As a rare indie horror film, Frozen is terrifying when it peaks but could have done with a better ending.

Considering its 2010 international premier, it is disappointing that we had to wait almost two years for this film to reach UAE cinemas. On the plus side, if you watched and liked the recent Liam Neeson film The Grey, then get ready for a traumatic movie experience.

Set on location at a Utah ski resort, buddies Dan (Kevin Zegers) and Joe (Shawn Ashmore) spend a Sunday afternoon at the bunny slope (equivalent to the shallow end of a swimming pool) allowing Parker (Emma Bell), Dan’s new girlfriend and novice snowboarder, to learn the ropes. Nearing closure, the trio bribes a ski-lift operator to allow them one last trip down the slope, despite a forecasted snowstorm and approaching darkness. Wrong move! Due to an unfortunate series of events, the resort closes, leaving the trio suspended on a ski lift high above the ground, with not a soul in sight. From irritation to paranoia, and frostbite to hypothermia, Dan, Parker and Joe come face to face with their darkest fears, with very little chance of survival.

Ghosts and ghouls may be becoming a thing of the past, with survival horror gaining centre stage. Not too long ago, audiences demanded a bang for the buck no matter how cheap the thrill was. With this type of genre, jumpy moments and skin crawling scenes are becoming a thing of the past, if not clichéd to the point of being repeatedly overdone. With survival horror and psychological horror, film-makers aim to place viewers in the shoes of on-screen characters, relying heavily on the “what if?” hypothesis. This is exactly what happens when experiencing Frozen. Sure, given the circumstances in this film, it is unlikely that a ski resort will close its gates with trapped customers having to survive without food and water, let alone the harshest elements of nature. That being said, most of us have also experienced Murphy’s Law, or the domino effect, or the possibility of a situation getting from bad to worse due to unforeseen or uncontrollable chain reactions. Using that theory, writer/director Adam Green literally places three people within the jaws of death, while never revealing until the last minute, who perishes and who survives. Although character deaths are gruesome, Green doesn’t let you see the carnage entirely, rather, his forte is in skillfully letting you hear and imagine how characters are killed. What works here is your level of imagination, depending on which, greatly increases the agony of a character during the moment of death.

While mainstream critics have panned this film from the screenplay to the acting, I felt genuine terror in Dan, Joe and Parker’s ordeal. Zegers, Ashmore and Bell have also used the opening act to their advantage in giving us an adequate introduction to their characters. From this we learn that Dan and Joe are childhood friends, greatly imposing on the latter’s dislike for Parker as not only excess baggage, but a detrimental factor that is steadily ruining guy time with his buddy. On the other hand, we can’t help but feel Parker’s disappointment on being considered a third wheel. Then there is Dan, stuck in the middle between his best friend and his girlfriend. All these emotions come to play during their ordeal with heavy pull on ‘should’ve, would’ve and could’ve’ situations. Again, this is where Green’s narrative amplifies the emotions of people before their doomed attempt at survival.

For a shoestring budget with virtually nonexistent visual effects, Green, together with Bell, Zegers and Ashmore, have brought out an above average horror flick that is sure to pinch your nerves in ways you would least expect. Although there are scenes that will cause viewers to wince, Green’s nuance is in letting the viewer toy with the option of either watching in suspense or looking away and letting imagination get to work. If the experience is not pleasant either way, then Green has succeeded as both the writer and the director. My only complaint is the tapered ending. After all the work gone into the story and character build-up, the ending definitely lacks a proper finish. Perhaps this is intended in getting the viewer to ask for more. Even so, making a sequel would be the best way to kill everything good about this independent production. For lack of better words, my advice to Mr. Green would be – Let sleeping dogs lie. Pun intended.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.