The Frozen (2012) Review
The Frozen was directed and written by Andrew Hyatt (All Those Small Things, Full of Grace) and stars Brit Morgan (True Blood, Freeloaders), Seth David Mitchel (My Empire, Roshambo), and Noah Segan (The Pale Door, Blood Relatives). It follows a couple on a wintertime camping trip as they evade a stalker who’s drawing closer to their site.
The Plot: Hyatt didn’t do much in the way of spinning a yarn. Instead, he was more interested in providing a basic setup and providing a few reveals later down the line. It may not be much, but that’s all a movie like this really requires.
Happy but struggling couple Emma (Morgan) and Mike (Mitchell) are going on an ill-timed camping trip in the wintery wilderness. It’s not ill-timed in the sense that the two characters didn’t expect the snowfall, it’s ill-timed in the sense that it’s the dead of winter and they have functioning eyes, making the choice to go on the trip a rough buy-in to start The Frozen’s story. After they’ve reached their spot and set up their camp, Emma and Mike take their snowmobile to see a nearby valley, but Mike sees a hunter (Segan) in the distance who distracts him and causes the snowmobile to crash. Again, this is stupefying, as Mike reacts as though he’s never seen another person before.
Regardless, with all of the setup out of the way, Hyatt begins shifting the hunter closer to the couple and forces Mike out of the picture as he attempts to fix the snowmobile. While there are some dream sequences that attempt to fill in some blanks, it’s hard not to notice the director’s hand moving things into place due to the threadbare plot.
Though the ending comes as something of a surprise, it can’t compensate for the forcedness that the beginning radiates. As it is, The Frozen starts stiff and ends with a light stretch.
The Characters: Creating a convincing couple can be a bit subjective from the writer’s point of view. Hyatt wrote a flimsy duo, as neither of them feels like they should be together even from the start.
Emma doesn’t want anything to do with the entirety of The Frozen. Not once does she show excitement or interest in going camping or even being around Mike. She just found out that she’s pregnant – a cheap way of garnering sympathy – but doesn’t want to keep it for reasons that go unanswered. Though she banters with Mike and seems to be an upbeat person in better circumstances, she never gels with her partner.
Mike is nice but very reserved. This camping trip was his idea, as he wanted to try a change of scenery. He knows that Emma isn’t anticipating it and promises to take her to a more tropical location for their next vacation. Even still, he tries to make the trip as enjoyable as possible but has a bit of a hard time since he’s a bit flat as a person. What doesn’t come off convincingly are his apparent efforts to prove his abilities in the wilderness. Experience has evaded him thus far, but he still chose to go off the beaten path for Emma, even though she doesn’t care either way.
Needless to say, the hunter is more of a presence than a character, so the dynamic between Emma and Mike is at the front of The Frozen. Unfortunately, it’s a wash since there’s not much development and even less chemistry.
The Horror: What keeps The Frozen watchable is its atmosphere and scares, which don’t break any moulds or inspire one to leap out of their seat but do unsettle with uncertainty and occasional confrontation.
The director took the less is more approach and made it work, as both lead characters have seen glimpses of the hunter but have disagreements about what’s really going on. On their way to the valley, Emma and Mike come across a disembowelled deer. Mike assumes that the hunter is just picking some seasonal game, while Emma is intimidated by the messiness of the man’s skinning. Later, Mike’s directional guides go missing. The Frozen has the benefit of a windy setting to explain this too; the power of plausibility reigns in the first 30 minutes.
Escalation is handled in more domestic ways with the arguments between Emma and Mike spiralling into blame and frustration for being in their current situation and by bringing the hunter closer to the relative safety of their tent. In a wise move, the script never lets the bickering become the face of the movie, drawing the hunter in until the veneer of solitude is shattered. At the closest point of contact, the hunter continues his gazing by unzipping the tent to observe a sleeping Emma; offering (for the first successful time in the movie) a satisfying lack of clear motivation that only serves to let the imagination do the work.
While the very last minutes make good use out of an illumination, The Frozen does begin to live up to its name in the last 15 minutes by making a bizarre choice to make the hunter back off from the couple, even going as far as having the character walk during the big chase. It removes the level of curiosity and threat shown in the prior parts of the movie that worked well; though there are more fantastical scares within the dream sequences, the movie seemed too meek to make the final enthralling push of its previous focus.
The Technics: Indie pictures do bring forth a lot of A-listers following their release, but as is the case with The Frozen, showcase weak links in the process – like the writing. For a debut, the movie shows proficiency, but not quite enough.
Directorially there’s not much to comment on. Hyatt may not have had the budget required to make big flourishes a commonality, but nothing about the way he framed his outing raised concern. A good, albeit familiar method of preserving a level of paranoia, is by having the hunter hidden behind objects, moving something else into frame, and removing the man by the time whatever is in focus is gone. It’s nothing to write home about, but that occasional usage works well.
Probably a result of a scrounged budget but nonetheless a net positive for The Frozen is the use of natural light. Sparseness and authenticity are maintained by the grey daylight providing some visibility without outright protection, and the sheer darkness of untouched nights. Together with the choice to always remain by Emma’s side, the movie maintains a sense of uncomfortable solitude that ends up being an asset rather than a limitation.
Nature-set horror movies come about with regularity, and The Frozen doesn’t stand out in the slightest. Its technical merits are solid, and it’s a decently chilling (pun if you want it) film, but it lacks finesse in its plot and compatibility in its characters.