Monday, May 30, 2022

#2,761. The Frozen Ground (2013) - Winter Horror 4-Pack


Based on the true story of an Alaskan serial killer, 2013’s The Frozen Ground is a by-the-numbers motion picture that, thanks to the fine performances turned in by its cast, manages to rise above the mediocrity of other “by-the-numbers” movies.

A badly decomposed body turns up in the Alaskan wilderness, and police Sgt. Jack Holcombe (Nicolas Cage) is assigned to the case. Though he has already handed in his two-week notice (he accepted a job in the private sector), Holcombe becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer, and is soon convinced that Robert Hansen (John Cusack) - a well-respected husband, father, and businessman - is actually a monster who is raping and murdering young girls.

The case against Hansen is strengthened with the discovery of Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), a teenage prostitute and the only girl to survive her encounter with him. But will Cindy agree to testify before this alleged serial killer strikes again?

Despite being inspired by actual events, The Frozen Ground features some familiar cinematic tropes, from the relationship that develops between Jack and Cindy (to gain her trust, Jack tells Cindy about his sister, who was killed years earlier by a drunk driver) to the way the film evolves into a police procedural, with Jack and his fellow officers searching frantically for concrete evidence to put Hansen away for good. In addition, there’s a late sequence set on the mean streets of Anchorage, where both Jack and Hansen are frantically searching for Cindy, that, though admittedly tense, felt as if it might have been lifted straight out of an episode of Law and Order.

Still despite writer / director Scott Walker’s familiar approach to the material, The Frozen Ground remains a highly effective thriller thanks in large part to its all-star cast. Cage is solid as the detective determined to bring a killer to justice, and John Cusack shifts between warm, loving family man and cold-blooded killer with the greatest of ease, delivering a performance that’s guaranteed to give you nightmares; the extended scene in which he kidnaps Debbie Peters (Gia Mantegne) and murders her in a secluded area proves to be the film’s most chilling sequence.

Rising above them all, however, is Vanessa Hudgens as Cindy, a girl who has spent most of her life on the streets and was lucky enough to escape from Hansel before he could finish her off. The movie opens moments after Cindy slipped away from her abductor, and in this scene as well as all the others, Hudgens shows incredible range, convincingly portraying a confused young woman whose survival instincts are in direct conflict with her desire to see Hansen locked away for good (a few times throughout the movie, Cindy returns to the “safety” of her pimp Clate, played by rapper 50 Cent). It is a tremendous performance, and those scenes in which her Cindy is featured - whether it be dancing for cash at a strip club or helping Jack with his investigation - are the best in the entire film.

That’s not to suggest that The Frozen Ground is nothing more than a showcase for its talented cast; even those moments that feel formulaic work as intended (director Walker and his crew generate plenty of genuine tension throughout), and the cold, barren Alaskan landscape proves the perfect setting for this dark, disturbing tale. So, while The Frozen Ground may not be the most original film ever produced, it still manages, more often than not, to drag us to the edge of our seats.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10


Lord Phantasma said...

I've been a fan of you since the old HMP days, and now that everyone has kind of split off to do their own things it gives me a certain sort of comfort to see you posting here the same as you have been since I started listening in. Hope you're doing well my man, and thanks for countless movie recommendations over the years!

DVD Infatuation said...

@Lord Phantasma: Thank you so much for stopping by, and for the kind words! While HMP isn't dead by any stretch, personal issues have caused the releases to be much more sporadic, and to be honest I can't say how long this will last.

I do have my own podcast now, in case you missed it. The DVD Infatuation Podcast, over on Jay's Considering the Cinema feed. Here's the link:

Thanks again for reaching out. Always great to hear from you!