[very minor spoliers may ensue]
Frozen is the type of movie that would work great in an elevator pitch because it’s basic premise can be summed up in one simple question – “What would happen if three kids got stuck on a ski-lift after a mountain had closed for the week?”
When I saw the trailer to the film my first reaction was that I thought it looked like Open Water on a ski-lift. I happen to like Open Water and found it to be a pretty effective little movie, mostly because I am absolutely terrified of sharks. My second biggest fear are heights. Frozen had me at hello.
The flick begins with two best friends, Lynch & Dan, preparing to hit the slopes. Dan’s girlfriend, Parker, has tagged along, which Lynch is not too keen on (although she proves to be quite useful when she’s able to bribe the ski-lift operator into letting them all by without lift tickets). Since Parker is not much of a snowboarder, they spend the majority of the day on the bunny hill watching her fall on her ass. By the end of the evening, Lynch just wants to get in one real run before they have to leave. This ends up being a big mistake.
In order for a film like to this to work, there are two very important pieces of criteria that must be met. First, there has to be a plausible reason as to how these kids get left behind. Now, I’m sure there is a certain amount of protocol in place at real ski-resorts that exist to ensure that things like this don’t ever happen. However, for the purposes of this movie, I was sold on the believability of the mix-up. Without going into too much detail, a string of events cause the lift operator to abandon his post and a very unfortunate coincidence makes it appear as if everyone is safely off of the mountain.
Secondly, and more importantly, we have to be given characters that we care enough about to be invested in their plight. Luckily, we spend enough time with these kids beforehand to get to know and like them and are even more engaged as they settle into their harrowing predicament. Credit for that goes to writer/director Adam Green, who crafts a very strong script that doesn’t cheat on development and also to the three actors who flesh out the characters and turn in very solid performances (actress Emma Bell gives a heart-breaking monologue at one point about what she believes will be the fate of her new puppy). The one recognizable face is actor Shawn Ashmore. The irony is that he played Iceman in the X-Men movies.
Once the flick locks into it’s main conflict, things become tense and emotionally exhausting. The marketing of this movie suggests that it’s a horror film and I would normally tend to disagree with that labeling – but the film gets brutal, folks. It becomes all too clear that if these people don’t figure out something quick, they will most likely freeze to death. The fifty-plus foot fall may not kill them, but it sure doesn’t help when a pack of wolves emerge from out of the woods. Placed in this dire situation, these panic-stricken characters are forced to make some hasty decisions and without giving too much away, not all of them pan out.
I’ve always been partial to films that either are self-contained in an isolated environment or can approach the material with a minimalist take on the story. Frozen is not a big budget film with explosions and car chases – it’s a small movie where the three main characters are confined to sitting in a chair for the majority of the film. What’s commendable about it is the fact that even within those limitations, it can create pure suspense and terror. I honestly felt as though I was stuck on that lift myself the entire time.
The only difference is that I would’ve brought my cell phone.