Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Warm up to this solid little thriller

Frozen (2010)

Alfred Hitchcock did it with Lifeboat and Vincenzo Natali with Cube. What these two directors did is set their stories in one very confined space (a lifeboat in the former and a cube-like prison in the latter). Now, writer/director Adam Green sets his story in the great snowy outdoors, but confines his main characters – a trio of college kids on a weekend getaway – to a ski lift chair 40 feet above the ground.

What could have been merely a “stunt” or "high concept" movie turns out to be a solid little thriller, thanks to the time spent at the beginning getting to know our heroes: Kevin Zegers as Dan, Emma Bell as his new girlfriend Parker, and Shawn (Iceman in the X-Men movies) Ashmore as Dan’s best bud Joe.

They not annoying jerks as is often the case with 20-somethings in horror/thrillers, but regular people, especially Joe, who meets a cute co-ed on the slopes and even gets her number, which he tries not to forget even when things go bad. Our trio wanted to make one last run down the slopes before it shuts down for the night, but through a series of believable mishaps, they get stuck halfway up the mountain. They don’t descend into Lord of the Flies territory, but the guys and girl start sniping at one another in a believable fashion; their attempts to extricate themselves from their harrowing predicament are also quiet plausible.

One thing the movie gets right is to increase the problems for the trio. The filmmakers don't simply confine them to the stuck chair lift; Green throws in frostbite scares, a storm, hungry wolves, steel cables which will shred your hands, and more; the tension increases as we go along, which is something the recent film Monsters desperately needed (that movie was simply "stuck in a chair lift").

For a lower budgeted movie, they made sure they got a decent camera/equipment package, including a crane to swoop around the chairlift (shot on a real mountainside), so if our characters cannot move, at least the camera can. The performances are mostly solid, with Ashmore being the standout of the three, and Bell being the weakest.

I have yet to see Adam Green’s other films, primarily Hatchet and the just-released Hatchet II, but if he brings the same creativity, fun and energy to those films as he did to Frozen, then they herald the arrival of a talented new filmmaker to the tired Hollywood scene.

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