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Entries in Frozen [2010] (1)

Saturday
Feb062010

Frozen (2010)

Gangrene with Enmity

It’s okay for some characters in horror movies to be unlikable—that’s part of the catharsis in seeing them creatively killed off; but in a straight thriller, it’s usually a good idea for the audience to care what happens to them. In 2006, writer/director Adam Green gave us the 80s horror throwback Hatchet, an uninspired Friday the 13th rip-off that—according to who you ask—is either a brilliant genre satire, or just boring, generic and sad (guess which camp I’m in). The movie is full of ditzy, young idiots who meet their doom at the hands of an axe-wielding swamp-dweller. The only thing that abated the depression of watching them speak and do really stupid things was watching them die in quick succession.

Green’s newest film, Frozen, is masked in legitimacy, but commits a fatal crime: Porting over one of the slasher genre’s best archetypes (the jock asshole), multiplying it by three, and then expecting us to care about them being stuck on a chair lift for sixty minutes. Two best friends, Joe and Dan, and Dan’s girlfriend, Parker (played by Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, and Emma Bell, respectively) wind down a weekend at a Massachusetts ski resort that is only open from Friday through Sunday. Joe, bitter because he and Dan have had to forego real skiing in order to look after Parker the novice, convinces Dan to go on one good run before they leave. Parker, of course, tags along and—through a series of small mistakes beyond their control—the three end up on a stopped chair lift, in the dark, hovering fifty feet over hard snow. Frozen unfolds as they struggle to survive amid harsh weather and hungry wolves stalking the woods below.

This sounds like a great idea for a movie—or maybe an hour-long short—but the problems all go back to the characters (and, by extension, the script). The first twenty minutes of Frozen sees Dan and Joe convincing Parker to sex it up for the rube lift operator, hoping that her tits and a hundred bucks will get them all a discounted ride up the mountain; since they bicker about what minimum wage is, I assume they’re just being cheap. Next, we’re treated to several (yes, several) conversations about how Dan isn’t the same now that he’s dating Parker; the boys at the local bar all miss him; she’s tearing two best friends apart ‘cause she’s an icky, dumb girl. At first I thought these were supposed to be high school students; turns out they’re in college (though Shawn Ashmore is 31 years old), and have apparently learned everything they know about male/female relationships from Maxim Magazine and reruns of Home Improvement.

By the time they get stranded, I felt queasy. Not because of the heights or the sub-zero cold, but by the realization that all three characters are horrible to each other in the best of times. I could only imagine how quickly and ugly matters would get when death became a possibility. Sure enough, they continue to get on each other’s nerves and fight.

Luckily, this is the point where Frozen briefly becomes a comedy. Dan decides to jump out of the seat and try his luck on the ground. Following a hilarious POV shot of his legs hitting the snow and shattering, we’re treated to five minutes of him sitting on the ground with bones jutting out of his bloody pants, screaming. Joe and Parker throw clothing at him to help tie up the wounds, and all three performances make a ridiculous looking splatter gag play out like the Mad TV version of a Magruber skit. The capper is the awkwardly staged first appearance of the wolves, which made me laugh out loud.

The rest of the film is a series of weird vignettes in which something awful happens, the characters ignore the awful thing, and eventually, so does the plot; these include, but are not limited to frostbite on the cheek, a bare hand frozen to the safety bar, and a loose bolt in the lift support that threatens everyone’s safety—for a couple minutes; the loose bolt takes a break from being menacing and returns to full dramatic capacity later on.

Frozen is supposed to be a “drama/thriller”, but there’s no tension in a story when the people it’s about are neither interesting nor sympathetic. It doesn’t matter how many stories Joe tells Parker about crushes he had in school or meeting Dan in the first grade; he’s more often than not selfish and dumb. I’ll give Adam Green this: the things the characters do to survive are—for the most part—reasonable. But the arrogance, jealousy, and pettiness that led to their predicament are hard to overcome. I got the feeling that the main reason Dan, Joe and Parker wanted to survive was so that they could hold the incident over each others’ heads for the rest of their hateful lives.