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Release Date(s)2010 (September 28, 2010)
When it’s done well, survival or worst-case-scenario horror can be one of the most effectively frightening subgenres in the horror arsenal. Most of us don’t spend much time worrying if we have what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse. But being trapped inside a car with our child by a very large rabid dog isn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility. Everyday life is fraught with potentially deadly what-if scenarios and the best writers and filmmakers are able to tap directly into those hidden fears. Adam Green’s Frozen is a mighty fine example of the form, asking what would happen if three people were trapped halfway up a mountain on a ski-lift with no hope of rescue for almost a week.
As I mentioned when I reviewed Frozen during its theatrical release, the biggest mistake an audience member can make when watching a film like this is to judge the action based on what they would do in that situation. That’s a fun game to play later on but while the movie’s in progress, all that really matters is that you believe these people would behave this way in this situation. Green’s screenplay accomplishes that, giving us three distinct, believable characters: best friends Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Lynch (Shawn Ashmore) and Dan’s girlfriend, Parker (Emma Bell). The dialogue isn’t forced and it isn’t rushed. Conversations progress organically so that by the time that chair stops, you fully believe these are real people facing almost certain death.
Green’s other challenge was taking a story that is essentially three people sitting still for long periods of time and keeping it interesting and exciting. Cinematographer Will Barratt helps out immeasurably in this regard, shooting the action from vertiginous heights and utilizing every inch of the wide 2.40:1 format. Green, sadistic son of a bitch that he is, throws everything he can think of at the trio: blizzards, frostbite, wolves, you name it. But the movie works as well as it does because you can sense that Green takes no pleasure in torturing these people. He simply knows that this is what would scare him in this situation and therefore, it’ll probably scare you too.
Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray presentation of Frozen is quite good in all technical aspects. The image is crisp and appropriately cold, the audio suitably immersive. It’s not exactly a dazzling example of what the format can do but it works for the movie. Bonus features include four featurettes, which can either be played individually or as one almost 90-minute documentary. The longest of these, Beating the Mountain: Surviving Frozen, is a video production diary, with extensive behind-the-scenes footage from the arduous location shoot. All of the featurettes increase your admiration for the technical and physical accomplishments of the cast and crew. This was not an easy shoot.
You also get three deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by Green (including a much gorier version of one character’s death that was never intended to be in the film), the theatrical trailer, and an easily found Easter egg. The disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Green and principal actors Ashmore, Zegers and Bell, the second with Green, cinematographer Barratt and editor Ed Marx. Green is almost certainly a big fan of DVD and Blu-ray. His commentaries are consistently engaging and rarely repeat information that can be found elsewhere on the disc. There are a lot of filmmakers who could learn a thing or two from him.
I think the worst thing you could do with a movie like Frozen is oversell it. This is not some sort of flawless masterpiece of suspense. In fact, it’s a pretty low-key movie in a lot of ways, which is a big part of what made it work for me. A lot of filmmakers try too hard to scare their audience. Adam Green doesn’t do that here. He’s just showing you something that is scary and you either buy it or you don’t. For me, Frozen gave me one more good reason to stay off the slopes.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke