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Frozen DVD Review

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Frozen (2010) movie poster Frozen

Theatrical Release: February 5, 2010 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Adam Green

Cast: Shawn Ashmore (Joe Lynch), Kevin Zegers (Dan Walker), Emma Bell (Parker O'Neil), Ed Ackerman (Jason), Rileah Vanderbilt (Shannon), Kane Hodder (Cody), Adam Johnson (Rifkin), Christopher York (Ryan)

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What in the hundred or so years of feature filmmaking hasn't been done before? Let's narrow that down and ask what in the horror genre hasn't been done before? We know what has been done before. Psychotic serial killers, deadly animals, ghosts, demon possession, haunted houses, various ravishing diseases. Again and again and again, we've seen such things and even when they're presented in clever and imaginative fashions, they're not really new. You know what is new? A ski lift horror film.

As far as I can tell, Frozen is the first entry in what, based on its golden reception, is sure to be a bustling subgenre. That's sarcasm, but not the snarky kind and not the kind you'd get. This icy thriller played in just 106 theaters last winter and grossed almost $250,000, a more than respectable annual salary for an individual but less than game-changing for something toiled on by several hundreds of individuals, which even a small movie like this is.

Dan (Kevin Zegers, center) decides girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell), not best friend Lynch (Shawn Ashmore), is best suited for attempting the group's discounted admission Sunday ski plan. Parker, Dan, and Lynch suffer a skier's worst nightmare: getting stranded in a cold, dark ski lift.

Written and directed by Hatchet and Hatchet II helmer Adam Green, Frozen tells the story of three New England college kids taking an impromptu Sunday ski trip. They are Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers), his girlfriend of one year Parker O'Neil (Emma Bell), and Dan's lifelong best friend Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore). Parker and Lynch aren't the most familiar with or fond of each other. Lynch is certain that the distance-creating girlfriend is the third wheel on this excursion to his and Dan's old haunts.

Short on the required funds, the trio appoints Parker to sell a sob story to the ski lift operator and get them passes at a reduced cash price. It works, although that operator, through no ill will or malice, proves to be at least partially responsible for the predicament on which the film hedges. After talking their way into getting one final trip down the slopes, Dan, Parker, and Lynch find themselves stuck on the ski lift,
overlooked and abandoned. The lights go off, the workers go home, and no one is close enough to see the students or hear their screams.

A dumber movie would take this premise and try to create heroic impulses in its characters or reveal ulterior motives, betrayal tendencies, or an evil mastermind. Not Frozen. It keeps a level head and tries to answer the what-if of its setup in the most palpable and believable way. The group's first reaction is to wait and hope. When that proves futile, they begin to act, as rationally as the desperate, freezing situation allows.

In a survival thriller like this, you can reasonably assume that the numbers, already slight at three, will thin. To say more than that would constitute spoiling, which you know I can't stand for. Suffice it to say, the escape plans are not without consequence and nearby wolves are not without hunger.

A chilly Parker (Emma Bell) finds out the hard way that it's not just a tongue that can stick to metal in the freezing cold. One of the two most logical escape attempts is made by Lynch (Shawn Ashmore), who bravely hopes to scale across the sharp ski lift wire.

Frozen is an impressively effective movie. It isn't hard to see why that is, because it avoids all the pratfalls embraced by conventional, more commercial horror fare. Instead of having its collegiate leads be foul-mouthed, horny wisecrackers, it gives them realistic human characteristics and histories. The actors' nice portrayals sell the material well enough that we're invested in more than just a concept.

That concept is still the star of this show and it more than holds its own. Every factor that contributes to the nightmare scenario is laid carefully and thoughtfully through veiled exposition and poignant realization. We know these kids are without cell phones (as silly as that may seem). We know that the lodge is only open on weekends, meaning the sky-high, sustenance-free endurance challenge could be as long as five days.
We know that there are groundskeepers but that getting their attention in the strong winter storm developing is no easy feat. Sure, this mountain doesn't have the best security measures and closing procedures in place, but do you know enough about such small facilities to vehemently dispute it? I don't. And the movie never feels like it's cheating us or skirting around obvious solutions.

Another area where the film does right is in what it shows. The language alone, though not terribly obscene, is enough to earn an R rating. Paired with the production's independent nature, that gave Green license to go wild and gross us out with the horrors of this hardship. He gladly shows restraint. Fear not, gore buffs, there are some highly unpleasant things seen here (most involving the effects of frostbite), but they are especially disturbing because some is left to the imagination. The make-up work is generally extraordinary and if the whole thing looks awfully convincing that's because it was truly shot on a ski mountain in Utah with the actors sitting in a lift car some fifty feet up in the cold air.

Just shy of eight months after its domestic theatrical debut, Frozen comes to DVD and Blu-ray this week from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Frozen DVD cover art - click to buy the DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $29.97
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($34.98 SRP)


Bright whites, darkness, and falling snow are conditions notoriously challenging for video compression, yet ones that Frozen handles adequately. The DVD's 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is not without grain and some rare artifacts, but both are minor issues that are far from distracting. The picture looks quite nice for the most part, if not as sharp as it would be made under controlled (i.e. fake) conditions. Despite its unreported low budget, the film is lit and shot well enough to see and appreciate even in the darkness of night which marks a fair amount of the runtime.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is even more impressive than the video. It is active and aggressive throughout, conveying atmosphere crisply and sensibly. Its one minor drawback is that the score and sound effects do come close to drowning out the dialogue on a few occasions. But, there are English and Spanish subtitles for moments like that.

Writer/director Adam Green shows his appreciation for "E.T." as he does in some of the dialogue he wrote for "Frozen." The backwards hat thing is only here, though. While running through the locations to be used, Adam Green and crew get caught in a major Utah snowstorm.


The more than satisfactory collection of bonus features begins with an audio commentary by writer/director Adam Green and stars Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, and Emma Bell (who arrives about 20 minutes in). As a more passionate, creative, and challenging film than most, Frozen inspires greater than usual commentator enthusiasm, rendering this quite an interesting track. The group covers a lot of ground, while trying not to repeat the information dispensed in the substantial making-of video and focusing more on performances than technical aspects.
The latter, they tell us, are addressed in a second commentary, but that one (pairing Green with cinematographer Will Barratt and editor Ed Marx) is only included on the Blu-ray edition. I'm not sure what of note that could add, because this commentary isn't lacking in any way, with its countless fascinating production and screening stories.

Among the video bonuses, there are four featurettes. These are given a separate page and title cards indicate that, in spite of no "Play All" option, they can be thought of as one massive, fairly consistent feature-length making-of documentary.

"Catching Frostbite: The Origins of Frozen" (11:00) reveals Adam Green's inspiration (a California weather report), his writing process, and the studio interest he received. "Three Below Zero" (10:52) focuses on the casting of the three stars and establishing dynamics, complete with some subtle sentiment pointed out in the characterizations. "Shooting Through It" (11:18) focuses on the technical challenges of design and photography on this all-practical production, from dealing with the cold weather to getting equipment up snowy slopes in winter.

Finally, "Beating the Mountain: Surviving Frozen" (52:52) is like its own documentary. This production diary takes us through the March 2009 shoot chronologically, showing us B-roll footage, stunt and animal work, and even the antics of enthusiastic production assistant Cody "Schneiderman" Snider, son of Twisted Sister rocker Dee Snider. Not everyone will stay interested in this making-of piece, but it is thorough and revealing, explaining why this movie succeeds where others fail.

The movie's one indoor sequence gets mildly extended in the Deleted Scenes section. While the iconic key art of the poster and cover sways, a wolf looks hungry on the DVD's main menu.

Three deleted scenes (6:27) are provided with optional audio commentary by writer/director Adam Green. These include a discussion of A Christmas Story
(one of the relatable down-to-earth conversations the movie isn't short on), an extension of the one indoor scene, and a graphic wolf scene never intended to be shown (but shot for the possibility of foreign market value).

Frozen's theatrical trailer (1:50), an essential bonus feature, is provided.

Finally, "Chair 92" (1:36), an Easter egg discovered on the bonus features menu, has Adam Green telling the story of a real death that occurred on the shooting location, which he hopes lends a creepy angle to the film.

The dramatically scored main menu sways the ski lift while a standard montage runs in the snowy sky to the right.

Playing at DVD insertion are nearly 15 minutes of trailers, promoting Hatchet, The Rig, I Spit on Your Grave, After.Life, Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema, "Spartacus: Blood and Sand": The Complete First Season, Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic, UFC DVDs, and (Dolph Lundgren is) The Killing Machine. Sadly and unusually for the studio, these aren't accessible from any menu, so if you skipped the lot and then wanted to see one, you're out of luck.

There are no inserts inside the Eco-Box keepcase, but it's housed in a nice foil-coated cardboard slipcover.

Parker (Emma Bell), Dan (Kevin Zegers), and Lynch (Shawn Ashmore) assume they're only momentarily stuck on this ski lift. Little do they know they're in for the long haul.


Frozen takes a genuinely horrifying scenario and plays it out in a gripping, believable way. After seeing this, you may wonder why more horror filmmakers don't put the thought and effort into making something so palpable and real. At the same time, this one's limited release suggests there is far less money in such a project than in something opting for cheap, stupid thrills. If that bothers you, then you owe it to yourself to give this a look. And remember, kids, take your cell phones with you on the ski slopes!

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Reviewed September 27, 2010.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Anchor Bay Films, A Bigger Boat, ArieScope Pictures, and Anchor Bay Entertainment.
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