Review: The Frozen Ground / Cert: 15 / Director: Scott Walker / Screenplay: Scott Walker / Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack / Release Date: July 19th
Serial killer Robert Hansen was caught in 1983 when one of his intended victims fled his capture and went to the police. This incident lead to the linking of Hansen to several bodies discovered in the Alaskan wilderness. In the end he was convicted of 4 murders but is suspected to have killed around 21. This true story is the background to The Frozen Ground.
Things start loud and chaotic in a small Alaskan town as Cindy Paulson (Hudgens) is discovered battered and chained and understandably hysterical. We are introduced to Detective Jack Halcombe (Cage) who has been finding bodies in the wilderness and suspects that Cindy’s story of having escaped from Robert Hansen (Cusack) is going to lead to a conviction of the prime suspect. Halcombe however has a hard time convincing Cindy to testify, and persuading the local law enforcement that Hansen is their man.
Nothing about the execution or subject matter of The Frozen Ground is going to revolutionise the serial killer horror subgenre, but it is done well with a couple of really good performances. John Cusack in particular is outstanding and post The Paperboy seems to be coming into a second wind of his career playing scumbags. His Hansen is all controlled family man on the outside and then twitchy, angry menace in private with his victims. Vanessa Hudgens is also fast becoming a promising young actress; taking roles that will break her out of the Disney princess ghetto seems to be really working for her, and she uses her attractiveness as an asset without becoming a self-parody. Nicolas Cage is himself as usual but he isn’t relying on any of the tics or speech patterns that make up his acting range. Once the film calms down and the scene is set and the focus becomes getting evidence for a conviction rather than hunting down the criminal, Cage comes into his own with his interaction with Hudgens’ character, although he is saddled with some of the films more clichéd scenes.
Writer and director Scott Walker does a solid job here and really evokes an atmosphere of menace and seediness with the 1983 version of Alaska he presents. The mood recalls many of the Nordic noirs that have become so popular in recent times as well as Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia. The film is loaded with solid support from actors like Radha Mitchell, Dean Norris, 50 Cent (seriously) and Brad William Henke.
Due to the lack of fireworks and the film being fairly low key, it’s likely to get lost this summer amongst the flashier fare. The Frozen Ground is however a solid thriller and a fascinating real life story well worth your time.
Expected Rating: 5 out of 10