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FROZEN

Writer-director Adam Green’s FROZEN, the world’s first and only ski lift-set chiller, is a wrenching and profoundly intense viewing experience--although the gratuitous JAWS comparisons that greeted its initial release are unfortunate.

The Package
     This 2010 film has become legendary in horror circles for its behind-the-scenes travails. It was shot on location at extremely high elevations in Utah during a series of actual blizzards (all generously covered in the DVD extras), which come through loud and clear in the finished film.
     FROZEN received generally strong reviews from mainstream critics during its early 2010 theatrical bow, but was yanked from most theaters after just a week (prefiguring the similarly truncated release of Adam Green’s other ‘10 effort HATCHET II). I blame the film’s non-performance primarily on Anchor Bay’s substandard release strategy, with a publicity campaign that pivoted on a lame “JAWS in the snow” tagline. Hopefully FROZEN will find the audience it deserves on DVD--whose front and back covers, it should be added, thankfully don’t rely on JAWS references to sell the film.

The Story
     In the midst of a chilly winter three college kids are vacationing at a Utah ski resort: the studly Dan, his airhead girlfriend Parker and Dan’s annoying pal Joe. On a Sunday night they bribe a ski lift operator into letting them take a final ride up the mountain, even though the lift is officially closed. This turns out to have been a rotten idea, as the lift abruptly shuts down before they’ve made it to the top of the mountain, leaving Dan, Parker and Joe stranded fifty feet in the air. They have nowhere to go and nobody to help them, as the resort won’t open again until the following Friday.
     Dan decides to jump out of the lift, but succeeds only in fracturing both his legs and getting ripped apart by ravenous wolves. Parker and Joe are left to tough out a blizzard, suffering from extreme cold, hunger and frostbite. Joe finally elects to ascend hand over hand the razor-sharp cables holding up the lift. This he manages, even though his hands are slashed up in the process, making it to a suspension pole and climbing down.
     On the ground Joe promises to return with help for Parker, but another night passes and he never turns up. By then, however, it seems Parker will be deposited on the ground whether she likes it or not, as the ski lift is about to collapse!

The Direction
     The first twenty minutes of this film can be safely ignored, as they consist largely of drawn-out conversations between the three none-too-interesting protagonists. Once the trio board the deadly ski lift things pick up.
     Adam Green set himself some seemingly insurmountable challenges with this film, largely situated as it is in an extremely tight setting--a broken-down ski lift--amid a never-changing, unnervingly monochromatic environment of snow. Yet Green and his collaborators work overtime to create a powerfully authentic atmosphere, bolstered by the fact that the film was shot in real snowbound locations rather than a soundstage, meaning not a lot of acting was required on the part of the cold and miserable cast members. The fluid yet restrained camerawork (a POV shot looking down at the snowy ground far below the suspended lift is particularly affecting) and judicious use of music contribute to the film’s unnervingly realistic aura (although I did find myself questioning how it was that the nighttime scenes were so well lit).
     While FROZEN isn’t quite the ultimate situational horror flick Green apparently intended (it was outdone, ironically enough, by another 2010 release, BURIED), it is an unforgettable film that slowly but surely builds to a pitch of all-but unbearable suspense.
 

Vital Statistics

FROZEN
Anchor Bay Films/A Bigger Boat

Director: Adam Green
Producers: Peter Block, Cory Neal
Screenplay: Adam Green
Cinematography: Will Barratt
Editing: Ed Marx
Cast: Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, Ed Ackerman, Rileah Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Adam Johnson, Chris York, Peder Melhuse
 

     

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