While Adam Green is arriving a bit late to the party of the ‘foolish young suburbanites have no damn respect for the wilderness‘ subgenre, trail-blazed with 1999s The Blair Witch Project and blossomed a couple years after with Open Water, The Descent and The Ruins (I supposed to a higher brow audience Grizzly Man and Into The Wild), there is no doubt that he makes the most of his kick at the can. Thoroughly milking the concept of three friends stranded very high up on a ski lift after the resort has closed for the week(!) he creates a sense of believability in the situation, a lot of tension and moments of wince-inducing horror. Using a fair bit of restraint – something that was lacking in the fanboy homage, Hatchet, and uneven psycho-drama, Spiral – along with location shooting, and very, very convincing wolves, Green can be proud that there will be a lot of nervous people on chair-lifts if they stutter or shake or stop, particularly during a lonely night ski.
The set up in Frozen is frighteningly plausible. Three friends head on up to the ski hill without telling anyone, why would they, it is only a few runs down the hill. Too cheap to buy a lift ticket, they bribe the lift-operator to shuttle them up during the day, and one final edge-of-quitting-time run. A confusion amongst the distracted staff (its close to beer-o’clock) is set-up and executed with veracity. That leaves the trio high and cold with a storm blowing in a few prospects of being discovered in their grim predicament. The actors, in particularly Shawn Ashmore (probably best known as Iceman in the X-Men movies, but also appears in the similar in tone The Ruins), pull their thinly sketched characters into believable human beings as they are faced with increasingly tough choices. And when things do not go according to plan, expect to cringe. The gore elements are (wisely) not designed to pander to an audience hungry for the leads demise, but rather to underscore both the tension of the situation and empathy for the leads. Kudos to that. And then there is the wolves. Give the lupine-wrangler a bonus, the wolf-footage is hair-raising. My only gripe with the film is that these kids do not have the common sense to zip up their coats all the way in the face of deep freeze and an incoming storm. I am sure the director wanted to actually see the actors faces for the duration of the movie (to show off the excellent frostbite make-up), but come on, take mom’s advice when you are on the verge of freezing to death. I also could have done without the soundtrack; Frozen gets in and out quick, a lack of musical accompaniment may have upped the tension. A minor complaint, but when the film is firing so well in the tension department, why not crank it up a little further?
Besides being solid entertainment, Frozen is a great ski-safety PSA. Tell someone you are going into the wilderness, respect the fact that if there is no pavement or floodlights, it’s a jungle out there. Oh, and take mom’s advice: Next time bring a flare gun.