate events (an inattentive ski lift operator), the three students find themselves stuck on the ski lift — suspended high in the air with no safe way down. Things get steadily worse for the characters as it dawns on them that the resort is closed for the next five days, making the likelihood of a timely rescue improbable. As new threats arise (everything from frost bite to a violent pack of wolves), the characters are put through the ultimate test of endurance. Yet even more terrifying than the physical hazards they endure, is the gradual acceptance from each of the characters that their deaths are imminent.
It’s a lengthy narrative set-up but once the grim reality of the situation sets in, the pace accelerates. Though even with its great premise, what makes or breaks films of this nature are the protagonists. Thankfully, the film’s three main characters are all relatable and intelligent individuals brought to life by the film’s stellar cast.
With “Frozen”, Green takes a dramatic departure from his two previous films — the campy slasher “Hatchet” and the slow-burning character thriller “Spiral” — but still manages to incorporate elements from both, specifically the brutality of “Hatchet” and the psychological aspects of “Spiral”. Green is at the top of his game here as “Frozen” is stronger (both narratively and aesthetically) than his earlier efforts.
The sole complaint would have to be the film’s predictable and all-too-convenient ending, one that any avid horror fan has probably seen countless times before. Yet this single blemish, on an otherwise stellar film, is easily forgiven because of the brutality that the protagonists have endured up to that point. You’ll likely be so emotionally exhausted from witnessing the tribulations faced by each character, that you’ll rejoice at the easy ending instead of criticizing it.
Engrossing and unnerving, “Frozen” really is something special. At times you’ll find yourself wanting to look away but be unable to, because of how invested you are in the events unfolding — the ultimate sign of a respectable horror film. Shown in an assortment of film festivals earlier this year, the film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray last week.