Frozen is an example of so-called “survival horror”, though it’s a weird genre, since there aren’t so many contenders. But what else could it be called? It has all the characteristics of a horror movie, only without the monsters or killers. Well, except for the wolves, but that’s my least favorite part of the movie anyway. It’s really effective in making you scared and wanting to look away, which is what a good horror movie should do. The story of three people trapped on a ski lift is inherently scary, especially because the movie makes the situation plausible. You keep wondering how they will get out and for the most part they don’t even act too stupid. The dialogue at times is pretty lame and none of the characters is really sympathetic, but the movie works anyway. And despite the wolves. The problem with the wolves is that they add drama and stakes to a situation that already is as dangerous and scary as possible. They seem perfunctory. The movie would have worked without them and they also seem implausible (even they maybe are not). Anyway, the movie is good enough, I guess, despite its flaws, just because it frightens you so much and that makes it hard to forget it. You don’t remember the flaws as much as the panic of wondering if it’s a good idea to jump off a ski lift.
The movie features three characters, two men and a woman. Naturally, I have to wonder how the woman fares, especially in a movie in which it’s not clear from the beginning who will survive. All three of them are in a dangerous situation, in which you can act in different ways from desperate to strong. Traditionally, the fear and desperation goes to the woman, while the men stay strong. Let’s take a look at what happens here.
The first third of the movie introduces the characters to us. It’s longer than necessary, but there’s only so much time you can spend on that ski lift, so the beginning is stretched. Parker (Emma Bell) is the woman and girlfriend of Dan (Kevin Zegers), who brings along his best friend Joe (Shawn Ashmore). Now the gender issues start because Joe is offended that Dan brought a girl to their manly ski trip. He thinks Dan has grown soft because of his new girlfriend and that she dictates what he has to do. She totally doesn’t and is always to let the men do their thing, but Joe stays jealous for a long time. What’s so weird about this situation is that we never feel that Dan has any real feelings for Parker. Joe even points out that he just calls her “Parker” and nothing more romantic. The movie opens with a scene in which she has to convince the ski lift operator (Kane Hodder, of all people) to let them on the ski lift. They expect her to do, because can use her “female skills” to convince him and in next to no time, Dan unzips her jacket so she can show some cleavage. She doesn’t like it, but she complies.
Both men have serious issues when it comes to women. As I said, Dan is really detached from his feelings and seems incapable of really showing any love to Parker. He is nice to her most of the time, but he doesn’t really seem to care. Joe on the other hand continues to tell stories about girls who messed with him, who are crazy, who cheat on him. He’s the typical male victim to whom women are a necessary evil. Parker, on the other hand, never doubts her love to Dan and soon starts talking about marriage, because that’s all a woman cares about. She is also throughout the beginning portrayed as clumsy and a drag for the boys. And she doesn’t even know Star Wars! When Joe later tells her a supposedly heart-breaking story of how a girl was flirting with another guy while sitting with him, Parker agrees that this is "screwed up!" It's the low point of the movie because he takes forever to get to the punchline and it's meant to evoke pity for him, but it sounds like a story from 7th grade.
Once they’re stuck on the ski lift, Parker is of course the first to panic and cry, while the men try to stay cool. It’s clear they’re scared too, but it’s her who regresses to tear and clinging to her boyfriend most of the time. The others constantly have to calm her down, with Dan at one point calling her “psycho.” She has to pee and so does Joe, but while he coolly just relieves himself, she is ashamed and later on pees her pants secretly. She is not allowed a moment of coolness or heroism throughout the movie.
Dan decides to be the hero, jumps down, breaking his legs and being eaten by wolves. Later, Joe climbs along the ropes and escapes with a snowboard (and being eaten by wolves eventually). Parker, well, sits around. She screams, she throws things in the wrong direction and she is scared. She is passive all the way through, being completely dependent on the men around her. Yes, she is the only one who survives but in no second is it because of her skills or strength. When she decides to climb out herself, she does it so slowly that we just have to assume she will fail. But she doesn’t get a chance to prove herself, because the lift gets loose and falls down, allowing her to jump down easily. She survives, but only because of dumb luck. She is spared by the wolves and barely crawls to the road, where is finally saved – by another man of course.
So, to come back to the start, you have three characters, two men and a woman. The woman is the only survivor, but also the only one who stays completely passive, almost never does things on her on and lets herself be commanded around. The men are emotionally crippled, but still come out stronger, dying a heroic if pointless death. Her survival seems undignified, as if she didn’t really deserve it. Good movie, suspenseful, but typically questionable gender politics, frozen in its backward thinking.