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[Review] ‘Winter of Frozen Dreams’ Forecast is Fair, If Not Dry and Crusty

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A quick mention on a film that passed by under the radar a few years back, and landed smack in the middle of a 10-feature DVD collection released this July 2014 called ‘Ice Cold Killers’. If you come across this foster child of the genre, there are a couple of things you should know before approaching it.

Most importantly, Winter of Frozen Dreams (2009) is more of a true crime murder mystery than a horror story. Its based on a real Wisconsin murder case from the late 70′s that uncovered a seedy sex world beneath the surface of an otherwise unaware town. All things considered, it ends up being more of a character study than a murder mystery, because the film fails to answer any of the questions that the entire plot of the story is based upon.

It starts with good, dark, atmospheric intent. But when someone dusts off Keith Carradine as “the detective on his way to retirement before one last case” (*light cigar) and sends him on set (*action!) he flat out kills whatever was generating, with horrid character acting. Suddenly that morose, independent horror vibe shits the bed and reveals itself as something equivalent to a cheesy TV movie of the week.

Thora Birch (American Beauty) is the gem of this 90 minutes, and is very alluring to the eyes as the main subject of this case, Barbara Hoffman – the young, brunette prostitute who was also a high IQ’d Wisconsin bio-chemisty student, maintaining a 3.9 gpa. Her tabloid like murder case in the 1970′s involved two dead men who she had been seeing outside work at ‘the massage parlor’.  Both of them had life insurance policies taken out to her benefit.  Both of the men end up dead as a result of cyanide poisoning, autopsies later revealed.  Barbara Hoffman maintained her innocence, claiming that one of the men (played by Brendon Sexton III) killed the other in a love triangle dispute, and then killed himself.  Regardless of several letters written in his hand just prior to his death, that Barbara had nothing to do with the first man’s demise, when he is found deceased and the policies and cyanide connections are discovered, Barbara Hoffman is arrested and convicted of his murder.  Loop back to the first scene in the film, where she is found guilty.

The film ends with her stating to the court, that she had nothing to do with the crimes for which she was committed.  She remains in prison to this day, where she does not grant interviews, or attempt early release via parole.  Her whole case remains a bit of mystery, as to whether or not she is just assumed guilty of the murders because of her profession.

While it sure is watchable and no less worse than the prime time crap you find on the three TV major stations during the week, it leaves you very confused. Not one lingering question was definitively explained, solved, or put to rest. Other than being good fodder for a women’s focused cable movie network like Hallmark or Lifetime, why tell this story if you have no side to take on what ‘really happened’? WOFD plays it straight to the reputation of its own unsolved mystery, leaving the answers blank for you to fill in on your own, and your curious mind frustrated, grasping for out of reach resolutions.

Perhaps the creepiest factor about this film is the tabloid story about when they shot Thora’s sex scene – the way her father demanded that he be on set when it was filmed. (*shivers…)

For those interested in reading more about the true crime this film is based upon, check this out.

Official Score