The work of horror auteur Adam Green has been something of a mixed bag for me since he debuted to horror fans so many years ago. I was not gaga over his slasher throwback “Hatchet,” but I was entertained immensely by his murder mystery “Spiral,” and somewhere between those movies he found the middle ground to make a movie that’s something of a horror film based around natural inconvenience. Such as “Open Water,” Adam Green sets down upon an incident that doesn’t seem like much of a big deal to the natural observer… until it happens to them.
And then it becomes a fight for life and death. Instead of a couple lost out in the open waters of the sea without anyone to help them get back to shore, Green brings three characters in to a chair lift that breaks down in the middle of the frozen tundra and asks us to watch them fight for their lives against frostbite, hypothermia, and starvation. On the surface this really isn’t much of a premise… until it manages to happen to someone, and then it becomes a matter of surviving the harsh elements around you. “Frozen” ends up being much more of an excruciating thriller than I originally assumed as Green is surprisingly bound to depicting as much realism as possible all the while comprising something of a compelling little horror film where the villain is nothing but a dumb machine.
Never prone to just let our minds do the work for us, Green turns the chair lifts in to an utterly ominous presence often depicting our characters speaking under the chair lift’s dark black structure, their voices often being drowned out by its whirring mechanisms and wires, and star Bell is even shown trying to persuade a chair lift operator which Green lenses through the view of the actual chairlift as if indicating some rather dreadful foreshadowing to future events. While the posters and ad campaign touted this as the new “Jaws,” Green really does hearken back to the likes of films like “Gerry” where seemingly insignificant circumstances instantly turn harrowing thanks to mother nature and incidents that turn small obstacles in to mountains. Green is never prone to just letting these characters off the hook and manages to put them through a grueling series of events that just pile on one after the other after it becomes apparent they may possibly die on the chair lift dawns on them.
For what was considerably a small budgeted film made on minimum production costs, Green manages to completely make due with some incredible direction that keeps our situation both horrifying and completely hopeless all the while depicting the snowy dunes something of a desolate and haunting reminder of their doom. The cast all pull in incredible performances including Emma Bell whose entire emotional delivery keeps the film constantly afloat among her two male cohorts both of whom are no slouches either. But Green gives the weight of the reaction to Bell who endures acrophobia, delirium, emotional breakdowns, and even manages to witness something truly disturbing. Bell delivers such an incredible performance that it’s hard to not sympathize for her. Ashmore is often very strong in his role as the jealous best friend who is at first very critical of her soon becoming her rock, while Kevin Zegers handles the material with as much competence as usual.
This is further helped by the fact that Green portrays these individuals as human with their own flaws and likable traits who react to their situation as anyone would while also coming to grips with their own mortality and impending demise. Anyone doubting Green’s grasp on storytelling would do well to witness the horrific experience of “Frozen.” It’s a power house worthy of more acclaim and attention. Director Adam Green is quite a clever little monster, a man capable of telling a sharply written story with breakneck drama, and “Frozen” proves it. For anyone still doubting Green can really give a harrowing story dripping with characterization and raw performances after the otherwise forgettable gorefest that was “Hatchet,” they’d best check out Green’s forgotten and underrated thriller “Frozen” a film that’s nearly a masterpiece and one that will not send you off with a giggle or a grin believing in the power of the human spirit.