By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, and Kevin Zegers
I must say right off the bat. I have never been an avid skier. I think I did it twice in my life, And, while I had fun (as much fun as a guy with a bum knee could have) it was never something that I grew to know that well except come Olympic time. So, fear of snow and freezing to death on a ski lift had never entered my mind. However, one thing that I AM deathly afraid of is heights. From the top of a roller coaster drop to that view out an airplane window as it enters its final descent, they always have me want to crawl up walls, clench my fists, and talk to myself until its over. So, while the former was never an issue with me, writer/director Adam Green (Hatchets 1 & 2) has brilliantly melded them together in this gripping, and fittingly cold thriller.
The movie involves Ashmore and Zegers playing best friends since childhood Dan and Joe, who, along with the former’s relatively new girlfriend Parker (played by good newcomer Bell), go on a skiing trip up Mount Holliston. After they bribe a ski operator to let them go up right before closing (when Joe finally convinces Parker to get off the ‘bunny hills’), a mishap on the ground leaves the three stranded at the very top of the lift. That is all I am going to divulge of the plot, as this is one of those movies that the less you know about it going in, the better. However, what I will say is that with this thriller, director Green proves that he can do more than the gory homages to his favorite genre growing up (something Eli Roth still hasn’t proven to me). The three characters’ conversations, and at times arguing in the first few minutes of the movie really endure you to them, and once they get in the bad situation they eventually find themselves in, I found myself really rooting for them to get free.While all three performers were good, I endured myself to Ashmore the most. I felt for his character, as I have been in situations where I felt that my best friend was, with no fault of the other party, getting taken away from me by their girlfriend. The way the third wheel, as you will, gets brought up here really hit home for me, and Ashmore’s seeming frustrations came off very well. Of course, it probably helped their dynamic that both Ashmore and Zegers were good friends in their own right, and that really played off onscreen. Also, while I found myself getting annoyed at Bell’s character of Parker in the beginning, I really latched onto and felt for her performance halfway through the movie. Her scary, uncomfortable situation, coupled with the in descript feelings of loneliness she was feeling, gripped me tight. And, most of the time, these are the types of films that get to me most.
Green’s script not only excelled in the scary situations. He has littered it with references to horror icons (look for a cameo by Jason Voorhees/Victor Crowley himself Kane Hodder) references to other directors (Ashmore’s character of Joe Lynch was directly named after Green’s best friend, who both have hilarious cameos in the beginning), and the way they bounced the Sarlaac Pit from Return of the Jedi off each other led to some pretty hearty laughs from this Star Wars geek. I think that, in time, Green will have established himself as not just a horror director. But, a director of great comedies and dramas as well. Yes, his writing here is that good.
As far as the other problems the protagonists come across, I was back and forth on them. Yes, the wolves that appear below them added a dimension of danger and scariness that wasn’t there prior. But, at the same time, a couple shots of them looked rather fake, and the film probably would have been able to keep its grasp on me without them (or, at least not AS MUCH of them). Also, a couple of the make-up effects did not work that well onscreen due to their fakeness. But, you know what? I had absolutely no problems with these couple issues, as Green’s script in itself was gripping enough to bring the horrific elements in itself, and this was pure unadulterated white knuckle drama at its best. While Hatchet was pure horror fun, this is great drama, and I look forward to what Green cooks up on his platter in the future. Highly recommended dramatic horror film.
4 out of 5