Today: April 15, 2024
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Frozen Cinema

As far as premises for horror-thrillers go, Frozen’s is a
bizarre one. ‘Adrift on a ski lift’, if you will, it is a survival tale
in the most literal sense – three teenagers get stranded on a ski lift
and must fight for survival against the elements as the temperature
drops – but what it lacks in narrative complexity it more than makes up
for in sheer nerve-shredding tension.

Joe (Ashmore), Dan (Zegers) and Parker (Bell)
are the three enjoying a weekend away skiing, however their rest and
relaxation takes a turn towards terror when, after bribing their way on
to the slopes at the end of the day for one last run, they find
themselves left stranded dangling 40 foot high on a ski lift. The
power’s turned off, the lights go out, and then comes the dawning
realisation that they have been forgotten about by the resort’s staff,
no one will be back for a week, and the temperature is plummeting. What
to do? Bickering ensues, first, followed by a slew of ill-fated attempts
to rescue themselves that involves frostbite, horrific broken bones, and a pack of wolves that circle the doomed trio like vultures.

Adam Green, who made a name for himself with the no-budget horror Hatchet, for which he is currently working on a sequel, writes and directs this tense thriller,
and makes fine use of the sparse setting. Opting to shoot on location
rather than seconding his cast and crew to a nice warm soundstage and
filling in the snow and ice covered mountain backdrop with green screen
CG falsities, he constructs a real world feel that truly chills. The ski
lift on which the ‘action’ takes place becomes a claustrophobic locale
too, with the trio hemmed in with nowhere to turn, the ground lurking
below them too far to drop to, and the ice-covered cables above them a
hand-slashing wrap of devilish wires that make climbing to safety a
perilous endeavour too.

Opting to crank-up the tension slowly as the three realise that their
fate is in their own hands, Green orchestrates a number of grizzly set
pieces that underscore the precarious nature of their position, and
kudos must go to the sound effects team for some excellent work that
will have even the most seasoned genre blood-hound wincing. Yet despite all the good work, there is the nagging sensation that something is missing.

The three teenagers themselves, although competently played, are too
thinly drawn to ever truly engage the audience in their plight. The
dynamic – childhood friends Dan and Joe, and Dan’s new girlfriend Parker
– gives rise to jealousy and squabbling, and there’s an unhealthy dose
of blame bandied around as conditions deteriorate and panic sets in. Yet
none of the characters are convincing enough. Backstories are shared,
and emotional moments carved out, but there is never the sense of dread
that comes when an audience is one hundred per cent emotionally invested
in the plight of their on screen alter egos. Green also misses a few
tricks, and never makes the most of the vertiginous ski lift setting.
Hanging from a frozen wire with death an almost certainty were one to
fall, it’s not just the elements and the animals lurking in the trees
beneath that creates the tensions, yet this is an aspect Green fails to
capitalise on, surprisingly given his devotion to shooting the film as
real as possible. Despite these missteps and imperfections though,
Frozen is an entertaining and effective little chiller indeed.

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