Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens Go Very Dark in Serial Killer Thriller 'Frozen Ground' (Video)

Cage reunites with his "Con Air" co-star John Cusack for the film, hitting theaters on Aug. 23.

The Frozen Ground is a dark thriller based on the real-life 1980s hunt for Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen.

In the film, distributed by Lionsgate, Nicolas Cage plays the detective determined to find the killer (John Cusack) who had been terrorizing Anchorage for a decade, while Vanessa Hudgens plays the one victim who was able to escape Hansen and can aid in his capture. 

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Directed by Scott Walker, The Frozen Ground is the second of three darker films that Hudgens will star in. The first was raunchy teen pic Spring Breakers, and the third will be Gimme Shelter, in which she stars as a runaway pregnant teen.

"It's nice to be able to sink your teeth into something," she tells The Hollywood Reporter of her choices. "All of these roles kind of scared me a little bit, but that's how you grow.

"I don't want to stick to the norm," she adds. "I had to fight to get the part. I'm so excited and stoked for the world to see."

Hudgens, 24, rose to fame after starring in Disney Channel original movie High School Musical. But she's been shedding her squeaky-clean image with these darker roles.

"Honestly, it's really funny because the movie is so dark, so it's something that you take with you and should feel shaken up by, but when I watch it, I get so excited because it's an amazing accomplishment. I worked really hard on the character," she says of watching herself in The Frozen Ground.

VIDEO: 'Frozen Ground' Trailer: Nicolas Cage Tracks Down John Cusack in Alaska

Cage tells THR that he and Cusack, with whom he starred in 1997's ConAir, had stayed in touch since they "came up together."

"When we got together in this movie, it was sort of a reunion," he says.

Cage, a prolific actor with more than 60 film credits under his belt, has slowed down his schedule recently, only shooting one film, David Gordon Green's thriller Joe, last year.

"I really wanted to look for the 100-point script. I wanted to be enormously careful with that script," he says. "It took a year before it came together, and the script was Joe."

Watch THR's interview with Hudgens and Cage above to learn how they stayed warm in Alaska.

The Frozen Ground hits theaters and VOD on Aug. 23.

Twitter: @Beccamford