Mark Reviews Movies

FROZEN (2010)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Adam Green

Cast: Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, Ed Ackerman, Rileah Vanderbilt

MPAA Rating: R (for some disturbing images and language)

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 2/5/10

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 4, 2010

On the Contrivance Meter I'm creating just now, there are plenty of other things that could happen and show up in Frozen that would rank much higher than what actually happens in writer/director Adam Green's minimalist thriller.

For example, a murderer appearing below the ski lift where our three heroes find themselves stranded trying to get to them or waiting for them to come down would be positioned at Plenty Contrived, while, I don't know, a massive conspiracy by the owners of the ski resort to keep them stranded there while a bunch of goons with guns and helicopters arrive to teach them a lesson about not buying a lift pass would find itself at Unbelievably Contrived. Both of them would fit with Green's setup, which is to strand three college kids on a ski lift and make us cringe at the ways they try to escape.

Frozen gives us inattentive employees and hungry wolves as the reason for and danger of being stuck on a ski lift and trying to get away. On that scale, those are Kind of Contrived, and Green does a commendable job pacing the exposition so that we buy into the fear that comes with the realization that you're trapped, no one's coming to help, and, if things stay the way they are, you will die a slow death.

Then the damn wolves show up, and we realize Green has written himself into a corner. What else could you do in a thriller where three people are stuck on a ski lift except watch them bicker, make up, and steadily suffer from frostbite?

That, of course, is the other end of this man vs. nature conflict, because the movie is about a trio on a ski lift in the middle of a storm. They are Parker (Emma Bell), her boyfriend Dan (Kevin Zegers), and his best friend Joe (Shawn Ashmore). Joe doesn't see Dan as much since he got a girlfriend, wants to spend more time with his friend, and resents Parker for coming along on their guy time. So there's that.

They pay off the lift master to get on without a pass and get on the lift as he's about to close it down. Scheduling conflicts, bathroom breaks, and a snow plow driver with the worst (or best, if the whole point is to look away as the two guys and a girl throw their things down to get his attention) timing in the world ensure that the three are really, really marooned on a ski lift with a week before the lodge opens again.

They start freaking out, obviously, as the lights on the mountain go out, and after some bantering in an attempt to keep their minds off the situation at hand, one of them decides to try to get down. In a jarring moment, the kid realizes that snow from that height might not be as soft as it would seem, and we're treated to an instantaneous, complete compound fracture.

This is where Green gets in a corner. Nothing that happens for the rest of the movie comes close to matching the queasy, believable tension of this scene. It's a premature climax.

It's here that the wolves arrive, and while that event alone is only Kind of Contrived on the scale, in the context of what has just happened, it feels much more so.

From here on out, Green has nowhere to go, except to bring the wolves back, stalking below the scene, when another of them tries to climb along the razor-sharp cable (Another character points out the texture, so we know it's dangerous—remember, there are wolves down there) to reach a distant ladder. Throw in a randomly loosening bolt to the mix, and Green's attempts to conjure suspense become pretty transparent.

The characters are in that unfortunate valley between likeable and loathsome, so while we're not waiting for their injuries and demises, we're not invested in their rescue either. In between freak outs (Parker unfortunately turns into a clichéd damsel in distress), their dialogue goes between blatant foreshadowing (talks about the worst ways to die and dying to save someone else) and generic character building (concern over a puppy at home and recollecting a failed relationship). I admired the way Green handles the deaths off camera, and one scene, which brings interpersonal tension to a head, is effective, but again, it resolves the conflict too quickly and too easily.

The major issue with Frozen is that Green's minimalist setting and conflict put everything under a microscope. The contrivances, while minor in a different situation, are relatively huge here. Plus, it turns out, there just isn't much to do with three people stuck on a ski lift.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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