By: Addison Wylie
Frozen is the latest entry into the bottle film category. Usually a term applied to television shows, a bottle film is when a movie is shot at one location and that location only. In my opinion, the movie Open Water would qualify for a bottle film title as well as the recently released Devil. Horror films tend to use this method of filmmaking in order to build intensity and make its characters and audience claustrophobic. This creates a feeling of fear and the films usually ask the audience “what would you do in a situation like this?”. In Frozen’s case, director Adam Green confronts his audience with the situation of being stuck within a very small space in a chilly atmosphere. The result is a little grating at first but once the characters start using their head, the movie goer begins to get wrapped up in the situation and ends up leaving the theatre never wanting to touch a set of skis ever again.
When Winter comes around, Dan, played by Kevin Zegers, and Joe, played by Shawn Ashmore, love to hit the hills and tear up the snowy scenery on their skis and snowboards. However, ever since Dan started going out with Parker, played by Emma Bell, she has latched onto him. Another Winter rolls around and the “man” time is no longer that. Joe, however, slowly comes to terms with this change and they begin to have a fun day on the slopes. Once nightfall arrives, the three want one more run on the hills before the lodge closes. After some convincing, Dan, Joe, and Parker find themselves on their way up to the top of the hill via chairlift as the icy wind cuts across them. However, after some unfortunate and absent-minded incidents, the lodge closes and the chairlift stops in mid ride. The ski attendants think the kids have had their last run and nobody else knows their on the lift. It doesn’t help matters that the resort doesn’t open again for another week. A possible fun last run on the snowy slopes has now turned into a survival challenge against nature.
My hat goes off to Adam Green for being able to keep the movie interesting given the circumstances. He’s chosen a movie where his actors can barely move for 90 minutes, it’s a horror film that is heavy on talking, and he still manages to scare the daylights out of his audience. In order to create a frightening atmosphere, Green uses audio and make-up to the full extent. The sound department captures the sounds of the night so the audience feels as if we’re there on that very same chairlift. Normal sounds that we wouldn’t think twice about, such as a creaking empty chair swaying in the wind, turn into eerie and chilling devices to remind us that nobody is within a large radius of them. Green’s make-up department applies realistic amounts of gore, scabs, and bruising. The realism makes that notion of us being in that environment even stronger. When the two elements are mixed together, the audience gets a sense of that aforementioned claustrophobic and visceral feeling. When we hear and see the wind blow a flurry of snow towards the faces of the three stranded kids and we see that snow caked onto their faces, around their mouths and onto the male players’ facial hair, the audience can feel how uncomfortable that situation is. Green even decides to take both elements to the next level and add it to a more horrifying scene. In a scene where Parker has fallen asleep and wakes up to find her hand is glued to the metal safety bar, the sound of her skin being slowly ripped as well as the visual of her hand looking like bubble gum is enough for me to carry that morose memory in my head whenever I see a metal pole in the Winter time.
With all this said, my major qualms I have with Frozen happen within the first twenty minutes; where the audience is first introduced to the main characters. However, these first scenes end up affecting the whole movie. Green may be able to establish a mood and create uncomfortable, fearful situations but Green, who also wrote the film, needs more practice developing his characters and creating some sort of concerned emotion that the audience would inhabit. Even though the make-up is very realistic, the characters never feel human. They just seem like “dumb teenager” stereotypes. We have the tough guy character, Dan, the comic relief, Joe, and the damsel in distress, Parker. That’s it. To me, these characters seem well off. Everything in their lives are going great. The biggest problem Joe has is facing the fact that he’s going to have to spend more time with parker while Dan is around. What, I guess, I’m trying to say is “why should I be affectionate towards these three characters?” Green has done nothing for me to care about the fate of these people. That’s a major problem in a horror movie that wants you to root for its main players to get out alive. With all this said though, Green does introduce some hard-hitting monologues during the last two acts that are very effective and successful in getting an emotional rise out of its movie goers. A monologue where Parker talks about her lonely dog at home starving to death if she dies is particularly unsettling and delivered well. I really enjoyed these scenes where Green was starting to realize that he needed to flesh out his characters more. However, it’s too late. I should be feeling sympathetic for them once that chairlift halts and the lights go out; not when they’re on their final leg of survival.
Frozen is definitely a movie that will hang around in your thoughts for quite sometime and once you come to terms with it, the film will sneak into your head once that last season of the year kicks into gear. Thanks to Green’s direction and his ability to utilize audio and make-up to the greatest degree, Frozen is eerily chilling and is successful with throwing its audience into the situation at hand. Character flaws aside.