Ski survival horror with some harrowing set-pieces.
The survival horror has never been a sub-genre that looks to steal
its way into the more mainstream. There are of course exceptions like Tom Hanks starrer Cast Away (2000), the box-office performing Open Water (2003) and pseudo-sequel Adrift (2006). Crucially all of these focus on people surrounded by water but it is films like Alive (1993) that Frozen has more in common with. To make a success of this genre the film must present likeable, or at least believable characters, in a situation the audience can place themselves in and pose the question ‘what would you do’? For the most part Frozen achieves this but never quite has the fuel to see it to the finish line.
When three friends, Lynch (Ashmore), Dan (Zegers) and his girlfriend Parker (Bell),
bribe their way onto a ski lift all they are looking forward to is a
fun day on the slopes. As they set out for their last run they find the
chairlift coming to an expected stop as the floodlights around them are
turned off and the weather closes in. With no way off the lift and no
one expected up the mountain for another week the group look to stay
alive and get off the lift alive. Cue arguments, death-defying leaps of
faith and a pack of wolves that sense an early dinner.
As with titles like Open Water and Adrift, Frozen succeeds in putting the actors very much in the thick of the horror.
Placing them on an actual chairlift, with real snow and landscapes
around them, certainly lends to the authenticity of the piece. Where it
does not live up to those other films is that it fails to make you feel
as if you are there with them. There is always a healthy distance placed
between audience and character. Director Adam Green, who has had moderate horror hits with Hatchet and Spiral, never allows us to integrate with the situation making it easy to believe in but difficult to invest in.
Where he does excel is in the gore aspect of the film. There are
moments those of a squeamish nature will certainly wince at, a bad case
of frostbite and a leg break are just two of many examples. It is
taking the idea of gore-porn to a healthy level, as it never feels
gratuitous but rather necessary in selling the character’s plight.
His script is solid in setting up the premise and even finds time to
squeeze in some nice little in-jokes. The issues arise when the concept
begins to run dry. While the question is posed early on ‘what would be
the worst way to die’ the script fails to follow through on that
premise. In fact towards the end the ideas have obviously run so dry
that certain characters demise are never even seen. Not so much a
problem if you have a character roster in double figures but it is when
there are only three.
Furthermore, the characters are never really fleshed out in a way
that allows us to truly get on board with them. Ashmore, best known as
Iceman from the X-Men franchise, brings a certain cocky assurance mixed
with a healthy dose of logic. As Parker, Emma Bell, soon to be seen in Frank Darabont‘s
Zombie show The Walking Dead, resorts to histrionics far too early on
and is unfortunately the character expected to play the blame game. All
well and good but it does not really make for a character to have huge
sympathy for. Meanwhile Kevin Zegers, having been solid if forgettable
in Zack Synder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake, has a certain charm
about him and ticks the vulnerable hero box but is never given the
chance to really shine.
For the most part Frozen is a fairly enjoyable, but forgettable,
survival horror. It certainly makes you question and believe in the
predicament in hand which is more than many films of this ilk can claim
to. But, in spite of some good horror the plot soon goes cold (had to
have one right?) and the characters remain lukewarm (ooh two in one go)
resulting in an enjoyable yet never thrilling ride. More of a bit
chilly than Frozen.