Can I just start by saying that I am ridiculously excited to finally be able to participate in the Final Girl Film Club? For those who don't know what it is all about, the Final Girl Film Club is the brainchild of the inimitable Stacie Ponder, whose horror blog, Final Girl, is one of the best around. Each month she picks a film for her fellow bloggers to review, and links to all our posts. This month's pick was one I'd been dying to see anyway, Adam Green's Frozen.
When I heard about Frozen, I thought the premise was too weak to base a feature on. Don't get me wrong, the prospect of being stranded on a chairlift is terrifying, but the main dangers are height and cold, which don't generally play well on the screen. After all, watching someone freeze to death is only incrementally more exciting than watching golf on tv, while seeing someone plummet to their end is only exciting for the five seconds it takes to go kersplat. But then again, I had heard so many good things about the film that I had to see it. I was not disappointed.
Adam Green has certainly stepped up his game since Hatchet. While I liked Hatchet, I enjoyed it because it was funny. As far as I can remember, there weren't many scares and no real tension to speak of. But Frozen was practically all tension. From the opening shots, Green imbues the machinery of the chairlift with a sense of cold, unfeeling menace. There's no music, just the squeal of steel cables on massive rotating wheels.
When the 3 lead characters are introduced, there's tension of another kind. Joe (Shawn Ashmore) is annoyed with his lifelong friend Dan (Kevin Zegers) for letting his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) tag along. Her presence not only holds them back (because she can barely ski), it also represents the loss Joe feels at losing his BFF to a girl. I like that Green spends ample time on characterization and setting up the relationships, because it definitely pays off once the horror part begins. After Dan has fallen to his death, there's a great scene where Joe and Parker start laying into one another, blaming each other for their situation. I found this scene even more upsetting than the death itself. The surviving characters have been terrified out of their wits, are trying to deal with an impossible situation, and have both just been emotionally devastated by their friend's death, and yet they continue to viciously inflict emotional wounds on one another. It was uglier than the bones sticking out of Dan's legs. This scene, for me, is emblematic of everything that is right with Frozen. There are characters you actually care about, a well-written script brimming with emotional truth, and phenomenal performances by the leads that really make the movie.
Another favorite scene: After the lift has stopped but before the characters suspect that something is horribly wrong, you can see the lights for night skiing behind them, shutting off one by one. The darkening of the lights starts in the distance and steadily moves closer, so the audience sees what's happening before the characters do, creating suspense rather than surprise. Something about it reminded me of the feeling you get when you first hear the shark's theme in Jaws. You can just feel the dread in your stomach. It's magically delicious.
If I had one complaint about Frozen, it would probably be the wolves. I'm no expert, but I'd think the pack would likely steer clear of a ski resort with its high human traffic. Also, I don't think New England has too many wolves these days. However, this is a small complaint, and given a choice between wolves and no wolves, I'd feed Shawn Ashmore and his brother to the hungry pack.
It is my firm coviction that movies cannot be evaluated objectively. One's enjoyment of a film depends on their expectations, their personal experiences and attitudes, their current mood, and the circumstances in which they watched the film. This being the case I'd like to note the several factors that influenced my enjoyment of Frozen. First off, I watched it during a subzero cold snap, which made things that much more real for me. I live in the heart of ski country in the Montana Rockies, yet I've only been skiing once. I found riding the chairlift to be a singularly unnerving experience. Montana also has a significant wolf population, with a large pack living just a few dozen miles to the north of where I live. A few years ago, a pack slaughtered a hundred head of sheep in a single rampage, and no one can figure out why (I suspect it was a political protest at having been reintroduced to the state). All of this means, of course, that I was predisposed to find the movie scary. However, it is totally to Adam Green's credit that he executed the film with such skill.
One last fun fact: the week after I watched Frozen, the chairlift at my local ski resort derailed. There were no deaths, but several minor injuries. Perhaps if they'd have watched Frozen they would never have gotten on that lift in the first place. See, horror movies can be good for you.