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Frozen -- Film Review

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PARK CITY -- "Frozen" delivers enough thrills and gory chills to satisfy the horror film crowd, but is not written, directed or acted well enough to be a first-rate thriller. A great premise in which three friends are stranded on a chairlift in the dead of winter is squandered to satisfy the expectations of the genre. An Anchor Bay Films release, after screenings in the midnight section at Sundance, "Frozen" should scare up reasonable returns in theaters and after-markets from the usual suspects, but not beyond that.

The main thing a writer and director needs to do in this kind of horror show is create a self-enclosed world that allows the audience to suspend disbelief and experience the full shock of the situation without asking "why didn't he?" and "how come?" questions. Hitchcock, of course, was a master of this. In this case, unfortunately, writer/director Adam Green doesn't accomplish that feat.

After Joe (Shawn Ashmore), Dan (Kevin Zegers) and his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell) scam their way onto the slopes, it's all downhill from there. Due to some confusion at closing time, the three friends get stranded 50 feet up in mid-air, in mid-winter as night approaches. Like Kubler-Ross' stages of dying, they go through a number of reactions, the first being denial: someone will come along in no time.

When that doesn't happen, anger and recrimination surface as the reality of their situation sinks in. If that wasn't enough, a storm blows in with hail and swirling snow. Dan is the first to go. He decides he can survive the jump and go get help. Wrong. He lands with a thud (kudos to sound mixer Douglas J. Cameron for this and other weather-related effects) and smashes his legs, the bone protruding grotesquely through the skin. This is the first of several moments when even the hardiest filmgoers may turn their head away from the screen.

When a pack of wolves (convincingly shot by Will Barratt and crisply edited by Ed Marx) get a whiff, that's the end of him. Now the despair sets in, along with severe frostbite. Joe is next to go. He fairs a little better initially and works his way across the cable to a ladder. The wolves reappear and chase him down the hill. When he doesn't return with help, that leaves poor, frozen Parker on her own. A few agonizing moments later, she's on the ground to meet her fate.

One of the big problems here that prevents the audience from getting swept away, rather than just oohing and ahhing at the horrific happenings, is that you don't give a damn about these people. Green is not specific enough in the writing to make them seem like real characters with their own history, and when he does try it's awkward and heavy-handed. And for their part, the actors are too stiff to sell it.

Green misses other opportunities. Fear of height would have been a good quality to exploit, and although there is some impressive crane work around the chair, he doesn't do enough with the altitude. Their deterioration is based more on Robin Michelle Patrick's makeup work.

And why don't any of them have a cell phone on them, even if it won't work on the mountain. And the reason given for why no one will come and look for them is not convincing. This is not to say that "Frozen" won't make your palms sweat, it just could have been so much better.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival

Production company: An Anchor Bay presentation in association with A Bigger Boat, Bigger Boat/Ariescope Pictures
Cast: Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, Ed Ackerman, Rileah Vanderbilt
Director: Adam Green
Writer: Adam Green
Producers: Peter Block, Cory Neal
Executive producers: Tim Williams. John Penotti, Michael Hogan
Director of photography: Will Barratt
Production designer: Bryan A. McBrien
Music: Andy Garfield
Costumes: Barbara J. Nelson
Editor: Ed Marx
Rated R, 94 minutes