Freeze, the new film from writer/director Charlie Steeds (The Barge People, The Haunting of the Tower of London) tells of the good ship Innsmouth, its Captain Mortimer (Rory Wilton, An English Haunting, Sacrilege), and a crew that includes first mate McCullough (Johnny Vivash, Contact, The Good Neighbour), Charles Redgrave (Jake Watkins, Cupid, Werewolf Castle) an artist there to document the voyage, Lieutenant Roth (David Lenik, Mask of the Devil, Curse of Halloween Jack), and Seaman Spriggs (Ricardo Freitas, Conjuring the Plastic Surgeon, Jurassic Island). Also, unbeknownst to the crew there’s Carmen (Beatrice Barrilà, Invisible – Chapter I) a stowaway with an agenda of her own.
They’ve been sent to find out what happened to the expedition led by Mortimer’s friend Sir William Streiner (Tim Cartwright, King Arthur: Excalibur Rising, Cult) which ventured into the frozen north and never returned. Unfortunately, the Innsmouth becomes trapped in the ice and its crew faces the same fate as those they were supposed to rescue.
Much of the first act takes place on the ship which is described as a warship but looks more like a schooner and has a damn small crew for either. And that crew gets a lot smaller once the Ichthyoids which look like sea-going versions of the creatures from The Barge People get on board. And while they may not be state of the art, they are performers in full-body costumes rather than CGI. The CGI we do get, like a shot of the ship caught in the ice is rather unimpressive.
This brings me to the one major hole in Freeze’s script. The survivors make their way across the ice until they see mountains in the distance. There are no mountains in the Arctic, it’s all ice. The Antarctic on the other hand does have mountains, and that’s why Lovecraft set At the Mountains of Madness, which was obviously an influence on the film, there.
That Freeze is a Lovecraftian film is something that’s obvious even before they reach the caves. The name of the ship is a major clue, with the fish creatures and the strange book the captain keeps consulting confirming it even before they find Streiner raving about joining The Deep Ones in a war against mankind. the result is a mashup of elements from Lovecraft’s stories that may not always make sense but never gets boring.
To complement the human versus fishman storyline, Steeds gives Freeze plenty of human versus human conflict as well. Even before the ship becomes stranded it’s obvious that the Innsmouth has some rather unsavory characters among her crew. Something that becomes much more evident once they’ve learned the secrets of the caves and the captains realizes they may have to sacrifice themselves to save the rest of humanity.
I do wish Steeds had upped Freeze’s gore content a bit more. The Ichthyoids have some nasty teeth and claws but the results of their attacks are usually kept off-screen. That’s a disappointment for those who like their horror on the bloody side and for those who want to see some of the characters meeting a fittingly nasty end.
But despite that and a few other goofs, muskets were out of service by the time gramophones were invented, for example, Freeze manages to get through its weak spots without floundering. It’s helped by some authentically cold Norweigian locations and a game cast of faces that will be familiar to anyone whose seen a few of either Steeds or Scott Jeffery’s films. It would be interesting to see what the filmmakers could have done with a budget more in line with The Terror or even Cold Skin, but as it stands, it’s a solid way to pass ninety minutes.
4Digital Media will release Freeze on DVD and Digital platforms on December 12th in the UK and on the 13th in the US. And if you’re looking for more films like this, FilmTagger can suggest a few titles.