Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Frozen (2010)

Well, at least you didn't lick it

I have a truly massive backlog of reviews to get through, but first I'd like to drop a few word-bombs about Frozen. I will also warn you that this post features bigger spoilers than an Asian kid's Honda Civic, so if you have any interest in seeing this film at all, close your browser and go and watch it. It's okay, I'll wait. Or maybe I'll just skip to the next paragraph and pretend I sat in front of my keyboard for an hour and a half. Who knows?

The film is about three college students on a ski trip; Dan (Kevin Zegers), his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) and his best buddy Joe (Shawn Ashmore). They convince the ski lift operator to let them on without a ticket just before closing, and a comedy of errors leaves them stranded on the ski lift halfway up the slope. Nobody knows they are there and so they're stuck until the resort opens the next weekend. Things get shitty quickly and only get worse from there. I guess the closest comparison would be Open Water (in fact there's a few shark references that suggest they're aware of the similarity) but that doesn't feel right to me. It's a similar concept, but the execution is a lot different.

The film has just the right amount of character build-up, and does a good job setting up all the tensions that are liable to explode when the shit hits the fan. The best friend is jealous of the girlfriend, the girlfriend feels like a third wheel etc. There's a lot of shouting, blaming, crying etc, but later there's a lot of honest, quiet conversation as they realise they aren't likely to survive. Probably the most heartbreaking part is where Parker realises that her new puppy is home alone will probably starve to death before anyone realises that she's missing. If they actually showed the puppy I'd think it was too manipulative and reject it like a donor organ, but they tricked me by making me use my imagination.

In so many films of this genre, the main characters make mind-bogglingly retarded decisions out of narrative convenience. It really takes you out of the movie because you can see the writers pulling the strings, plus it's hard to care for the characters when the situation just feels like Darwinian selection in action. Frozen is better than most in this regard. Their first idea is to jump down, which seems reasonable but results in one of the worst limb-snappings I've ever seen, and I've seen the entire ouvre of Steven Seagal. It's way easier to care for the characters when shitty things happen due to circumstance instead of blatant stupidity. It must have been effective because at one point I was yelling at the screen for the hot girl to not take off her clothes.

That's not to say that the film is totally realistic. For instance, I'm not sure that packs of ravenous wolves are such a big problem at popular ski resorts. I've never been to one, since I hate the cold and have the coordination of a drunken two year old, so I guess I wouldn't know. Maybe they are, but I doubt it. If they had mentioned the wolves in passing earlier in the film I might have let it slide, but as it is they come out of nowhere and it's a little hard to swallow. More realistic than a yeti attack, I suppose.

There are a few other things that mildly annoyed me, like the way they left their faces fully exposed even after they get frostbite on their cheeks or the idiot who falls asleep with her bare hand wrapped around a steel pole, but I bought into it, and I guess that's what enjoyment of a simple thriller like this comes down to. If you're going to second guess the characters' actions every step of the way, then I doubt you'd enjoy it very much, but I guess I'm a little more forgiving than most when it comes to that kind of thing. I'm willing to accept a certain level of irrationality from someone with severe hypothermia who just saw their best friend eaten by wolves.

I also appreciated that the issue of mobile phones is dealt with in a quick throwaway line. I think we all understand that in the modern age this kind of thing would be impossible, what with someone Twittering "trapped on a ski lift lol" about two minutes after they get stuck. We don't need an annoying scene where someone explains that they aren't getting any reception. We get it.

At 94 minutes it's pretty much the perfect length. It started to lose me a little towards the end where the bolt holding the cable car together comes apart for no reason and the cable begins to twist and fray with that Hollywood-approved pinging sound. I guess they had to go there eventually, but it's a cliche too far for me. Still, I'm glad they didn't go with the nihilistic downer ending that seems to be so popular these days. I think after what they went through in this film it needed a scrappy survivor.

The director is Adam Green, the writer/director of Hatchet. I thought that film was okay as an 80s homage, but it didn't lead me to believe that he'd be capable of anything like this. This is more like a real big-boy film, with some nice cinematography and well-executed suspense sequences. I don't want to oversell it, but it's rare to find a film with a simple premise that is executed so well. I believe Green has recently released Hatchet 2, so maybe next he can do Frozen 2. If he wants he can use my yeti attack idea.

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