Before we start, I have to tell you: I’m a huge Adam Green fan. I discovered him through a friend on social media around 2004 or 2005. He was working on Hatchet (2006 – read our retro review here), his first feature, at the time. He was out pounding the pavement, getting it funded, completed, and out into theaters. I admired his passion, and I loved the fact that he was trying to make an old school American slasher with basically no money. When Hatchet released, I loved it. It was refreshing and so much fun. I was firmly on the Adam Green bandwagon.
Adam directed Spiral (2007) not long after. I loved that one, too. From there I transitioned into watching his hilarious ArieScope short films. The man, it seemed, could do no wrong. Then I heard he was going to do a little film called Frozen. Could he keep his horrifying winning streak going? Oh, yes. Yes, he could.
Let’s look back on this chilling Adam Green classic, some ten years after its release. Get your lift ticket and strap in!
What’s It About?
A typical day on the slopes turns into a chilling nightmare for three snowboarders when they get stranded on the chairlift before their last run. As the ski patrol switches off the night lights, they realize with growing panic that they’ve been left behind dangling high off the ground with no way down.
With the resort closed until the following weekend and frostbite and hypothermia already setting in, the trio is forced to take desperate measures to escape off the mountain before they freeze to death. Once they make their move, they discover with horror that they have much more to fear than just the frigid cold. As they combat unexpected obstacles, they start to question if their will to survive is strong enough to overcome the worst ways to die.
Frozen stars Kevin Zegers (Dawn Of The Dead 2004), Shawn Ashmore (X-Men franchise), and Emma Bell (The Walking Dead TV series). Adam Green wrote and directed the film. It made its theatrical premiere on February 5, 2010.
Why Does It Work?
Frozen is all about primal fears. The fear of heights. Fear of death. Fear of isolation and starvation. You don’t have to be a skier or a horror fan to relate to the main characters’ precarious situation. These fears transcend. It is reminiscent of Spielberg’s classic, Jaws, a film that also rises above the horror genre. That’s no coincidence. As Adam Green himself says:
Jaws was the ultimate man vs. nature movie, and it was a movie that was basically three people against the elements, so that was the biggest influence on Frozen.
Hatchet was man vs. monster. Spiral was a psychological horror. With Frozen, Green reinvented himself, pitting human vs. nature. That’s ultimately the theme of the film, and why it resonates with audiences.
He took yet another lesson from Jaws: implied horror. Jaws didn’t show the mechanical shark (not because Spielberg was trying to be mysterious, but because it was broken most of the time). The shark’s absence somehow made the film even more terrifying. The moviegoers’ minds filled in the blanks, making what they couldn’t see even scarier. Green does the same with Frozen. The horror is implied. You hear it and you know it’s there, but you don’t see it. This, honestly, makes the film that much more effective.
Release and Reception
Anchor Bay released Frozen in North America in February of 2010. It netted $131,000 opening weekend en route to a $246,000 domestic haul. The film fared much better internationally, particularly in Italy. It wound up making an estimated $3.1 million worldwide. While that’s not exactly on par with the Disney cartoon of the same name, Green’s Frozen was made with a micro-budget. That’s not too shabby, especially considering the limited distribution.
Critical reception was mostly positive. Frozen currently carries a 63% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, although a few of the counted reviews are for the Elsa and Olaf version. Most critics who enjoyed the film note the chills and the tension. They were also impressed with what Green accomplished, given the limited scope and budget.
Top Critic Matt Bochenski sums these feelings up nicely when he says:
“Fiendish, sweaty and tense as hell. One to watch through the fingers.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Home Video Release
That $3.1 million or so in box office receipts is even more impressive when you consider that Frozen came to home video in September of 2010. The DVD and Blu-ray releases included deleted scenes, trailer, and audio commentary with Green, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers and Emma Bell. Also included are the documentaries Catching Frostbite: The Origins of Frozen, Three Below Zero, Shooting Through It, and Beating the Mountain: Surviving Frozen.
The DVD and Blu-ray are available here…
Hatchet stars Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th franchise, Victor Crowley franchise – read our interview with him here) and Joel David Moore (who also starred in Spiral) have cameos in the film. Hodder plays a snow cat driver and Moore calls him on the C.B. radio and orders him back to base. In the scene, Hodder is wearing apparel that says “Mount Holliston” on it. This was a few years before Green helmed the series of the same name. Holliston is actually the Massachusetts town where Green grew up. Eighties rocker Dee Snider and his son, Cody Blue Snider, also have cameos as (what else?) Twisted Sister fans.
Andy Garfield scored the film. The soundtrack CD was limited to 500 copies, all signed by Garfield and Green.
The scenes on the chair lift in Utah were 50 feet off the ground. Green couldn’t find anyone on his crew willing to shoot from that height, so he had to do it himself. This, despite his own fear of heights and the cold winter wind. That’s commitment!
Frozen (2010) Final Thoughts
Adam Green’s Frozen is a tense, gripping man vs. nature film. It succeeds in tapping in to fears we all have: isolation, heights, starvation, death. It puts likable characters in a horrifying situation and keeps the audience firmly on their side. Frozen is a feat of micro budget movie making. The cast is tiny. There’s no CG or green screen. Yes, those wolves are real! It’s all grounded in reality and propped up with fear. Green accomplishes the same on-screen tension his idols, Spielberg and Hitchcock, accomplished with Jaws and Lifeboat. And, he does it with far less resources!
I enjoyed this film (if you couldn’t tell), and I think you will, too. You can stream it now on Amazon Prime and tell us what you think.
Is it cold in here, or is it just me?