Title: The Frozen Ground
HTS Overall Score:79
Robert Hansen (John Cusack) is a monster. He’s repulsive, demented, sick, twisted...and frighteningly real. Hansen moved to Anchorage, Alaska in the late 1960s and lived there for nearly sixteen years. Despite a past speckled by run-ins with the police, his Alaskan life was seemingly quiet. He was liked by his neighbors, had several children, and owned a bakery in the community. He was also known for being a record holding hunting champion. What he hid – and hid well – was his lust to kill. For nearly thirteen years Hansen abducted, abused, and murdered young Alaskan women, discarding the majority of the evidence amongst the thick Alaskan wilderness. While the exact number of victims isn’t known, it’s believed that Hansen killed nearly twenty-one women. Ironically, his ultimate demise came at the hands of a victim that got away: 17-year old Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens). Her moment of luck became a moment of luck for countless other women that more than likely would have been Hansen’s next targets. And so, first time director Scott Walker (along with some serious star power) delivers The Frozen Ground: a terrifying tale based on the true events of a nightmarish psycho named Robert Hansen.
Nicholas Cage plays Sergeant Jack Halcombe, a character inspired by a real-life Alaskan Detective named Glenn Flothe. Just two weeks before his retirement a body of a deceased woman is uncovered in the wilderness and Halcombe is handed the case. Despite his desire to leave the force, Halcombe finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the case and ever closer to Robert Hansen. Halcombe is eventually introduced to Cindy, Hansen’s surviving victim. She’s a total wreck, living on the streets, using drugs, tied-up in stripping and prostitution, and completely reluctant to help the police. Fortunately for Halcombe, Paulson’s life circumstances make it entirely too difficult for her to evade him for any length of time. The pair slowly develops a friendship that eliminates Paulson's desire to resist his need for help.
The storyline more or less scratches the surface when it comes to character development. It’s quickly evident that Hansen is quietly insane, Halcombe is moralistic and determined, and Paulson is simply spiraling out of control. Aside from that, there isn’t too much character driven drama to the tale. The gravity of the film’s subject matter and the roadblocks Halcombe encounters during his investigation drive the story. Viewers are literally smacked in the face with Hansen’s raw evil. In one particular gruesome set of events, director Scott Walker follows a victim from Hansen’s basement of torture to her last gasps of breath deep in the Alaskan wilderness. It’s the graphic nature of these kinds of scenes that are the heart and soul of the film’s terror. The level of intensity conveyed through Walker’s chosen imagery is often shocking and stunning, necessitating the need to occasionally look away from on-the-screen action. Couple that with a rather dreary cocktail of secondary subject matter (drugs, alcohol, prostitution, pimps, street life) and the cold darkness of Anchorage and you have one depressing set of circumstances.
The casting for the film is a neat mix of young and old. Nicholas Cage tackles the serious role of a good natured trooper. His typical comedic quips and sarcasm are absent and he gives the role a certain sense of respectability and honor that plays well to the story. Cusack, an actor typically associated with roles that are lighthearted (think Bryce in Sixteen Candles) takes the character of Robert Hansen to a dark place...and he pulls it off quite well. Movies featuring an extreme killer all to often make the killer look unnaturally insane. Cusack does an excellent job of avoiding overacting – his insanity brews deep. The true star of the film, however, is Vanessa Hudgens. The happy-go-lucky California girl transformers herself into a gritty street dweller. Her roughness and desperation are extremely convincing and impressive to watch.
If you haven’t already seen The Frozen Ground, then consider this fair warning: the film is graphic. It’s laced with profanities, nudity, drug use, strip clubs, places of prostitution, grizzly grave sites, murder, and other imagery that is sensitive. It’s a wonder that Scott Walker had the guts to take it that far. In fact there are moments where the film teeters on the edge of having gone too far. It’s a good film, though, despite its rather thin character development and realistic intensity. The facts of the case are just too odd and fascinating to be ignored. The Blu-ray’s extras include several lengthy interviews with Walker, Cage, Cusack, Hudgens, and the real-life Flothe. They definitely add depth and value to the overall presentation and are a must watch.
R for violent content, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/FG3.jpg[/img]Lionsgate presents The Frozen Ground with a solid MPEG-4 AVC transfer in a cinematic 1.39:1 aspect ratio. The overall brightness of the film is on the low end – owners of projectors may find it necessary to bump their bulbs out of eco mode to improve picture clarity and detail. While the darkness of the presentation is appropriate considering the storyline, there are quite a few instances where crush is evident making shadow detail difficult to discern. The film has two unique colorizations. Most indoor scenes are bathed in warm amber overtones which help to convey a nostalgic 1980’s feel. Outdoor scenes, however, have a punchier steely coldness to them. Flesh tones remain consistent and throughout the film. While the film’s image doesn’t suffer from any artifacts or blocking, it does have a certain amount of softness that dulls down sharpness and ultra fine details.
One noteworthy aspect of the image presentation is camera movement. If you’ve found yourself to be sensitive to movies such as the Bourne Trilogy or Cloverfield, then you might want to reconsider putting The Frozen Ground into your qeue. Camera movement is abound with a herky-jerky style that might cause some viewers to experience motion sickness.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//FG4.jpg[/img]The Frozen Ground’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 front heavy presentation is rather typical of a drama. Dialog, while trending toward the thin side, is intelligible during almost every scene. Directionality and sound movement across the front sound stage is excellent. The rear channels are used rather sparingly for sound effects, however there are few moments where effects such as gunshots echo to the rear. Composer Lorne Balfe (Megamind) delivers a fantastic original score that breathes a smoothness and richness into the film. At times it effectively pours out of the rear channels to create an eerie and enveloping sensation. Low Frequency Effects, while sparse, do make an appearance. In fact there is one scene featuring a downward bass dive that digs DEEP below 20Hz.
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Scott Walker and Producers Mark Ordesky and Jane Fleming
• Deleted Scenes
• Examining The Frozen Ground
• Writing The Frozen Ground
• Extended Interviews
• The Frozen Ground Trailer
The Frozen Ground is a recommend watch for fans of horror dramas. The mix of intense imagery and difficult subject matter definitely isn’t meant for everyone. Is it wrong to say that I enjoyed a film laced with such horrid subject matter? It makes me uncomfortable to admit it, but I did. Cusack, Cage, and Hudgens all deliver convincingly strong performances and the true-to-life storyline is just to evil to ignore. The overall audio and video quality of the release is serviceable. The audio is the better of the two and has a few moments of brilliance. Put it all together and you have the perfect film for an October fright.
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens, John Cusack
Directed by: Scott Walker
Written by: Scott Walker
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Lionsgate Films
Runtime: 105 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 1, 2013
Buy The Frozen Ground Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: If you have the stomach for it, Watch It.