After delivering a disappointing 80s slasher movie throwback with his debut feature Hatchet (2006), Adam Green tones down the gore but ratchets up the tension in his almost unbearably taut follow up, Frozen.
Taking the term ‘high concept’ literally, Frozen sees three friends stranded in sub-zero temperatures on a ski-lift chair, 50ft in the air. With a storm coming in and no one to hear their screams for help, Green’s excellent direction builds suspense through a series of heart-stopping set pieces. It’s incredibly lean, efficient filmmaking that’s reminiscent of the style of John Carpenter in it’s economy and skill at building and developing character whilst simultaneously serving and progressing the plot. This is undoubtedly aided by the three actors (Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore and Kevin Zegers) whose naturalistic and well written banter lends an emotional investment to the later horrors.
I don’t want to comment on particular sequences, as it’s impossible to do so without giving anything away, but the more gruesome and horrific aspects of the film are handled with great economy and restraint, sometimes off screen altogether, but none the less effective because of it.
Green makes great visual use of his setting, from the beautifully still establishing shots of the frozen landscape to the claustrophobic close ups of the frostbitten faces, Green frames the chair very much in relationship to its’ environment, preventing it from seeming stagy in its’ use of just one location.
Aspiring to nothing other than its’ own ‘rollercoaster ride’-movie pretensions, it plays on the same kind of real-life primal fears (in this case vertigo/abandonment) as Open Water (sharks), Paranormal Activity (the dark), Jaws (sharks again) and the like. These kind of relatable, unsupernatural and situational horror (?) films can often be effective on a more resonant level than the average horror or monster movie, and I understand it’s something director Danny Boyle exploits to the fullest in his upcoming 127 Hours (2010).
Green is in total control of his plot and characters throughout, it’s 90 minutes of edge-of-your seat stuff that also brings to mind Spielberg and Hitchcock, both masters of the high concept thriller. Let’s hope his upcoming Hatchet 2 (2010) delivers on the broken promise of the original, and that he’s utilised some of the great lessons in suspense he’s clearly learned here. If he has, we could have another Halloween (1978) on our hands.
Frozen - 2010 - USA - 93 mins - Dir : Adam Green