‘Frozen’ a horror flick tailor-made for a ski town
Two guys and a girl convince a liftee to let them take one more quick run before the lift shuts down for the week. Of course, you know what’s going to happen. But as per the unwritten pact between the makers of unabashed slasher films and their fans, you will suspend your skepticism and innocently join the movie’s characters in their march toward certain doom.
If the filmmaker is unskilled, the characters too far over the top, or the special effects so obvious that no amount of self-delusion will blur their improbability, the film can still work in a campy sort of way.
But that is not why you really want to see a scary movie. You want to hold your breath, grab the person next to you for comfort and a week later still feel a chill when someone says, "Hey, doesn’t this remind you of that movie we saw." And you say, "Shut up, I don’t want to think about that right now.’
Adam Green, whose movie "Frozen" is being screened as part of the "Midnight in Park City Category," is hoping his efforts create just such an effect.
"People’s first response is to say, ‘That’s ridiculous.’ Ski areas would never let that happen. And, yes, the resorts we scouted all said this could never happen there. But on some mountains people have been stranded for hours on lifts."
Involuntarily, your mind drifts to a time when you were on a chairlift, in a storm, and the bull wheel ground to a halt leaving a string of chairs gently swinging. And just for a teeny tiny moment you wondered, "How in the hell are we going to get down from here?"
That is the moment Green wants to grasp. One minute his characters, Lynch, Dan and Parker, are invincible 20-somethings making the most of a ski weekend and the next they are helpless and terrified.
Green says the movie was inspired by the small shoestring resorts he skied at as a kid in New England. Some, like the fictional resort in "Frozen," could only afford to stay open on weekends, and the employees were rough characters, a bit like carnival employees.
But none of the eastern resorts that Green scouted had the terrain he was looking for. "I wanted a place that would for sure have snow and I had to have a drop that was at least 50 feet." He found what he was looking for at Snowbasin, and says he got a warm welcome from the resort and from the Utah Film Commission.
Despite the film’s grisly subject matter, Green says ski areas shouldn’t worry that it will dampen their business. He points to "Jaws" and claims that tourism actually increased on Martha’s Vineyard, where it was filmed.
Nevertheless, Green’s goal was to make the horrible prospect of freezing to death on a chairlift as real as possible. To do so he insisted on shooting on a real chairlift.
A bigger production company would have opted to build a set with a fake chairlift firmly planted on the ground, he said. "But the audience is smarter than they think."
Besides, he adds, "it is hard to pretend to be cold."
Actors Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell didn’t have to pretend. "They were freezing to death," said Green, adding that during the 24 days it took to shoot "Frozen" last winter, nighttime temperatures dropped to 19 degrees and there were two blizzards and a hailstorm.
Green was freezing too. He and a cameraman were suspended in a cherry picker bucket in front of the characters’ chair.
OK, time for the spoiler alert. Besides the cold, there are wolves. Green enlisted the help of Sled Reynolds of Gentle Jungle who provided five snarling bloodthirsty animals to ratchet up the drama a notch or two.
"They told us, ‘Do not look them in the eyes.’" Although the wolves were extremely well trained, Green said none of the crew were allowed within 400 yards when the wolves were out.
Green also took special pains to make the characters believable. "I was very conscious of the arc for the story. The characters are all purposely damaged but by the end everyone becomes so much greater."
"Frozen" is playing on Sunday, Jan. 24 at 11:59 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre,
Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at the Prospector Square Theatre, Thursday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m. at the Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, Friday, Jan. 29 at 11:45 p.m. at Holiday Village Cinema and on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 2:30 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre.
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