Adam Green took the horror world by storm with his 2006 debut, Hatchet, a backwoods slasher with a comic bent and an old school heart. The film proved to be a hit with horror fans, and Green suddenly found himself being touted as the next Eli Roth. So how does one follow up an exceptionally gory, laugh-out-loud funny homage to 1980’s slashfests? Well, if you’re Adam Green, you make a downright serious, scary, and extremely intense thriller about three people stranded on a chairlift. No, really.
I’m not going to deliver my usual plot synopsis of Frozen here as it would be impossible to do so without spoiling the film. Instead, I’ll tell you a little story about me. On paper, the plot of Frozen sounds both flimsy and a little ridiculous – three skiers get find themselves stranded on a chairlift and struggle to survive against the elements – but, as a skier (albeit a lousy one), I can attest that it is far less outlandish than it sounds as I’ve actually sort of experienced something like it, myself. A long while back, while skiing in New Hampshire during particularly nasty weather, the chairlift I was on suddenly ground to a halt around a third of the way up the mountain, leaving my friend and I dangling 50 feet above some rough looking terrain. The chair swayed from side to side as we were battered by wind and snow, and I started having a panic attack. My friend insisted that these sort of things happened all the time, but his assurances fell on deaf ears. I must have smoked three cigarettes and said about a thousand Hail Marys before that car finally started up again, and, once I got back to the bottom of the mountain (I crawled a good bit of the way), I stayed at the bottom of the mountain.. Sure, we weren’t stuck up there for long (maybe 20 minutes), but it felt like a lifetime. I’ve skied since, but only on mountains with gondolas (there’s something comforting about being encased in fiberglass) and only when the forecast calls for lots of sun, no wind, and minimal chance of death.
Knowing this about me, it should come as no surprise that Frozen scared the bejeesus out of me; not in a “boo” sort of way, but with the deep down visceral sort of scares that haunt me for days after viewing. Green films the whole thing with claustrophobic close-ups and low camera angles, giving the viewer a real sense that they’re up there with his characters. Of course, none of this would matter if the actors he were filming weren’t up to the task, but Bell, Ashmore, and Zegers really sell it. These aren’t caricatures or the torture porn cannon fodder, here; these are living, breathing human beings. Green’s script allows for a lot of interaction between the characters, fleshing each of them out immensely, and, as a result, we really feel like we know them and become much more invested in their respective fates. It’s rare to see a “horror movie” with this much depth of character, where thrills are balanced by pathos. What’s more amazing is the fact that Green accomplishes such a feat with just a handful of actors and a chairlift, calling to mind single set films like Lifeboat and Rope. It’s a surprisingly mature and thoughtful sophomore effort, and the polar (get it??) opposite of the gross-outs and belly laughs of Hatchet.
Anchor Bay/Starz! brings Frozen to Blu-ray in a beautiful 2.40:1 transfer that is brimming with fine detail and tremendous depth. The overall color palette of the film is fairly neutral, with bright whites, soft grays, and lush blacks, allowing more vibrant elements like Parker’s pink jacket and blue hat or blood spatter on snow to stand out. There’s also nicely balanced grain throughout, lending the film a pleasing sense of texture and filmic sophistication. The image is complemented by an wonderfully atmospheric 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that features crisp and organic dialogue, expertly mixed surround effects, and impressive and robust bass. The real treat of this sonically sturdy mix lay in subtleties like the creaking of the trees below, the wind whipping against fabric, the crunch of footfalls on snow – all of this makes for a very immersive viewing experience.
Extras include a pair of feature-length commentaries – one, a loose and conversational track featuring Green and his three stars, and the other more technical, with Green, Cinematographer Will Barratt, and Editor Ed Marx. Personally, the technical track wins out here, only because I was curious as to the approaches Green and Barratt took to create such a claustrophobic atmosphere, and also wanted to learn more about the techniques employed to make the most out of their “set”. Other extras include over 90 minutes worth of featurettes (presented in HD), an assortment of deleted scenes with optional commentary (SD), trailers, and more.
Frozen is a very tense, oftentimes disturbing, and, ultimately, tragic thriller that succeeds primarily thanks to Green’s great script and ingenuity and his young cast’s full investment in their roles. It’s not a typical horror film by any means, having more in common with such survivalist fare as Open Water, but with a much better script, and stronger, more believable performances. Fans looking for the next Hatchet will be disappointed (but not for long seeing as how Hatchet 2 is just around the corner as of this writing), but, once drawn in by the fleshed out characters and expert direction, will find themselves riveted. Anchor Bay/Starz! Blu-ray presentation is superlative, with excellent picture quality, immersive audio, and a host of compelling extras, making this an easy recommendation.