Once upon a time the phrase "direct to video" was movie distribution speak for "shit", or "shitty", or "shit like". (Before any Billable Hours fan writes and complains that I ripped that line off Clarke Claxton, don’t bother. You and I are the only people that ever watched that show and no one else is going to know what the hell you are talking about.) But "direct to video" is no longer a badge of dishonour given only to movies that stink beyond the tolerance of your average set of human nostrils. No, for a multitude of, mostly economic, reasons there are now some real gems making their debut on DVD rather than the local multiplex, and I offer you Frozen as proof of this contention.
Dan (Kevin Zeger) and Joe (Shawn Ashmore) are best buds on their annual weekend ski trip, but this year are accompanied by Dan's new Girlfriend, Parker (Emma Bell). Frosty tension is the air because Joe is feeling displaced by Parker's intrusion into their annual male odyssey, whist Parker is feeling uncomfortable with Joe's icy treatment, given Dan's insistence that she accompany them.
Frosty tension? Icy treatment? You see what I'm doing with those adjectives? Never mind.
Our cool threesome banter, bicker and ski right up until closing time Sunday night at the weekend ski resort. Then, in an attempt to appease Joe's dissatisfaction with the way the weekend has panned out, the trio convince the docile lift operator to let them onto the ski lift for one last run after its official closing. Before you can say, "wouldn’t it be fucked up if they got half way up the mountain and there was a mix up at the base of the lift that meant the docile operator left someone else in charge who didn't understand that they were still on the lift", that's exactly what happens. The ski resort shuts down and our three protagonists are left hanging in the cold, a very long way above the ground, and a very long way away from anyone who could possibly hear their chilly screams.
Frozen does for threesomes what Open Water did for couples.
Frozen's basic premise is brilliantly simple: three people stuck on an isolated ski lift. It's a great premise, but you need more than a great premise to make an engrossing movie. The Locals had an interesting premise, but that movie sucked large desiccated turds thanks to the amateur hour execution. To turn your decent premise into a decent movie you need a compelling script, and competent direction, which writer/director, Adam Green, delivers in snow shovels. He's also very well serviced by his trio of actors, especially Ashmore and Bell.
Frozen really draws you in because Joe, Dan and Parker seem like real characters rather than the clichéd character types that often populate these kinds of movies, and the dynamic of their relationship is not just credible, it's relatable. When they realise that they've been stranded on the lift and are unlikely to be discovered until the resort reopens in a week's time their reactions are believable and captivating, whilst Green's assured direction keeps the tension mounting slowly but surely.
The "horror" in Frozen comes from the gradual deterioration of the protagonists' situation and the fact that there's no easy out for them. There's no knife wielding maniac, or creepy supernatural forces on offer here, nor will you be leaping through your seats from cheap jump scares. As such, this movie might disappoint viewers looking for more visceral thrills. Frozen doesn't shock, or frighten, you so much as it fills you with an inescapable feeling of dread, which is arguably more affecting.
Perhaps the best barometer for determining if you're likely to enjoy Frozen, is your reaction to Open Water. I think it's probably safe to say, if you liked Open Water, you'll dig Frozen. But, if you thought that that movie was, like, you know, totally boring man, then Frozen probably isn't going to be your cup of Red Bull either.
I'm guessing the main complaints directed at Frozen are going to be about the implausibility of getting stuck on a ski lift for such a long time, and about how the protagonists could have more easily escaped their predicament. To that I'd say, yes their predicament is unlikely, but it is possible, and the important thing when making a movie about something unlikely (but possible) is to do it convincingly, and Frozen does. As for our trio being able to escape more easily, to that I simply say, "bollocks". Green shoots the film on a real ski lift, and it's pretty clear to anyone with a reasonable understanding of gravitational force, that there is no easy out for the trio. With the possible exception of what Parker does with her glove at one stage, most of the trio's actions are believable and understandable.
My only complaint with the movie is the speed with which the third character's fate is resolved after the fate of the first two characters is known. It feels a little rushed and seems like a lost opportunity to extract more "horror" from the story. But that's a minor quibble in an otherwise very accomplished genre pic.
Put simply, Frozen is a movie that rewards the patient viewer with a genuine, believable, tale of horror, which is not something I find myself saying very often these days. The fact that it didn’t screen in Australian cinemas should not put you off checking out this impressive little chiller.
Final Girl Film Club