Tuesday 21 September 2010

Holding on: "Frozen"

Some horror directors get their ideas from their dreams, in the dark; others take their cue from ancient lore, or seek to reinterpret classic genre texts for all they're worth. Some, evidently, take their inspiration while getting stoned in a ski lodge on vacations paid for by the profits from the DVD release of their last film. With Frozen, the writer-director Adam Green follows up the trashily pleasurable Hatchet with a what-if proposition that adheres to the Open Water template, wondering what might happen were its characters to be stranded among the elements in the middle of nowhere; the novelty is that the water comes in solid, rather than liquid form, and actually proves the very least of their worries.

Three college students - new couple Kevin Zegers and Emma Bell, plus nice guy/spare wheel Shawn Ashmore - are left hanging on a chairlift a hundred feet or so above the ground when the ski resort they're staying at shuts down prematurely for a week in anticipation of bad weather. At first, the hold-up is no more than inconvenient: you try answering a call of nature with your friends sitting this close beside you. ("I can hold it in," Bell insists. "For a week?," comes the response, as realisation of their plight slowly filters through.) Soon it's become a matter of life and death, as the snow begins to blow in and a pack of wolves gathers beneath the chairlift, accentuating already mounting tensions between two long-time bros who went up this hill in search of extreme pursuits, and the girlfriend who's (unintentionally) come between them.

As signalled by the opening close-ups of cogs and winding wheels at work, Frozen could merely have become a mechanical exercise on Green's part, testing how long he could string us (and these characters) out, yet it's also surprisingly well fleshed out by likable performers you want to see come down off the mountain in one piece. Full marks to the stunt doubles, asked to perform (without obvious digital safety nets) the kind of high-wire acts more common to the era of Harold Lloyd; and to the make-up team for rendering literal and, indeed, visceral the business of frostbite, chapped lips and skin welded to metal safety bars. Praise should go to Green, too, who - with DOP Will Bart - composes stark, widescreen, you-are-there images, cleverly marshalling the available space in such a way as to prey upon latent viewer vertigo, while generally distancing himself from the adolescent sniggering and easy yuks of his debut. Given the present financial climate, I doubt many of us had trips planned to Val d'Isere, anyway, but there's plenty in this canny, suspenseful piece to keep those who have off-piste.

Frozen opens nationwide from Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment