Dan, his girlfriend Parker and his best friend Joe are out skiing when the unthinkable happens: they end up stuck on a chairlift, high above the ground. It's freezing and it's Sunday. Nobody might find them before next Friday.
Cult horror director Adam Green uses this simple premise and manages, with only three characters and a static location to build tension and captivate the audience. Green has come a long way since his more ironic indie attempts such as Hatchet. In Frozen, he paces the film extremely well and plays with his characters' psychology, constantly juggling with three different threats.
On one hand, the longer our characters wait, the more they suffer from cold as well as starvation. This particularly menace is well depicted by Green, who puts his characters through hell in that respect. Viewers will cringe seeing some of the effects of frost. On the technical side, however, the characterization and plot seems a little off. Parker, Dan and Joe seem a little too reckless with regards to cold. You would also expect air condensation from people breathing and talking in a sub-zero environment.
The second threat is simply that of height. If our characters do not want to die in the chairlift, they must get to the ground. But how? The film is superb in playing the fear of height at times. There is really a feeling of hopelessness and panic, especially at first. Our characters are terribly isolated and the mood heavy. Again, on the writing and technical side there are weaknesses and solution our characters ignore, which may frustrate certain viewers. There were course of actions taken I felt were stupid but nobody will deny that Green can showcase the gruesome consequences in all their glory.
The third threat of the movie, and the one many have talked about are a pack of wolves underneath, roaming and waiting for our characters should they safely reach the ground. The animals used in the film are impressive, the scenes are ripe with tension and atmosphere. Unfortunately, people more familiar with the woods, nature and these predators will have a hard time buying the ferocity and decisiveness of these wolves. There are virtually no wolf attack on humans, unless you corner them and they would result in death only if you were a young child or infant.
Despite the plot holes and flaws in each of the three "threat angles" I have to commend the filmmaker for making a fine horror movie that runs like an effective thriller most of the time, creating and releasing tension at the right times. The three actors portraying the protagonists, Kevin Zegers, Emma Bell and Shawn Ashmore all give believable and sometimes visceral performances. Ashmore stood out for me. Bell was also good.
This isn't the finest written or directed film of the year. There will be no Oscars for the actors either. But as far as an indie movie, this is a great ride that will make you sometimes cringe, sometimes feel sorry for the characters. Although the start makes you think you're watching yet another teenage vanilla horror flick, things quickly take a very dark turn and there is enough character building for you to care about these folks. The cinematography is also very nice and there is effective, if sparse, use of music.
The film has been compared to a "Ski resort jaws" but the effects of the frost sometimes make it play almost like a "Cabin Fever", where people are slowly eaten away. What makes the film enjoyable is that each solution might bring a new problem, without the need to artificially build unbelievable plot twists.
The reason I give it such a high rating is that, for a film that doesn't rely on cheap stunts, it is particularly horrific at times and stomach-churning. I truly would never want to be in the predicament these three are facing...
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