Blu-Ray Review: Frozen (2010)

SEPTEMBER 26, 2010

GENRE: SURVIVAL, THRILLER
SOURCE: BLU-RAY (OWN COLLECTION)

It's no secret I'm a big fan of Adam Green's films, so this is a terrific week, as the long-awaited Hatchet II hits theaters just a few days after the DVD/Blu-Ray release of Frozen, which is his best film yet, and comes with a bonus features collection that puts most big-studio "special editions" to shame. Add that to Anchor Bay's usual top-notch transfer, and you have an easy purchase on either format (though the Blu is preferred, of course).

Much has been said/praised about the film, so no need to go into that in too much detail. The seemingly too simple "3 kids are stuck on a chairlift" concept makes for an incredibly effective nail-biter as well as a surprisingly moving character drama. Sure, the would-be escape attempts and wolf threats are the visually exciting, nerve-wracking bits that everyone came to see, but the movie really shines in those smaller moments when the characters attempt to cheer each other up with stories, or break down over very human realizations. I admit to tears the first (...and second, you got me) time(s) I saw the scene where Parker (the excellent Emma Bell, soon to be seen in the Walking Dead TV series) hysterically realizes that her puppy is going to starve to death and do so thinking she abandoned him and he won't understand why. I can take the frostbite and other injuries, but man, that just completely wrecked me.

But as good as she is, Shawn Ashmore totally owns the movie. He's got the biggest arc and the best lines, but he takes what could have been an enjoyable comic relief character and turns him into a true hero and fully realized character. Unlike too many of his peers, Green seemingly understood that in order for the "action" to work, you actually have to believe that these folks are real people, not movie characters. Nothing they do/say in the movie feels unrealistic. Sure they make a few dumb choices (smoking kills... your hand), but that's human, not contrived. And since the characterization is so good, you will instantly forgive some of their bone-headed decisions because you can almost see yourself doing the same thing.

And it's funny, one of those decisions (which I won't spoil, but it involves Ashmore shaking his hands as if to relieve them) was actually the choice of his stunt double during one of the more dangerous moments, something I learned on one of the two commentary tracks. One is with Green and the three actors, and they discuss their casting (Ashmore and Kevin Zegers are actually close friends in real life, which helped the chemistry immensely), the dangers of their shooting (despite stunt doubles, they did do the majority of the "action", including working with real wolves), and some amusing production anecdotes, including a story about a Q&A where an audience member thought Emma was the actual character she played, and asked her how long it took for her frostbite to heal (amongst other, even sillier but sadly more spoiler-y questions).

The other track is with Green, DP Will Barratt, and editor Ed Marx. As expected, this one is more technical, as they discuss the difficulties of shooting on a real mountain on a real chair lift, as opposed to a soundstage. Every shot in this movie, even closeups that could have easily been faked on the ground, was shot with the actors really 40-50 feet in the air, on a working chair lift. Special rigs for the camera had to be built, the actors were up there for hours on end (without any way to send coffee up or anything along those lines), and even when they wrapped shooting, they'd have to ride the chair all the way up and back down again, which took 40 minutes. Both tracks are quite enjoyable and informative, and Green admirably repeats very little information (unlike say, Mr. Eli Roth, who tells the exact same stories, verbatim, across his multiple tracks for his movies).

There is some overlap with the 90 minutes' worth of behind the scenes documentary features, however, but that in no way should discourage you from watching them. If anything, it just proves/reinforces the stuff they alluded to on the commentaries. Don't believe that they were really up there? Here's dozens of shots proving it. Think the wolves were CGI (as one moronic major publication reviewer did)? Watch the very real beasts circle around Kevin Zegers with very little to protect him. This isn't some "everyone was great to work with"/"this is the best time I've ever had making a movie" bullshit fluff piece, this is a real, detailed, comprehensive look at what it takes to make a movie with limited means and in less than ideal circumstances. It's broken into four parts, but other than the credits/thank yous at the end of each one, you can really just watch it as one long documentary about the film's making, from concept to the end of production (a 5th part, on the film's post, is available online). The 1st and 2nd are about the writing and casting, but it's the 3rd and 4th where it really shines, the type of things that they should show in film schools (not to mention to DVD producers who think their 20 minute "let's cover everything" pieces are real knockouts). Production design, 2nd unit, stunt work, camera rig problem-solving... all of these things are covered in enough detail where you can actually LEARN something from watching them. And like the commentaries, there's enough pure entertainment value to keep them enjoyable while you learn (the segment on "Schneiderman" is a wonderful little break from the norm, and Ashmore has a funny story about one of the "wolves"). The collection (done by Adam Barnick, who also did the way-above-average docs for the Grace disc) is absolutely essential viewing for fans of the film or for would-be filmmakers who aren't sure if they have what it takes to go the extra mile in order to pull off the best possible version of their film. A few deleted scenes (with optional Green commentary), the too-spoilery trailer, and a very easy to find easter egg round things out. The deleteds are all worth a look; one further explains why they have no cell phones (though I thought it was explained perfectly in the film itself, though some reviews actually claimed the movie didn't explain it at all!), and another shows a scene that they had to film just in case foreign distributors demanded more gore.

And like I mentioned, the transfer is amazing. I don't know who does Anchor Bay's releases, but they're almost always demo quality (ironic since just about all of their films are low-budget, non-studio productions), and Frozen is no exception. You might notice some crushed (grey-ish) blacks, but that was an intentional choice that is discussed on the technical commentary. Otherwise, you won't have anything to complain about here - grain levels are accurate, the colors pop when necessary, and the sharpness is impeccable - it seems like you can pause on a frame and determine whether or not that whole "no two snowflakes are the same" thing is true, because it's crystal clear enough to inspect. The audio is also top notch, in addition to Andy Garfield's terrific score (release this on CD!!!), the nature sounds will almost never stop emanating from your surrounds, but it never drowns out or even slightly obscures the dialogue. An exemplary transfer.

The "It will do for (whatever) what Jaws did for swimming" line gets thrown around a lot, but this is the rare exception where it's actually founded. It just took a minor (but still scary) injury for me to swear off skiing ever again - this movie made me wonder how I was ever able to do it in the first place. The manner in which they get stuck seems very plausible to me (in fact it DID happen, albeit not to as tragic a conclusion, in Germany just after the movie opened), and the film details what would happen as the result of every single thing I would think of in order to get down (i.e. jump). So it's a terrific movie anyway, and then you get the bonus features, which are practically worth the cost on their own. Enjoy your purchase.

MOVIE: 9/10
TRANSFER: 10/10
EXTRAS: 9/10 (docked a point for AB not including the 5th part)
OVERALL: 9/10


22 comments:

  1. Dying to see this film. It's on my must see list along side Devil for the next few weeks.

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  2. I wouldn't exactly say they detail what would happen if someone were to jump. who the hell would jump feet straight down? (it did however make for what is possibly the greatest all-time compound fracture ever committed to film)

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  3. I would buy the blu-ray, but sadly for now I only have standard definition. I want to support HMAD by using your link, do you have a link for the standard definition DVD on amazon?

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  4. http://astore.amazon.com/homoada-20/detail/B0034G4OVS

    Thanks!!

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  5. You're welcome! Thanks for watching a horror movie every day, and just doing what you do in general! Always happy to support something I enjoy reading every day

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  6. Whosnext - not sure if you've ever been skiing, but those boots are heavy. Like, 20-25 lbs heavy. So if you were sitting there for hours, your body would be pretty stiff/numb. Thus, he had no chance of maneuvering, and so the weight of the boots sunk him like a stone (plus the alternative would be what, on his back? He'd snap his spine and wouldn't be able to move anyway). Ideally, he would remove the boots first, but that's nearly impossible from the position you are in on a ski lift - he probably would have fallen out trying.

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  7. saw this last night. pretty good. i kept getting mad whenever the girl would grab metal with her bare hand. if it was really cold you would never do that. other than that it was a good time.

    the wolves were used really well.

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  8. "and the film details what would happen as the result of every single thing I would think of in order to get down"

    So you wouldn't think of, say, taking off some clothes, knotting them together as a line, and then lowering a person down to where the jump would be nice and easy?

    Me, that's the first thing I thought of. It's logical, simple and would've ended the movie in about twenty minutes.

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  9. They were freezing even with the clothes on. If you want to take them off (good luck getting off your pants while on a skilift by the way, especially with the boots on, which, as I already pointed out, are basically impossible to get off from that position), and somehow tie thick clothes together to get down, and then wait around, naked in subzero temperatures while the clothes are unknotted (which, don't forget, you had to tie pretty tight in order to make a rope that would hold you), you go ahead.

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  10. I've been on a ski-lift, and I can tell you it wouldn't at all be impossible to remove your boots. However, even if you couldn't get to your pants, the each had multiple shirts and jackets on, which wouldn't be hard to knot at all and would give you more than enough length to make a safe jump. As for waiting around during the ten minutes (if that) it takes to unknot the clothes, the minor frostbite you got compared to the loss of your life would be worth it.

    Sorry BC, but it's an easy, obvious solution for anyone with an IQ over 100, which these kids clearly didn't have.

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  11. Well, I urge you to try it and report back. See if they'll let you sit around and wait for a bit too, to make sure you're playing fair. After all, anyone with even basic brain function would hope that such a thing couldn't happen and thus they would be rescued swiftly without having to resort to life-threatening heroics.

    P.S. I assume you're a downloader? Because if you had the DVD you'd be able to watch the extra features, where the rope idea is explained as being a terrible one by both medical and forest ranger type personnel.

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  12. No, I'm not a downloader (but it's strange how you're trying to ascribe that to me) - I saw the film theatrically and have no inclination to buy it on DVD.

    However, I find it funny at the outset that they have someone on the DVD trying to explain how a logical idea that was purposely left out is a "terrible" idea. Sounds like after-the-fact story spackling and b.s. justification to me.

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  13. And honestly, are you seriously trying to put forth the idea that attempting to fashion a line and lower yourself to a safe jumping distance is a much worse idea than just taking a fifty foot jump in ski-boots?

    Because there's really no comparison, man.

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  14. My apologies then - I assumed someone who seemingly didn't like a movie that came out in theaters 7 months ago wouldn't still be trying to point out plot holes on a review for the DVD release.

    And the DVD covers all aspects of the production, including the screenwriting process, during which Green asked survival folks about different scenarios that he thought of and how they explained to him how each of them were bad ideas. Just because each one wasn't tried in the film itself doesn't mean they weren't thought of.

    Thanks for buying a ticket for the theatrical release though! Every ticket helps.

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  15. And yes, I am suggesting that. When I'm already frozen and panicking, the last thing I would think of would be "let's take off more clothes". You are making assumptions without factoring in the actual situation (freezing, being in an awkward position with thick clothes that aren't exactly easy to get off even in normal circumstances, and being flat out terrified). Like I said, go try it and tell us how it worked out.

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  16. No worries. I just happen to stop by your site and read your stuff every few days; this is the first time I found something I wanted to comment on.

    And honestly, I don't mind Green. I found Hatchet fun, and I thoroughly dug Spiral. Frozen just didn't do it for me. Oh well. I'll still be checking out Hatchet 2, though.

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  17. Sweet! Enter my contest! (Though the DVD, ironically, is probably going to be Frozen, LOL)

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  18. "Sweet! Enter my contest! (Though the DVD, ironically, is probably going to be Frozen, LOL)"

    LOL!!!!

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  19. are they going to bring out another frozen film as they didnt say if she lived or died?x

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  20. No, no, no, no...as an Adam Green/Brian Collins fan I thought I would thoroughly enjoy Frozen, but as it turns out, the entertainment factor of this movie was more elusive than Robert Denby.

    This movie stinks on ice and every character in this movie deserved death...for example:

    Skiing is dumb. Putting wooden sticks on your feet and pushing yourself down a hill with more wooden sticks is dumber than trying to get away with Tripolydine fraud. Asshole move #1

    If you see a Bobcat coming up the mountain the first thing I would do is bombard everything it with everything I had on me...not yell at in the vain hopes that its driver would notice me...THEN try to get his attention by throwing items at him while he's leaving. Asshole move #2

    Jumping 30 feet off a ski lift...why WOULDNT it break your legs?! Maybe...tie some clothes together, or form a human chain and knock a good 12 feet from your fall? Turkeys. Asshole move #3

    Covering your eyes with your hat while wolves attack you...why not maybe try to take one out with you? I for one am not going to cover my eyes and wait for wolves to disembowl me without ripping out a few throats. Asshole move #4

    There are many other reasons why I would rather comb Leonard Driscoll's handsome new mustache than watch this movie again or recommend it to anyone...but hey, drive like the demon who drives your dreams i guess.

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  21. I've been trapped on a chairlift for 30min and seriously considered jumping. The freaky thing you probably wouldn't realise if it hadn't happened to you, is the angle of the hill and the whitness of the snow make it REALLY hard to judge how high up you are. It doesn't look as high as it probably is.

    Pretty sure they did throw stuff when he was still nearby? They were shouting and throwing, seems pretty natural at that point (remember they're freaking out, it's really easy to critique the logic in movies from a comfy chair).

    Human chain is REALLY stupid, but as far as the tying clothes together thing: are you serious? Have you ever tried this in real life? It honestly doesn't work, LESS SO with different synthetic materials, which you usually wear when you're skiing.

    Comments like: "I'd totally fight that wolf" don't even deserve acknowledgement.

    I really liked it, I was impressed with the flow of the movie, I thought it would be boring but it happily surprised me.

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