Friday, February 5, 2010

Frozen (2010)

As the infamous line in the movie, Airplane, goes, "Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes."

There is currently a winter storm bearing down on the Eastern Seaboard and naturally, my fellow Virginians are in a complete state of panic. And what should arrive in theaters last night to help spur on the mad dash to grocery stores in search of bread, water, and toilet paper?

A surprisingly tidy little thriller called Frozen directed by Adam Green.

I say "surprising" because to be honest, the most recent crop of Screen Gems motion pictures hasn't been all that great (Untraceable, Vacancy, Legion, ugh...) and I wasn't terribly fond of Adam Green's last horror outing, Hatchet. However, this time around it appears that Mr. Green has learned from the failings of Hatchet and gone back to the drawing board to revisit the most important facet of film direction: how to tell a story.

Interestingly enough, Frozen starts off more like a character study or a docu-drama rather than a suspense film. Camera angles are tight and frame the scenes rather cleverly in preparation for the claustrophobia to come.

During the early moments of the film, we meet Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore of X-Men fame), Parker O'Neil (Emma Bell), and Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers); three skiers trying to get in one last run before the resort closes for the week. The dialogue is intimate and feels absolutely genuine as we learn about Joe's former relationship with Parker, as well as Parker's irrational fears about the welfare of her pet should she die.

The atmosphere soon turns from carefree to deadly serious. The lift breaks down and suddenly the trio is faced with the predicament of somehow getting to safety from a ski lift car suspended in mid air or risk freezing to death. Green takes full advantage of the familar sensation that fear causes seconds to tick away like years and successfully justifies the 93 minute runtime for a brutal snapshot in life that may have lasted only fifteen minutes in real time.

At times when lesser horror films would turn to the obligatory shower scene, buckets of blood, or red herring jump scares to keep the time rolling, Green stays with his closely cropped stage and never pulls away from the human suffering placed right in your lap.

Arguably, Green could've made the scenario even more tense with frequent wide angle shots of the icy surroundings in order to further magnify the absolutely lethal situation Parker, Joe, and Dan are in by exploiting more than just one primal fear.

Instead, Green keeps his characters on center stage and relies on rosy cheeks, chapped lips, and frost covered eyebrows to communicate just how dire things are. This Open Water inspired route made me feel so wonderfully uncomfortable and uneasy that I almost begged for panoramic cutaways. The level of empathy I had with the characters was off the charts and I felt absolutely helpless as I witnessed what could be their last seconds of life painfully tick away.

If there is a flaw in the work, it is the gaps in story found in the early prefacing. You know from the trailers what you are getting yourself into, but Green is especially light on early details and leaves it up to quick dialogue blurbs to clue in viewers that the trio isn't exactly staying at the classiest of winter resorts, so it doesn't dawn on the audience until midway through the film that there is a perfectly logical reason why the snow patrol isn't combing the mountainside for our unlucky vacationers.

Even so, Frozen is a refreshing step in the right direction for Mr. Green. It will be interesting to see his next project and find out if continues to improve, or if another big budget project will cause him to falter once again and send him back to the learning tree.

1 comment:

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