The charm of heart-pounding thriller Frozen lies in its efficient simplicity. Place three likable characters in a broken chairlift for a sharp and sweet 89 minutes of run-time. Leave them stewing in the knowledge that no-one will discover their location for the next five days. Watch what they do.Indie thriller Frozen is all about making stark choices. The film’s premise is simple; the choices it asks you to make are not. All of them are unpleasant and only one – if that – is likely to result in survival. Do you suffer the ignobility of wetting yourself in front of someone you’re not that fond of, even if you know they are probably going to die? Do you wait in the hope that someone will come? Do you jump in an attempt to get aid? Do you climb razor-sharp cables to reach a ladder? Do you keep your heavy equipment close or let it drop? Do you place yourself in the line of fire or do you let your friends be the heroes? Frozen lets you ask the question “What would I do?” and supplies you with answers you don’t really want to hear.
The characters in Frozen are a touch generic but with solid acting and a mountain full of wolves, who cares? Dan (Kevin Zegers) is a cute boy. Parker (Emma Bell) is his cute girlfriend. He also has a pothead best friend, Joe (Shawn Ashmore), who is also, just for the sake of argument, cute. The three companions want to sneak in a last ski run before the mountain winds down for the night – and indeed for the next five days.
Although there are moments in Frozen where you have to suspend disbelief, it does create a convincing plot flange that covers how you would get three skiers abandoned on a chairlift. From here on in, amid the dynamic interplay between the couple and the pothead third wheel, we are faced with simple issues that any viewer might respond to: The need for a wee, the need to have a pizza, the slowly dwindling faith that someone will come, the chagrin of a chain-smoker at dropping your only pack of cigarettes (and, more importantly, a glove). As the situation escalates, the needs and choices become more stark. Who – if any of them – will survive?
I must admit, I do have a soft spot for a low-budget, high concept thriller. An action thriller can often be summed up in a sentence but play out its simple premise to keep you on the edge of the seat for its entirety. Alien? Jaws in Space. Burning Bright? Tiger in your house. Frozen? Jaws on a ski-lift. Simple. But effective. The dialogue in Frozen acknowledges its debt to and actively invites comparisons with Jaws and Open Water, but this isn’t to the film’s detriment.
Although Frozen plays on white-knuckle suspense, some of the scenes are pretty visceral. Some might call them gratuitous. Some, in this post-Hostel era, might say they were well-shot, added to the viewer’s belief, and fully in keeping with the story. I felt some moments were over-egging the pudding, but essentially Frozen is an effective, gripping thriller that will make you squirm in all the right places.