Writer-director Adam Green’s FROZEN, the world’s first and only ski
lift-set chiller, is a wrenching and profoundly intense viewing
experience--although the gratuitous JAWS comparisons that greeted its
initial release are unfortunate.
This 2010 film has become legendary in horror circles
for its behind-the-scenes travails. It was shot on location at extremely
high elevations in Utah during a series of actual blizzards (all
generously covered in the DVD extras), which come through loud and clear
in the finished film.
FROZEN received generally strong reviews from
mainstream critics during its early 2010 theatrical bow, but was yanked
from most theaters after just a week (prefiguring the similarly
truncated release of Adam Green’s other ‘10 effort
HATCHET II). I
blame the film’s non-performance primarily on Anchor Bay’s substandard
release strategy, with a publicity campaign that pivoted on a lame “JAWS
in the snow” tagline. Hopefully FROZEN will find the audience it
deserves on DVD--whose front and back covers, it should be added,
thankfully don’t rely on JAWS references to sell the film.
In the midst of a chilly winter three college kids are
vacationing at a Utah ski resort: the studly Dan, his airhead girlfriend
Parker and Dan’s annoying pal Joe. On a Sunday night they bribe a ski
lift operator into letting them take a final ride up the mountain, even
though the lift is officially closed. This turns out to have been a
rotten idea, as the lift abruptly shuts down before they’ve made it to
the top of the mountain, leaving Dan, Parker and Joe stranded fifty feet
in the air. They have nowhere to go and nobody to help them, as the
resort won’t open again until the following Friday.
Dan decides to jump out of the lift, but succeeds only
in fracturing both his legs and getting ripped apart by ravenous wolves.
Parker and Joe are left to tough out a blizzard, suffering from extreme
cold, hunger and frostbite. Joe finally elects to ascend hand over hand
the razor-sharp cables holding up the lift. This he manages, even though
his hands are slashed up in the process, making it to a suspension pole
and climbing down.
On the ground Joe promises to return with help for
Parker, but another night passes and he never turns up. By then,
however, it seems Parker will be deposited on the ground whether she
likes it or not, as the ski lift is about to collapse!
The first twenty minutes of this film can be safely
ignored, as they consist largely of drawn-out conversations between the
three none-too-interesting protagonists. Once the trio board the deadly
ski lift things pick up.
Adam Green set himself some seemingly insurmountable
challenges with this film, largely situated as it is in an extremely
tight setting--a broken-down ski lift--amid a never-changing,
unnervingly monochromatic environment of snow. Yet Green and his
collaborators work overtime to create a powerfully authentic atmosphere,
bolstered by the fact that the film was shot in real snowbound locations
rather than a soundstage, meaning not a lot of acting was required on
the part of the cold and miserable cast members. The fluid yet
restrained camerawork (a POV shot looking down at the snowy ground far
below the suspended lift is particularly affecting) and judicious use of
music contribute to the film’s unnervingly realistic aura (although I
did find myself questioning how it was that the nighttime scenes were so
While FROZEN isn’t quite the ultimate situational
horror flick Green apparently intended (it was outdone, ironically
enough, by another 2010 release, BURIED), it is an unforgettable film
that slowly but surely builds to a pitch of all-but unbearable suspense.
Anchor Bay Films/A Bigger Boat
Director: Adam Green
Producers: Peter Block, Cory Neal
Screenplay: Adam Green
Cinematography: Will Barratt
Editing: Ed Marx
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, Ed Ackerman, Rileah
Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Adam Johnson, Chris York, Peder Melhuse