Today: May 24, 2024

Frost

Found footage horror films don’t seem to be going anywhere, and now we have Iceland’s stab at the genre.  In many ways the wilds of Iceland are an ideal place for such a film, as the glaciers and wastes can create a strong sense of isolation, knowing that no help can come.  Unfortunately, despite a few slightly chilling moments, Frost does virtually nothing with its main landscape.  Or its plot.  Or its action.  Or its sense of dread, or its…

Agla (Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir), a geological researcher, is joined by boyfriend Gunnar (Björn Thors) on her latest expedition to a glacier.  However, soon after his arrival, they awake to find that the rest of the party seems to be already away from camp.  But it soon seems that something worse is at work, as strange lights, noises and weird presences surround the camp.  Then they begin to find evidence that the crew may not have left by their own accord…

One reason for found footage’s continuing use is that, done well, it can lend a sense of immediacy and immersion to proceedings, like you’re actually part of it.  Frost however does not use it well, being in fact one of the least immersive found footage movies ever made.  Part of this is down to terrible camerawork and lighting, where characters are often forced to say “I can see someone there”, because the camera definitely didn’t pick whoever it is up.  The bigger problem is that this borrows a page from the books of webseries like Marble Hornets by having the camera glitch out anytime the monster (or whatever it is at work) is around.  This is a bad idea on many levels, not least because most of the time it’s not foreshadowing, it’s just like the DVD is scratched.  In fact, by the end there comes a sudden twist that might be an interesting take on the found footage concept if they did anything with it.  It instead comes across as “the original ending wasn’t good enough, so here’s a thrown together epilogue to try and beef it up” that ends up profoundly unsatisfying.

The big issue is that we never get any real sense about what exactly the menace the characters are facing.  We see a bunch of really contradictory effects, but anytime it actively attacks the screen it turns into a mess of pixels and artefacts, giving us no impression.  In good horror, sometimes the best sorts of threats are unknowable, nebulous ones, but there is a limit to that.  The audience is never satisfied with just nothing, at some point something has to be shown, or strongly implied, at least enough to get the imagination working.  The Blair Witch Project did this well by giving a strong sense that whatever’s at work, it’s actively toying with its victims, and taunting them.  Here though there’s nothing truly consistent about the thing at work, not in terms of what it wants, or even what it actually does to its victims.  When even the danger of death is left far too vaguely defined, that’s a major problem, it raises the question of why should we care at all.  It’s going for Lovecraftian unnameable horror, but instead delivers unengaging nothingness.  Lights, sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The film’s main problem is just how dull it is.  Both the main characters are complete non-entities, who take an absurd amount of time to realise that all their colleagues vanishing without a trace over night with a lot of vital communications equipment is something to be concerned about.  It’s appropriate that the film takes place above the Arctic Circle, as the best word to describe the pacing is “glacial”.  There’s virtually no real plot, with an abrupt “rocks fall, everyone dies” end followed by that aforementioned epilogue that’s almost like even the filmmakers got bored with the story.  There’s a final not-a-twist that manages to be something you’ll see coming from the start, yet still really badly conveyed.  Despite there being a few moments when it almost comes alive, including one claustrophobic caving scene towards the final act, the whole thing is just an hour and a quarter of nothing happening on the ice.

Frost is one of the most lacklustre and boring found footage movies you’re ever likely to see, and considering some titles that’s really saying something.  It’s got the perfect location for isolated survival horror, but it’s been done far better in titles like The Thing and The Last Winter.  It’s notable for the film to go for a more strange, eldritch threat than usual, but the lack of any consistent goal or effect of its presence means it leaves no impression on the viewer.  In the end, despite best efforts the film is just a waste of time.  There’s a germ of a good story in here somewhere, but it’s not worth being frozen to your seat for an hour to see it be missed.

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