Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.
The title Frozen may now be synonymous with revisionist fairytale sensibilities and empowering ballads, but back in 2010, it was also the name of a film with decidedly less sparkles jollity and sparkles. Dan (Kevin Zegers), his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) and best friend Joe (Shawn Ashmore) are coming towards the end of a skiing weekend and decide to head out on the slopes one last time, not banking on the fact that their chair lift stops halfway up with the park closing down around them. Trapped and growing increasingly desperate after realising the park will be closed for five days, the three friends try to find a way out of their predicament, but it's not long before a pack of wolves close in.
Adam Green's film is one of those minimalist horror/thrillers that seemed to spring up everywhere in the wake of Open Water back in the day and in truth, the premise is the film's strongest point. Not only do you have to watch along with the three characters' predicament, but you also find yourself attempting to solve the problem. What would you do in such a situation? My answer to this question normally is really easy: I wouldn't be there. Skiing is my worst nightmare before you add in stuck ski lifts because it's balancing on snow. I am not good at this. And yet I found myself thinking about how I would cope in such a situation and yes, how angry I would be at myself for going skiing in the first place.
The location itself is used extremely well; Will Barratt's cinematography emphasises the mountain's isolation throughout with a series of chilling wide shots that enforce terrifying nature of this predicament. Everything in this landscape feels potentially threatening and even the ski lift is responsible for harming the characters. Nothing is safe here and there's a constant tension mined from that. It also helps greatly that the film relies on the practical over the computer generated. Knowing the actors really are up 50 feet on a mountain builds that suspense and adds a general feeling of authenticity to the proceedings.
It's from this hostile relationship with their environment that much of the film's shocks are derived to great effect. The human body may be more resilient than usual when it comes to movie injuries, but Frozen sticks with that authenticity. Characters' poor decisions are punished bodily as the environment gets harsher and the film takes great delight in showing the consequences of their actions. There some great wince-inducing icky moments, but they never feel exploitative; they're there to serve a purpose to either illustrate how silly these people are (and they are very silly) or how easy it would be for this environment to snuff them out completely.
Despite all of this fantastic set-up and the truly tense moments throughout, Frozen never quite comes together to form a cohesive, scary whole. The characters are a bit too thinly drawn and their relationships are depressingly rote. It's not the fault of the cast, who handle the film's bigger moments well, but the smaller scenes of dialogue are too simplistic or timed too badly to complement everything else that is going on. It's a real shame, because with a tighter script and more effort to create characters that feel as authentic as their situation, Frozen could have been a real terror.
You can check out the full list of Shocktober reviews so far here.
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