The most surprising thing about “Frozen” a new horror film from “Hatchet” director Adam Green, is that it isn’t a Canadian movie. With its vast vistas of snow, wolf attacks, two Canadian leading men and body parts getting stuck to cold steel poles, “Frozen” has Great White North written all over it.
Set on a remote ski hill in Massachusetts “Frozen’s” story is very simple. Three snowboarders—Parker (Emma Bell), her boyfriend Dan (Kevin Zegers), and his best friend Lynch (Shawn Ashmore)—get stranded on a ski lift fifty feet in the air after the hill has shut down. The resort, only open on the weekends, won’t reopen for another five days and unless they can find a way to safely get off the lift they will freeze to death.
This is situational horror. There are no monsters, just bad timing and bad decisions that force the unlucky trio to face their darkest fears—the dark, the cold, heights and the worst foe of all, Mother Nature. Director Green subtly ups the ante every minute of the film’s running time, believably building horror, both physical and psychological. Not that much happens and the action is at a minimum but “Frozen” is an extremely tense movie.
Green makes good use of the stark surroundings and sound design. I’m not sure what they used to create the squishy sound that dominates one grisly scene, but it proves conclusively that sometimes what you hear is scarier than what you see.
On the downside, the barebones story doesn’t demand the full feature length treatment. In the early moments of the film, once the lift stops suddenly, it feels like the movie will movie along quickly. Once the action starts—or, more accurately stops—the fear and tension build a little too rapidly. The three friends fall apart in seconds, panicking too soon. Green let that bit of pacing get away from him, but soon has the real horror start and gives them a reason to be on edge.
Still, at ninety minutes “Frozen” feels padded, particularly during the, occasionally interminable small talk the friends makes to take their minds off their predicament. Too often it feels like filler and worse, frequently sounds like acting school monologues. The prattling gets tiresome as the movie nears its final moments and a bit of trimming here and there could have brought this down to a lean and mean eighty minutes.
Green has pulled good performances out of the actors, particularly from newcomer Emma Bell, who avoids the usual pitfalls of being the only female presence in a horror film.
“Frozen’s” tense story of survival will, at the very least, make you think twice about that trip to Whistler next year. Maybe Myrtle Beach would be a better choice…