Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Frozen: Cool Party

While it can often instantly tap into certain fears that many people already harbor, having a film set in a singular location is like walking a tightrope past the initial setup. Does a film set in, say, a coffin, have enough meat to it to keep the audience interested in the story being told for a feature length runtime? There are plenty of situational films such as this, horror or not, and many of them can bring out an automatic fear with the premise and setting alone, whether it's people being trapped in the middle of the ocean with no rescue in sight, or, being stuck in a tightly confined elevator that has lost all power. If you're claustrophobic, have a fear of water (or in my case, sharks), the filmmaker's battle is already half won, but to win the war with the moviegoer, the situation must stay captivating, the characters plight realistic and felt by the viewer, and the film needs the right tempo from start to finish.

frozen12Adam Green's Frozen has just the setting that automatically induces anxiety for many people, with a group of three friends  - Parker, her boyfriend Dan and his best friend Lynch frozen11(Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers and Shawn Ashmore…wait, Iceman?!) - finding themselves accidentally trapped on a chairlift at Mount Holliston after everyone has gone home for the night. Trapped in the frigid Massachusetts winter with no place to go but down, 50ft to the snow covered ground. There are very few things that are more uncomfortable than being cold, let alone freezing cold and not having the means to do anything about it but to try and deal with it the best you mentally can. Mixing the fear of heights, the frostbite causing winter chill, and the chances that there is no rescue in sight, Frozen has the perfect recipe for a terrible situation for its characters to be in. But does the film do what is necessary to make it past the premise?

The answer is a resounding yes, and even if the situation can be picked apart and looked at as less than plausible by folks that are looking just to do so, this is a movie that makes the best use of the bad situation in which the characters are faced. The setting alone is very intimidating in how it's brought to life, with the uneasy creaking metal of the ski lift as it dangles so high above the ground, surrounded by intense winds and an everlasting world of emptiness. An emptiness that seems so confining, while being so vast as they are trapped on such a small ski lift that is located in such a huge - yet vacant - surrounding. As they slowly realize how dire a situation they are in, the more extreme their fear becomes, knowing there are very few options out of this steel trap high above the frigid earth below.

frozen4With the realization that the mountain will be closed until the following Friday - and it's only Sunday - some sort of action has to be taken. The only other option is to wait out the week, wfrozenhich in the middle of a New England winter, 50ft in the air with no food or water, is not an option in the least. Usually a big problem with a movie set in one place like Frozen is, it can be difficult to fill in 90 some odd minutes of time without having to stretch things out in certain areas. Frozen has a brisk pace, and there is hardly a dull moment as events unfold in a timely manner, which shows just how much can be done with such a seemingly one-note situation if things are put together properly.

Okay, so moving forward I'm afraid I am going to have to get into wicked *SPOLIER* territory, so if you have not yet seen Frozen, please do not read any further. I loved it, so go and check it out (it's ten bucks at Wal-Fart), then come back and finish. I'll be here, arms open. Maybe thighs too, if you're lucky. 

Frozen works past the usual horror fair by giving the viewer some incredible reveals. One simple, but nicely pulled off moment is when Parker awakens - and in her groggy state - she looks down to her bare hand that is tightly gripping the metal safety bar on the ski lift. It's very simplistic, but knowing how awful it is for her to have her hand frozen stuck only makes the overall situation that much more devastating to watch. Another major moment is when Dan – who made the bold leap to the ground, breaking both of his legs in the process -  is confronted by a wolf, which is quickly frightened away by a snowboard being thrown down by one of the other characters from up above. As soon as that wolf is out of sight, it lets off this howl, a frightening howl that you know is only meant for one thing…to call in the rest of his pack for a quick bite to eat.

frozen5The moment before the viewer knows that there is anything wrong and that Dan is going to be attacked, you see an odd reaction from Lynch, who - at that moment - was trying to get to anothfrozen9er chair by pulling himself across the razor sharp ski lift cable. As Lynch crosses, he suddenly looks down and quickly moves back to the chair as fast as he can, with no indication as to why or what is hfrozen10appening down below. It isn't revealed until Dan himself looks up to see a wolf right in his face, with the rest of the pack now surrounding him, ready to feast on the wounded prey. The scene is only made better by how realistic it is, in fact, the wolf scenes in general are shot so perfectly that not once - even for a second - did it appear that the wolves were not right there, enjoying themselves a midnight human snack. It's very impressive, and the restraint Green shows with the scene makes it all the more impactful. 

Outside of the horror of being trapped on a ski lift and all the terrible things that come along with it, the character's reactions to the situation(s) at certain points are handled quite well. One of the key moments in Frozen that won me over was when Parker starts freaking out about what is happening to them. But instead of focusing on her own well being and safety, she talks about how her new puppy will be home all alone, with no one to take care of it. She claims that the puppy doesn't know that Parker is trapped on a ski lift and will die thinking it's been abandoned. She then goes on to simply say that she misses her mom and dad as she knows she will more than likely never see them again.   

People faced with any sort of life threatening situation will - at a certain point - begin to think less about themselves and start to focus their fear on how their impending death will affect others. Namely, the people in their life that they care about most. Instead of crying about not wanting to die, appreciation for the important things in life come bubbling to the surface, and there's a sort of selfless realization that life isn't the only thing that can be lost in one's own passing. This type of emotional honesty is rarely seen in horror films, and to have something so true to human reaction happen in Frozen was a nice and very much appreciated surprise for me.

It is all of these little things that come together and really make a horror movie great beyond its hook. Realistic emotions, dimensional characters that aren't completely selfish, a film that is simply well made technically, and a level of complexity in how many events can come up in a situation that is simply, simple. The attention to making this film as real as possible as far as feeling as if you are up there on that ski lift with the characters is so important, and Green has done so with great horror tactics and characters that aren't there to simply look nice.

In the future, Frozen will be Final Girl's Film Club Pick, so if you just read this, head over HERE to read some more thoughts on this fine film! Do it, I say!


  1. Great review Matt. I too found myself liking Parker for her puppy concern. Hope the little bitch made it! Totally didn't catch the irony of Iceman maybe freezing to death though. I was too distracted by remembering his fate in The Ruins and wondering if it would repeat here.

    Something I realized here: Adam Green writes great dialogue. You point it out in how they cope. I also really dug the character stuff at the beginning, even the smooth and righteous reference to the sarlacc pit.

    Also, great point about how he made a one-off premise work for the full film. It's easy to come up with a great idea for a horror movie, but I agree that with Frozen, the idea is successfully fleshed out into a full length movie with very little padding.

  2. I also loved this film - thought the tension was palpable and terrifying. The thought that your two choices were freeze to death or get eaten by wolves? Um, I'll have to ponder that awhile.

    Let's just say I've never been skiing but now I certainly don't intend to start. The height alone of the ski lift would probably give me a coronary.

    Super review, Matt!

  3. Thanks, Emily! If the review wasn't already way over-bloated, I would have gone over more of the stuff that happens with Parker. Plus, Bell was so fantastic in the film and the moment when she made yellow snow (!) was really saddening.

    The sarlacc pit reference was nice because it wasn't too much, and many of the film's references never felt self referential at all, which is important. I do love that there is so much of Adam Green in the characters, though.

    Between Frozen and Spiral, Green is really showing that he is a very strong horror filmmaker. I just hope he gets more exposure outside of the Hatchet films, and I really cannot believe Frozen wasn't released wide in theaters.

  4. Damn, missed yours by a few minutes, Christine! Thanks, and I used to snowboard and even worked at a ski resort for a winter in VT, and I could never imagine being trapped up there at night. It's cold enough during the day time!!!

    And you're right, there is solid tension, which is another thing that is hard to achieve in such a situation. Also, of it came down to it, I would have to kick some wolf nards. Though, I would never jump nor would I go pulling myself across that cable either, so freezing it is!

  5. I was pissed because I was seriously all set to go on a Friday when my office closed early due to a snowstorm, but NOOOOOOOOO, it had to have left NYC theaters the week before. Had to see The Crazies instead (meh). On the plus side, that was the same night i snuck into The Blind Side and really, my life would simply not be as good had i not seen that movie.

    Oh! And sadness always to girls peeing themselves. Something about that really is morose, much like that quick cut in THREADS, the BBC nuclear bomb movie. As ladies, it's actually pretty difficult to pee when not sitting down on a toilet, so having to do it/being scared into it seems especially horrifying.

  6. Excellent post Matt.
    I watched this and loved it. A friend had brought it round and when he told me the premise I thought it was going to absolotely crap. Pleasently surprised however.
    Certainly won't be going in a chair lift anytime soon!

  7. I actually just saw this last Wednesday and I really dug it too--in fact I purchased it on Saturday because I enjoyed it so much. For me it was one of those movies that you can't stop thinking about after seeing it(in a good way of course). I agree with you about the scene where Dan gets attacked by the wolves; seeing Parker and Lynch's reactions and hearing the attack was WAY more effective and horrifying than seeing any on screen carnage.

    And like Christine, I have never been skiing or snowboarding either, nor do I have the desire to. Mostly because I hate snow and the cold, which is pretty funny considering that I have lived in Colorado for my entire life! So I guess I don't have to worry about ever being stuck on a ski lift, haha.

  8. Nice review, man. This is easily one of my top 3 favorites of the year. I hope Green has more up his sleeve like this. Very well-crafted. Mike and I had to hold each other when we saw it in the theater. Those bastards cranked up the AC and we felt like we were on that lift with them. Harrowing, I tell ya.

  9. Emily: Yeah, The Blind Side is certainly a silver lining in that dark cloud! I thought The Crazies was okay, started off decent enough, even good, but kind of just got worse as it went along. Frozen is certainly the superior in that match-up!

    I've never heard of Threads, but I love nuclear war type of films, or any 80's apocalypse film for that matter. I found it on Google video…I must watch it (for the pee alone)!

    Dempsey: Thanks, brother! I kind of knew I was going to like it going in, but I can see why someone would think it looks lame. If it were in the hands of someone with less talent and care for genre cinema, it very likely could be crap. Luckily Green has really stepped up and shown he has the right stuff, baby. Sorry, NKOTB references are difficult to resist!

    Dorian: There is a lot of restraint in the wolf attack scene, and because of it, it is more powerful emotionally, especially when he is telling Lynch not to let her look.

    The balance of restraint and on screen carnage is near perfect as there are moments that are pretty gut wrenching but because they are realistic, not over the top and gooey. The scene with her hand being stuck, or even when she wipes her face are good examples of this.

    Also, going skiing and snowboarding is fun, but damn is it too cold to deal with…go with laying on the couch, it's safer!

    Chris: Yeah, it will make a high spot on my top of the year list too…not that I have seen that many 2010 releases, but it will still be up there anyways.

    And isn't it always so fucking cold in the movies?! Totally makes the popcorn trick all the more difficult to pull of due to shrinkage.

  10. As has been said, great review. I absolutely loved this film and recently reviewed it myself.

    Spot on withe emotional honesty part. The fact that you actually came to care about these realistically portrayed characters (dialogue and subsequent conversations feel real and natural) makes the plight and your anxiety all that more terrifying. Just a remarkable and at the same time simple horror film.

  11. Dude, I read your review yesterday and left a ranty comment, but I don't see it there so something went poopie. Lame.

    Either way, I was really surprised by how much Green could do with his characters, and now that I think about it, the reason I loved Spiral so much was for how well thought out the characters were. He seems to have an understanding of them, which I hope continues in his future films.

  12. Another shining review and kick in the pants for me not having seen it yet. I love the "stuck in a single perilous location" films when done right, and I'm sure this one will sit well with me.

  13. You should enjoy Frozen I think...like I said, I found it at Wal*Fart for ten beans, and it is still that price now from last I saw. Definitely a worthy purchase!

  14. I want to see this film, anyway I found this website http://www.thatsmyface.com/f/masks that can create a super-realistic mask of anyone from just a photo. Imagine going as yourself, your boss, your favorite celebrity or worst enemy to a Halloween party?!

  15. Sounds like an awesome idea! Way to AD to the conversation, Mary!

  16. I hadn't even thought about Shawn Ashmore as Iceman when watching this. That adds a whole new spin to things. I couldn't help thinking of him as Jimmy Olsen from "Smallville."

  17. A great and thoughtful review! Good on ya!

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  18. Stuart: Being the super Superman nerd that I am, I always think of him as Olsen too. I do love that he is Jimmy Olsen AND Iceman, though. He has Marvel and DC covered!

    LL: Thanks a lot...very much appreciated!


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