I was not a fan of Hatchet, Adam Green's debut horror film. While being touted as a return to old-school American horror, it managed to do nothing to distinguish itself from other contemporary slasher flicks. The characters were contrived, the plot cliche and the gore unimpressive. My experience with Green's first horror film notwithstanding, I was excited for his next horror film, the "stuck on a ski lift" thriller Frozen. My interest in the film grew as many lauded the film's ability to invoke levels of tension unheard of in contemporary horror, and while I still had the dreadful Hatchet burned in the back of my head, I kept an open mind and went in expecting a solid thriller. Sadly, the hype got the best of me, and Frozen proved to be obscenely mediocre.
Frozen is ostensibly Open Water on a ski lift. Dan and Lynch are childhood buddies who spend every weekend hitting the slopes. Much to the chagrin of Lynch, Dan has been bringing along his girlfriend Parker, whose inability to snowboard and overall intrusion on their friendship has started to become more and more apparent. With lift tickets being a bit too expensive, offering the lift operator a hundred bucks for a day of skiing and snowboarding seems like the ideal situation. After spending the day watching Parker fall on her ass, our unfortunate trio attempts one more run before the mountain is closed due to inclement weather. The lift operator reluctantly lets them go up for one more run, and due to a series of unfortunate misunderstandings the ski lift gets shut down, the mountain closes, and our three protagonists are forced to fight off freezing temperatures and hungry wolves in an effort to survive.
The unfortunate predicament our trio finds themselves in, coupled with the underlying tension between the characters lends itself perfectly to the genre of psychological horror. Isolation, vertigo and the overwhelming threat of sudden death due to freezing to death is perfect fodder for an excellent thriller centered in and around a ski lift. Unfortunately, Green can't seem to separate himself from pop horror sensibilities to bring anything new to the table. Instead we're treated to your run-of-the-mill thriller sporting a thin veneer of genuine intent to be something great.
Much of this intent is found, however subtle it may be, in the tension between Parker and Lynch. The growing animosity between the two, which escalates as the film progresses, is eventually abandoned when it should have been a catalyst for the terror. Throughout we're also treated to some monumentally stupid decisions, which serve as nothing more than an attempt to make their time spent on the ski lift already more terrifying than it really is. Nothing in the movies lends credence to the notion that the cold weather is playing with their minds, and therefore some of their choices, such as not huddling together for warmth and keeping ungloved hands exposed to the cold, are just the result of a weak script and Green's inability to use common sense when constructing his characters and their actions.
Of course, once the first half hour or so of exposition and character development has passed, you're stuck with a film that relies heavily on needless filler dialogue to make the film longer than it should be. Frozen would have worked well as a short film, as it could have allowed more opportunity for Green to delve into the psychology and mental breakdown that would accompany being trapped for days on a ski left. Ironically, some of the filler dialogue ended up being one of the best scenes in the movie. Faced with the prospect that she might not make it home, Parker launches into a emotionally gut-wrenching monologue concerning the possible fate of her new puppy. Backed by a beautiful score, which stands out as one of the best aspects of the film, this scene is apt to draw tears from even the most hardened of individuals.
Much like The House of the Devil, my dislike of the film belies my appreciation for Adam Green as a filmmaker. Although he was unable to pull off the film in a wholly believable manner, the very fact that he attempted such a difficult premise is worthy of even the smallest amount of praise. He is truly a man with a deep love of the genre and what makes it great, but he'll only be able to stand out from the rest if he can free himself from the shackles of contemporary horror.