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.
Adam 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 (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.
With 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, which 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.
The 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 another 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 happening 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!