Sunday, February 07, 2010

Frozen

Wow, when did Starz/Anchor Bay pick this film up? It just played Sundance a couple weeks ago, so it must have been purchased before the festival in order to give it such a quick theatrical release. I'm kind of surprised that it got one at all, but glad; it's a good movie, if not quite a great one, and looks pretty nice on the big screen. It's certainly one that will encourage an audience to stay inside for the rest of the day, though!

One thing I did kind of dig was how, even though it was shot in Utah, it's got a lot of obvious New England DNA in it. The Holliston ski resort is named after director Adam Green's Massachusetts hometown. There's a big poster for Newbury Comics in the background of some scenes, and I wonder if that's product placement, an inside joke on Green's part that I'm not privy to, or a tip of the hat to them for how hard they pushed Hatchet after noting that one of the characters spent the movie wearing a t-shirt with their logo (I'll have to stop by one to see if they're pushing this movie, especially considering there are locations near both theaters playing it). The characters mention going to Papa Gino's for pizza.

Heck, they even off-handedly use "wicked" in a sentence without it being a goofy, "look at the funny New England accents" thing. I'm not sure I've ever seen that in a movie.

That's probably not really a great reason to like a movie, but I figure it's not a bad reason to like it a little more.

Frozen

* * * (out of four)
Seen 7 February 2010 at AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run)

Frozen is straightforward, at times almost to a fault. In short order, we get friends with a certain amount of tension between them, a situation we really wouldn't want to be in, and things getting worse. Fortunately, this is a case where "things get worse" means "things get good".

The friends are Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore), skiing enthusiast, Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers), snowboarder and Joe's best friend, and Parker O'Neil (Emma Bell), Dan's girlfriend hitting the slopes for the first time. Nice folks, although Joe's a little irritated about not getting to spend a lot of time with the guy who has been his best friend since first grade now that there's a girl involved, and about how Parker is keeping them on the beginners' slopes. That's why they beg the chair-lift operator to give them one last run as the Holliston ski resort closes early on Sunday night. There's a mix-up, though, and the lift is shut down while they're still halfway up. Naturally, the early closing was because of bad weather coming, and the place won't be open again until Friday.

Director Adam Green doesn't mess around trying to dazzle the audience with technique, allowing the story to play out in an almost completely linear fashion. There will be no flashbacks to the characters back at campus. There are no bursts of frantic action which "surprisingly" end back up in the lift as a character wakes from a dream or reconsiders a bad idea. A leads to B leads to C, in a more or less logical fashion given initial conditions, and Green doesn't feel the need to juice it up with shocking twists or jump music.

That gets the film off to sort of a slow, predictable start, but when things reach the getting worse stage, he doesn't mess around. A bad decision has immediate and ugly consequences, we've barely had time to adjust to how screwed the characters are now before the stakes are raised again, and then... Well, Green lets us see that the gloves are off. Some of what happens is not for the squeamish - whether you're talking about frostbite, the other effects of exposure, or more direct injuries - but Green and company are very canny with how they use the blood, nasty make-up, and the like. They never really focus on the immediate aftermath of something nasty, but make excellent use of a moment when the audience's imagination can come up with something worse than anything he could show.

The movie isn't really a horror show, though. Most of it is carried by the three main actors, who do a fine job of making their characters familiar, recognizable people rather than playing on one specific trait. Ashmore's Joe, for instance, is described as a pot-smoker early on, but rather than stumbling through the movie as comic relief, Ashmore plays him as a guy who bluffs his way through fear (though he is also the funniest of the group). Kevin Zegers is the straight man much of the time, but he plays the guy in the middle smoothly. Emma Bell (who gets an "introducing" credit), gets to be the one ready to freak out and cry, but does it in such a way as Parker never seems weak as opposed to the situation being tough.

It's not quite a perfect little thriller; Green will occasionally make a big deal of something - like skin staying stuck to the metal to which it was frozen before being pulled away - and then not pay a whole lot of attention to it later. Some audience members may look askance at the wolves who make the mountain a little more threatening in the second half, as it strikes me that most resorts would have fences to keep wild animals away from the slopes (although I'm willing to either believe that they do show up regularly when the courses are closed or posit that the bad weather knocked a fence down). We only get to the last sequence because of a bit of luck that runs against the rest of the movie's faith in Murphy's Law. And while the first act does a nice job of introducing us to the characters and getting us to like them, those who have seen enough movies will likely see the purpose of those scenes and want Green to get on with it.

Which he does, and does well. Frozen spins a fair amount of tension out of a simple situation - indeed, a story that many other movies would want to dress up. It may not quite be a nail-biter, but it also never lets go once it has grabbed the audience.

Also at EFC

2 comments:

Jason said...

It looked pretty hardcore to me. Although I like what you said about user imagination sometimes that is way worse. I didn't like the wolf part in the trailer.

Frode said...

Just saw Frozen. Many faults there. How come the wind is howling, but the snow is just quietly drizzeling down. No wolfpack would eat a prey, and leave a hand. They would eat it all. Bones, hair and skin. No one would survive a stormy muntain winters night with so little clothes in an open ski-elevator. It kills what could be a really cool movie.