Waiting Is the Hardest Part
First, we got stranded scuba diving in the ocean with sharks. Then, Boobs McGee from “Chuck” got stranded in a desert canyon. They’ve even attempted to strand a girl in a motherfucking parking garage and still I was able to believe it. But for the love of Odin’s icicle-crackling pecker. A fucking ski-lift? A FUCKING SKI-LIFT?! Yet, for such an unbelievably retarded premise, the first half or so of Frozen — the third horror flick from promising newbie Adam Green — is actually pretty goddamn good. Green does an all right job setting up the dynamic between his three collegiate victims, a viable excuse for stranding them and causing monstrous peril and panic, and then torturing them with every possible trick in his NordicSack of Evil. Oh, sure, there are logic gaps that you could lob a walrus through, but really, you just signed on to watch a movie about three people trapped on a fucking ski-lift, so shame on you. It’s only in the interminable third half-hour that Green has exhausted his surfeit of gimmicks and we’re forced to endure a “Grey’s Anatomic” quantity of dialogue. The first two-thirds of Frozen was rock solid and full of snarky humor and a ridiculous amount of theoretically brilliant meta-referential humor, like all of Green’s previous work on Hatchet and Spiral. But the last bits are chunky yellow snow, totally spending whatever credibility and fun Green had set up with the rest of the film. You’re left with a feeling of crumbling delight at the project. Just like everything else Green’s done. You almost want to hire a closer for the kid, because he’s one of the best starting inning filmmakers out there.
Three college kids decide to go skiing on a slope in the Northeast. There’s Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers), a handsome thick-eyebrowed lad who bears an unfortunate resemblance to Zac Efron. It’s the ritual trip he takes with his best friend since elementary school, Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore), a crunchy granola loner who can’t seem to find a girlfriend or a Dave Matthews live album he doesn’t want. Lynch brought along his girlfriend Parker (Emma Bell), a blonde spunky smoker who stumbles around on a snowboard. Green does a great job building tension between the three leads that feels wonderfully natural. Lynch gets to ride in the middle, literally, between his slightly needy gal and his slightly needy pal, as they take shots at one another. But what makes it a cut above is that Lynch doesn’t just try to placate everyone, but he gets his digs in too.
Now, here’s the problem. They want to go skiing, but they don’t want to pay for a lift ticket. So they decide to get Parker to flirt with the mutt of a lift operator to see if he’ll let them ride for two fifties. They tell her to lie and say she’s there with her girlfriends. Here’s one of them vast logical moguls I was warning you about. Lift tickets are surely expensive, but for three people on a Sunday, even in Colorado, that shit’s barely gonna cost a little over $50 a person. So what? They got one for free? The second problem — the dude’s obviously going to figure out he’s been duped when the two Spin Doctors arrive, so chances are he’s gonna be pissed. He’ll let them up once, but when you go skiing, the idea is to ride the ski lift several times. What’s the dude’s motivation to let them back up any number of times? He’s not getting laid. In fact, they just duped him because he’s a chubbo. So what motivates him to let them up? He’s got the $100. What are they gonna do? Tell his boss? He could lie. It’s his money now. But again, if you spend your time paying attention to things like that, you won’t enjoy the movie. Too bad Green gives you plenty of fucking opportunity with his dreadful final act.
Anyway, the set-up’s pretty simple, and yet deftly primed. They’ve been riding the bunny slope all day because of the girlfriend, so they beg to get one more run from the dude they just duped. Dude sends them up anyway. After they depart, his asshole co-worker tells him the boss wants to see him to work the weekend he wanted off for his brother’s bachelor party. He’s pissed, tells asshole to look out for the three last runners. Asshole has to piss, sees three more dudes come coasting down, shuts down the lift. Bam! Your classic Home Alone. And thus, we find three college students stuck on a ski-lift. See? Green does actually know how to patch logical holes. But what’s the big fucking deal, bitch? Can’t lump it for one winter’s night, Frosty the Pussy? Well, it’s Sunday, nobody knows where they are, their phones are down in the locker in the lodge, and the mountain is closed until the following Friday. And there’s a storm front coming in. Oh, and there are wolves. Oh, and they have AIDS. Whoops, wrong film. Still, it makes sense, and so they could die. And thus, Green spends the next hour torturing his characters.
That’s the movie. Danger settles in for a long winter nap. I never really put a lot of thought on what dangers other than exposure and boredom would befall people on a ski-resort mountain top, but I’ll be dipped in shit if Green didn’t. He just runs out, trying to patch the holes with dramatic string music and “We Will Survive This” speechifying. Which is a shame, because there are some moments of such sublimely delicious irony, I hope they were planned. Green’s totally aware of what came before, making reference to getting eaten by sharks as one of the worst ways to die. Plus, the dude’s two male leads: Ashmore played Iceman in the X-Men movies and Zegers was the owner of my arch-nemesis Air Bud. Why is Zegers owning a dog ironic? I hope this doesn’t come as a spoiler, but let’s just say this: timber wolves.
Frozen was much better than it should have been, but it still crumbled before it could reach the finish. I felt the same way about Green’s two previous films, though for all three, I’ll say they’re worth watching. Hatchet was mostly fun. Spiral was a sublimely underrated film, with smashing performances by both Joel Moore and Zachary Levi (pre-“Chuck”). Really, Frozen’s one of those destined to pop up on the Netflix Watch Instantly queue that you’ll skip over several times before finally settling in and then falling asleep before the finale.