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  Frozen Hell Below Zero
Year: 2010
Director: Adam Green
Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers, Emma Bell, Ed Ackerman, Rileah Vanderbilt, Kane Hodder, Adam Johnson, Chris York, Peder Melhuse
Genre: Horror, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: These three friends have gone on a skiing and snowboarding trip: Joe Lynch (Shawn Ashmore), his best friend Dan Walker (Kevin Zegers) and Dan's girlfriend Parker O'Neil (Emma Bell). However, they're a little short of cash and the two boys persuade Parker to go over to the chairlift operator and bribe him to let them on and take them to the top of the mountain. He is reluctant, but a pushover for a pretty girl, and soon the three of them are traveling up the hill - but suddenly the machine stops, and they and the other passengers are stranded...

But only for half a minute, because then the chairlift starts up again - it's a false alarm everyone! Or is it plot foreshadowing? Could well be both for this horror-tinged melodrama that followed in the footsteps of stranded people movies like Open Water by placing its characters in a situation where there does not appear to be any way out. You might have thought that a flourishing ski resort wouldn't be the most appropriate site for chills, well, not chills of fear anyway, but writer and director Adam Green showed a more serious side after his laugh-along-a-slasher Hatchet and played Frozen strictly for thrills, without the giggles.

There were a few nods to humour in the long-ish set up, but you can tell something bad is going to happen so you don't chuckle too enthusiastically, so when the trio persuade the chairlift operator to allow them on one last time for the final run of the night before the place is closed for the bad weather approaching, there might as well be a bell tolling their doom. So it is that the operator is called away, tells his replacement to watch out for the last three skiers, but he gets mixed up with a different set of skiers and switches off the equipment while our heroes are still on it, and leaves them, yes, stranded.

To make matters worse, the resort is being closed for a week, so that there probably won't be anybody around to save them, and once they quickly realise this they begin to worry for their lives, and rightly so. Green knew that he couldn't fill up the ninety minutes with his small cast gradually freezing to death, not all of it anyway, so there is no small amount of character drama contained herein to give it that ring of authenticity. Tensions naturally arise between the three, with resentment that would never have been brought up otherwise simmering to the boil, though in those icy temperatures tempers cannot run high for too long, and soon a resignation sets in.

Not that this prevents them from thinking up ways to solve their problem, though never having been in a life or death situation before they're not exactly well able to cope. The first idea goes disastrously wrong, and the fact that they're not alone out there only compounds the peril; no, there are no other people, but there are wild animals, and those creatures are hungry - and patient. What's well crafted about this is that there's no point where you think that the characters should have tried something before the stage they try it, as each incident leads onto the next in a smooth example of scriptwriting. Not even when the story is drawing to its close do you contemplate how they could have acted with more capability, and that's as much testament to the cast as it is to Green. One drawback, the whole thing is unsatisfying to a lesser degree, because the victims pay too high a price; tragedy can be arbitrary, but that doesn't always make for excellent drama. Music by Andy Garfield.

[You want extras? Momentum's DVD delivers on that front with a commentary with director and stars, featurettes, deleted scenes and a trailer.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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