Rated R for some disturbing images and language
Score: 3 out of 5
The jokes practically write themselves. It's the Frozen where the very last words you want to hear are "let it go". It's the Frozen that you use to traumatize your kids just before a ski trip when they've been bad. Ever since Disney's modern classic of an animated film came out back in 2013, every mention of Frozen, the 2010 survival horror film about three friends trapped on a ski lift, has had to be followed by the words "the horror movie, not the one with the talking snowman". It actually won some acclaim when it first came out, serving as writer/director Adam Green's follow-up to his great slasher throwback Hatchet, but ever since a certain other movie with the same title came on the scene, it's been all but forgotten. And that's a shame. It's not a great movie by any means, suffering from a slow pace early on and characters who can get insufferable at times, but it shouldn't be overlooked either.
The plot is simple. Our main characters are three college friends -- Dan, his girlfriend Parker, and his buddy Joe -- who are on a ski and snowboarding trip at a New England mountain resort. Late in the evening, they decide to get on the lift for one last trip up the mountain before it closes, and thanks to some carelessly incompetent staff, the lift is shut down before its last three riders get off. Now, they must face five days trapped on the lift until the resort reopens on Friday, without food, water, toilet facilities, or protection from the harsh winter elements. Getting down is easier said than done -- it's much too high to jump without breaking any bones, and climbing hand-over-hand across the cable to get to the nearest ladder will result in the razor-sharp cable cutting straight through their gloves and into their hands. And even if they do get down, there are still other things on the mountain to worry about...
I'm gonna get my main problem out of the way first: the main characters are all assholes. For the first twenty minutes, all three of them show themselves to be at least somewhat douchey, conspiring to rip off the resort for cheap lift tickets and getting into fights with other guests. First impressions are everything in a movie, and these three did not leave a good one. Their further development once they actually get on the lift gives them some layers, and the actors (particularly Emma Bell as Parker) do what they can, but it's not enough to redeem them and really make me care about their fates. The only character I was genuinely scared for, Parker's dog that she left at her apartment without food or water, isn't even in the movie. That, right away, was a huge black mark against the film that emerged right from the start, and it made the first twenty minutes or so pretty hard to watch in a pretty bad way.
Fortunately, once the main characters get trapped on the lift, Adam Green shows himself to be much better at crafting a harrowing survival scenario than he is at writing likable characters. It's the sort of scenario that everybody who's ever taken a ski trip (especially at night) has thought about -- what happens if I get stuck on the lift all night and forgotten? And the things that this film puts Dan, Joe, and Parker through are legitimately horrifying -- frostbite, hands stuck to cold metal bars, broken bones, and eventually wolf attacks are all shown in graphic, lingering detail, with at least a few scenes that will make you cover your eyes. This movie is brutal, and it's at its best when it's about the lengths that the three will go to get off the lift. The acting got better, and the characters' worst qualities faded into the background as the goal became survival. It was obvious that one of them, and only one, would make it off the mountain alive, but at the same time, the film found many ways to imperil the main characters from a deceptively simple setup, enough to make me wonder if any of them really will make it. Only when the end credits roll do you finally feel safe, especially after a climax that builds the tension to a rock-solid peak.
The Bottom Line:
Had this movie any characters worth rooting for as opposed to against, I might have enjoyed this movie quite a bit more. Even with its problems, though, it's still an inspired horror film with a unique story and nail-biting tension once it gets rolling. It's hardly a classic, but it's still worth a watch.