What “Open Water” did for the sea, “Frozen” aims to do for the ski slope—make it the site of stomach-churning tension as some unsuspecting thrill-seekers find themselves stuck in deep trouble. But it doesn’t make for a fun ride, or even a particularly unsettling one. It wants to be a real chiller, but comes out curiously lukewarm.
Kevin Zegers is Dan Walker, a handsome college kid who comes to the resort along with girlfriend Parker O’Neil (Emma Bell) and buddy Joe Lunch (Shawn Ashmore). After a day of frolicking—though there are undercurrents of envy on Joe’s part—the trio find themselves, as a result of some staff incompetence, stranded on the lift at the halfway point as darkness falls, the contraption grinds to a halt, the lights go out and a storm comes up. Since it will be days before anybody returns, they’re faced with the choice of freezing to death or trying to get down somehow by themselves.
That’s not just the premise—it’s the movie. Each of the trio suffers from the effects of the cold—and from their various attempts to escape what seems certain doom. We, meanwhile, suffer from their yammering about which of them was at fault for their predicament, what the likelihood of rescue might be, and how meaningless their lives have been. (No joke.) For the most part the dialogue has a sub-“Breakfast Club” quality. These would not seem to be the stars of their campus classes. And—unless you’re really inured to grossness—you’ll also suffer from the sight of broken limbs and bloody wounds. Because even if one of them makes it to terra firma, there’s a pack of wolves waiting for them there. After all, doesn’t every luxurious resort have its own wolf pack?
This all might seem a very thin reed on which to ground a feature, and it is. “Frozen” would work better in an hour, even half-hour television format; at 93 minutes it seems cruelly extended. The first twenty minutes are devoted to “getting to know” the students, but since there’s little to know, they’re pretty much a waste. And the final half of the picture is frankly pretty dull, apart from a couple scenes of bloody skin and half-eaten flesh. That leaves about twenty-five minutes—the section between when the trio first finds themselves trapped and the point at point the first of them bites the dust (or rather snow)—that offer a bit of suspense. Enough, perhaps, for an episode of some horror anthology series, and a couple of commercials too.
And frankly it has the feel of television from a technical perspective, too. The picture was shot on an actual slope in Utah, which at least gives it an authentic ambiance. But the premise is so static that even that soon loses its punch.
The acting is what you’d expect of a movie like this—no great shakes, even from Zegers, who’s been fairly impressive in challenging material (“Transamerica”), but the kids are convincingly annoying, which doesn’t exactly get the audience rooting for them as one might hope. Everybody else is a glorified extra. Technically the picture is okay, especially considering what were probably challenging location conditions, though the only memorable craft element is the special effects makeup by Chris Hanson—exposed bones, exposed innards—which is gruesomely explicit.
If you really wanted to be kind, you might analyze “Frozen” as a parable about modern man trapped in a misery of his own making. But Sartre or Beckett this is not. It’s just a piece of underdeveloped exploitation fare about three airheads unable to move. Fortunately, you can always make your way to the lobby.