Friday, 24 September 2010


A big part of being a seasoned horror movie freak is the hunt, is it not? Swimming through a sea of mediocrity to occasionally find an island of greatness to bask on for a while. Then setting out again across the Ocean of Disappointments in search of the next one. It seems as one gets older and sees more movies the hunt gets more challenging. One's tastes mature, and then of course there's the small matter of jadedness and desensitisation. For example, I've grown out of enjoying gore for gore's sake, so flicks like the August Underground series bore me senseless these days. Of even less interest to me is the ubiquitous mega-budgeted SFX extravaganza. I get little joy from watching millions of gigabytes of pixels flying dizzyingly across the screen. And then there's the rest... remakes, sequels, prequels, re-imaginings, reboots, adaptations, homages, satires etc etc. There's a lot of "product" around, but not much new under the sun.

Of course the holy grail that we're always looking for is a quality horror film that genuinely brings the fear. One that makes your skin crawl, your eyes widen and your jaw drop. A white knuckle, edge of the seat terror trip.

Things have been pretty thin on the ground for me recently. A Serbian Film was shocking, disgusting and disturbing, but despite being a slick and handsome affair, it felt too contrived to really upset me. I actually liked it a lot, but beneath the veneer of implying some kind of deep sociopolitical message, I think it's really just a finely crafted shock-fest and little else. An engaging and rough ride, but ultimately superficial.

So last week, I sat down alone at 2:00am and watched Adam Green's Frozen. I wasn't that impressed with his previous retro-slasher Hatchet, but when I read the synopsis for Frozen way back when, I was immediately drawn to it's simplistic, real life horror scenario. It's bare bones plot - three skiers, forgotten by resort staff, and left hanging high up on a chairlift as night falls - shares the same premise (and exploits the exact same fears) as 2003's Open Water - that in an everyday routine situation that is taken for granted as being completely safe, a simple oversight can result in unimaginable horror. And the resulting terrors are the same in both movies: the physical and psychological effects of prolonged exposure to the elements... suddenly finding oneself no longer at the top of the food chain... the dread of isolation, and despair of facing one's impending death.

Where Open Water elicited a sense of dread and hopelessness, Frozen ups the ante and executes the premise far more effectively, moving beyond dread to moments of sheer adrenaline pumping terror. As darkness leads to cold (which is worsened by bad weather), and the skiers gradually become more aware of the seriousness of their situation, the tension slowly builds. But it's the fate of one of the characters at about the halfway point that really got under my skin. I was shocked at how profoundly this character's death upset me. The way that the sequence is staged is agonisingly painful to watch. The torture and pain that is explicitly shown is wince-inducingly appalling, but this character's ultimate fate proves once and for all that what is left off camera and up to the viewer's imagination can be far worse. This sequence disturbed me and haunted me for days. And the terrors don't end there... frostbite is a bad thing too.

With Frozen, Adam Green has crafted a taut, fat-free thriller that cleverly uses the banal realism of its premise to create a situation that is far scarier than being chased through the woods by any number of masked killers. This is something that you feel you could easily read about in the news, and it's that plausibility that makes it really terrifying.

And if you've ever been on a chairlift yourself as the sun is setting... the evening cold and gloom descending over the mountains... it's too easy to imagine yourself up there with those three Human Popsicles. I honestly think I'd rather be eaten alive by sharks.


  1. Haven't watched this one yet but it's near the top of my to-watch pile. Soon...

  2. I gotta see this.... didn't mind Hatchet (a bit of fun, no more) but sounds like Adam Green has knocked things up a notch here.

  3. It's actually hard to believe that they were made by the same director. A good sign for Green's versatility.

  4. Yeah, I'll check out Frozen, cuz I'm from Massachusetts, and its a legitimate fear of mine, to be trapped out in the cold this winter.
    I too loathe Hatchet. I even watched Spiral, and didn't really like that, though I liked it more then Hatchet.
    Still, I'll give Frozen a shot.

  5. i liked Hatchet. not just kinda liked it, liked it enough to buy it. Sure, it's dumb, and cliche-ridden, but i can't argue with Kane Hodder going around tearing people's something my horror fan heart refuses to let me do. i do wanna see hatchet 2 also, but this sounds pretty badass. Is it out on dvd yet?

  6. I'd like to see Hatchet again. There was so much hype surrounding it when it came out that I couldn't help but be dissapointed. It did have some pretty awe inspiring gags. I'll see Hatchet 2 for the same reason.

    And yes, Frozen is out on dvd!