By Brian Orndorf
Writer/director Adam Green is just asking for trouble with his ski lift disaster movie “Frozen.” It takes an extraordinary amount of patience to tolerate this picture, and an even greater suppression of basic survival logic to enjoy it. Hey, it’s just a movie, right? However, “Frozen” makes it a point to splash blatant illogic in the face of filmgoers, while filling out the rest of the picture with tepid grotesqueries to keep the movie shuffling along.
Off on a ski weekend in New England, friends Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Lynch (Shawn Ashmore) are ready to hit the slopes, with Dan’s klutzy girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) in tow, much to Lynch’s disappointment. Managing to con an employee out of a cheap lift ticket, the threesome heads up the mountain for a happy day of skiing, snowboarding, and flirtation. For their last run of the night, the group talks their way into the final chair, zooming into the darkness excited for a concluding run. Through a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, the gang is trapped halfway up the mountain when the lift is shut down for the week. Now stuck at a great height with little room for escape, Dan, Lynch, and Parker fight their rising fears and a freezing reality as night falls and the wolves come out to collect dinner.
“Frozen” is not camp. It wants to be taken seriously as a film of nail-biting tension and serious emotional reflection in the face of death. It’s a ballsy move for Green, who doesn’t strike me as the sincere type, previously directing the snoozer slasher/laugher picture “Hatchet” and the harebrained chiller “Spiral.” “Frozen” presents the filmmaker with a grim challenge, asked to assemble 90 minutes of anxiety and poignancy as the audience watches three young characters slowly die in a single, stationary location. It’s a low-budget concept if there ever was one, so tie a thrill-a-minute bib on tight and brace yourself for searing, meaningful dialogue and a stunning arrangement of pulse-quickening survival challenges.
OK, would a couple of “Return of the Jedi” references and monumental snow-country idiocy work for you instead?
I didn’t find “Frozen” offensive, just moronic, with Green enthusiastically digging into the concept with only a casual interest in overall consistency. He’s here to imagine pain and guide suffering, with only a slapdash pass at common sense made once the lift has been shut down and our heroes are left to twist in the bitter wind. The characters complain of frostbite on their faces, yet possess scarves, hats, and goggles they never use. When Dan decides to plummet down into the pillowy softness of freshly laid snow, he decides to spastically leap instead of cautiously planning his landing to best injure a less critical limb. The picture is lousy with nitpicks like this.
I do give Green credit for plausibly stranding the trio, but once the doomsday clock begins ticking, “Frozen” abandons appealing realism to play with goofy movie logic, which provides the production with more opportunities for runtime-munching suspense sequences.
Barking about illogic here is useless (hey kids, why not zip up your coats if you’re cold?) when Green establishes three lead characters not worth the effort of sympathy. Yammering, one-note backstory machines, Dan, Lynch, and Parker aren’t compelling vessels of dread. Green can’t dream up any significant dialogue to pass the time between escape attempts, leaning on clichéd introspection to help the human popsicles bond, which doesn’t encourage likability, especially from these limited actors. You just may find yourself rooting for the wolves.
Green makes 90 minutes feel like an entire week, stalling “Frozen” with wacky melodrama (Parker’s snow-pants-soaking urine release on the lift is accompanied by an exaggerated telenovela orchestral swell, beating an emotional moment into pure laughs) to pad the picture. It’s a long march to the forgone conclusion, and while stocked with beautiful snowscape cinematography, “Frozen” is a witless endeavor that should’ve been more insistent, convincing the audience to shut off their brains and just enjoy the (lack of a) ride.
Movie lovers will likely get something out of the extras component of the disc – there’s commentary, some fairly exhaustive featurettes and documentaries, and deleted scenes.