Frozen Ground (2013): Out now on DVD & Blu-ray
(15) Running time: 105 minutes
Director: Scott Walker
Writer: Scott Walker
Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, Vanessa Hudgens
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
Based on actual events, the film tells the tale of notorious serial killer Robert C. Hansen (a deliciously creepy John Cusack), a vile creature who murders prostitutes. When a surviving victim (Vanessa Hudgens) is found beaten but alive in a motel room, the local Alaskan police are quick to dismiss her claims because she is a prostitute, and some of their actions and responses will sicken you almost as much as the serial killer himself. There is one cop who believes her, and he is very welcoming to the arrival of US state trooper Jack Halcombe (a superb Nicolas Cage)who is quick to figure out there is a serial killer at large (something the local police haven’t quite figured out yet). Halcombe must gain the trust of the victim, work with her to find the killer and even protect her by bringing her into his home.
Hudgens shows some real skill playing Cindy Paulson, and goes to some seriously dark places in her portrayal of a prostitute with no one to turn to but a life of sex and drugs. Considering what is asked of her, Hudgens does a pretty good job, and even up against heavyweights like Cage and Cusack, she holds her own. Cusack is welcoming his dark side of late, and really puts together a creepy, slimey, unsettling performance of a proper nasty piece of work. Cage, however, is on top form and I always say if a director knows how to work with Cage, how to tame the beast so to speak, then they will get great results from him. Here Cage shines, and is a desperate man to not only find his killer, but also protect a young, troubled girl while struggling to hold together his marriage. Cage is asked to go through all sorts of emotions and he does it extremely well.
The setting for Frozen Ground, a snow covered Alaska, is at times stunning, while at others incredibly disturbing. The director uses the vast openness of the country to great cinematic power, while the claustrophobic streets are given increased menace by paint like colourings and dark and mysterious corners and alleyways. There is a strong sense of panic throughout the running time, and while the film is predominantly about catching a serial killer, there is plenty of room for family struggles, broken lives, heavy emotions and the sense of duty to care for another person. The cast, and director, all work brilliantly to deliver this fast paced, tight thriller.
However, there are issues, and while I found the frantic pace exciting to begin with, I did find myself desperate for the film to slow down slightly. Fast editing and camera cuts certainly show a director with a sense of urgency, but there are times when you just want to take things in for a second. Sadly some of the films stronger moments were lost as it felt scenes were rushed, desperate to get to the next moment. The ending too felt rushed, and there was a serious lack of impact to a film which could, and should, have had a belter of a finish. These are flaws that can be lived with though, and Frozen Ground is a welcome addition to the serial killer genre, with plenty of sex, violence, top performances and some great storytelling to fill the void left since the last film in this genre. It’s no classic, but avid fans of the serial killer thriller will love this, and fans of the actors involved will find them at peak performance. Great stuff!