Click here for Ryan Daley’s review
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Adam Green has become a friend of the site since Hatchet’s release.
This past year Hatchet director Adam Green took to the freezing slopes of Park City, Utah to show he’s more than just a splatter and gore filmmaker with his indie chiller Frozen, a suspense thriller following three skiers (Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers) that are mistakenly stranded on a chairlift and forced to make life-or-death choices that prove more perilous than staying put and freezing to death (early synopsis).
Even though the trio are trapped outdoors, Frozen is incredibly claustrophobic as they are stuck in one spot with absolutely nowhere to go. If they jump, they could break their legs, or even worse, be eaten by starving wolves. Yet, it’s so cold that they’re not going to last long sitting tight and waiting for help. Frostbite kicks in fast and the trio are forced to make some incredibly tough decisions.
It’s rare when a movie gets under my skin and truly affects me. Frozen played every single one of my emotional strings, which popped right off as I squirmed, yelled at the screen and pulled chunks of hair out of my head. Green has orchestrated a thriller that isn’t just a great film – it’s an impressive one.
What makes Frozen such a successful endeavor is Green’s ability to create tension, most of which stems from the technical side of the filmmaking process. He could have easily used green screens and shot on a sound stage, he instead opted to torture the cast and crew in the freezing cold of Utah, all for the sake of art. It’s a commendable decision that aids in the authentic experience that the audience is exposed to. Since the trio is trapped up high in the ski lift, this gave Green the opportunity to really play around and experiment with a crane camera, which he uses to craft some incredibly gorgeous shots. His establishing shots are detrimental in creating not only the desolate mood of the film, but also the freezing atmosphere. The audience is placed right on that ski lift and suffers right along with the trio.
The screenplay, penned by Green, is ambitious and could have easily yielded disaster. Once the trio gets stranded, Green has over an hour of screen time that is filled mostly with dialogue. This is where Frozen transcends greatness. To create a compelling, engaging and interesting movie with such a minimal amount of visual distractions is quite an accomplishment. In fact, to amplify the effects of his tense screenplay, Green opts to limit the score to mostly sound effects and ice-cold silence. Frozen is a tough movie on the viewer and physically draining to watch (and I mean this in a good way).
Kevin Zegers is one of the weaker aspects of the film, but he’s quickly drowned out by Emma Bells extraordinary performance. While Green’s decision to shoot on a real ski lift (in Park City, Utah) plays a huge role in the actor’s authentic performance (go visit if you want to see how cold it gets at night), Bell takes it to a whole new level; she might even bring tears to your eyes. Veteran genre actor Shawn Ashmore shouldn’t be overlooked, as his intense performance plays off Bell like the beautiful mix of peanut butter and chocolate. Looking back at how dialogue intensive Frozen truly is, Ashmore and Bell literally bring it all together.
Frozen is quite simply terrifying. It will do for skiing what Jaws did for swimming. It isn’t just a good movie – it’s proof that Adam Green is for real. Stunning cinematography, beautiful camerawork, a (mostly) solid screenplay and seasoned actors chill this project together into a solid, near perfect block of ice.