Just three years ago writer-director Adam Green exploded into the consciousness of horror movie fans worldwide with his in your face, no holds barred, old school gorefest of a slasher movie, Hatchet. Critically hailed at the time as âthe greatest slasher film in 20 yearsâ the film introduced the world to âthe next icon of horrorâ in the form of villain and anti-hero Victor Crowley, played by horror legend Kane Hodder (the man behind the Jason Voorhees mask in the Friday the 13th movies) and, as the young Victor, actress Rileah Vanderbilt (today, Greenâs real-life wife). He swiftly followed that up with the more cerebral, psychological thriller Spiral, which he co-directed with Hatchet and Avatar star Joel Moore and which starred Moore alongside Amber Tamblyn (127 Hours; Joan Of Arcadia), Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica).
Greenâs latest feature, Frozen, is another intense thriller, this time concerning three winter sports enthusiasts who find themselves trapped in a desperate situation that proves to be far more extreme than anything the Winter X Games could possibly offer. We met up with Green on the eve of the filmâs UK cinema release to discuss blah blah blahâŚ
The blah of getting stuck on a chairlift
Real wolves versus fake sharks
And what scaresâŚ
Frozen stars Shawn Ashmore (the X-Men trilogy), Kevin Zegers (Dawn Of The Dead) and Emma Bell (Death In Love; New York City Serenade) as a trio of twenty-somethings â best friends Joe Lynch (Ashmore) and Dan Walker (Zegers), plus Danâs girlfriend Parker OâNeil (Bell) â hoping to spend some quality time skiing and snowboarding in the picturesque resort of Mount Holliston. But a typical day on the slopes turns into a chilling nightmare when they find themselves unexpectedly stranded on a chairlift shortly after the ski resort closes for the week. Unknowingly left dangling high above the ground and with no apparent safe way down as night begins to set in, with increasing panic they soon realize that the threats of frostbite and hypothermia are the least of their worries.
The initial idea for Frozen was borne out of Greenâs memories of East Coast ski resorts and their âtemperamentalâ chairlifts. âI used to go skiing in the Boston, Massachusetts area where the mountains are only open Friday through Sunday because they just donât have the business to stay open during the week,â he recalls. âEvery time you go on the chairlift â and any skier knows this â the chair always stops for no reason and eventually it starts again but everybody starts thinking, âHow would I get down from here if this thing doesnât start again?â And skiing on a Sunday night and having the chair stop, youâre thinking, âThey know Iâm still up here, right?â One morning I was watching the news in Los Angeles and they were doing the weather report and the background image was Big Bear Mountain ski resort. You could just see the chairs swaying in the wind at seven in the morning and I was thinking, âOh, yeah, the mountainâs closed right now. They used to be closed when IâŚâ and it just all sort of came together. The stupid part was that I said, âThis is going to be the easiest thing ever. Itâs three people in a chair. Thisâll be simple.â The only thing that was harder than this was probably March Of The Penguins in terms of suffering and what people went through.â
Although the filmâs simple but original and very effective premise is one that easily taps into an audienceâs very real and primal fears â fear of the dark, of being trapped, being alone, and the possibility of dying a slow, painful death â it also meant that the majority of the filmâs running time would, by necessity, have to be spent focused on three individuals âsitting in a chairâ talking. Endeavouring to maintain the audienceâs attention must surely have been the source of much apprehension and concern to Green when sitting down to write the script.
âAbsolutely,â he admits. âWhen I first had the idea I said, âOkay, itâs a great idea but maybe itâs a short.â But then when you start going through the process of what would you do, emotionally itâs such a journey, from the moment the lightsgo out. Obviously youâre scared, but you would also be, âAre you kidding me right now? They have to turn the lights back on. Theyâve got to know weâre up here.â Then thereâs the realisation that nobodyâs coming and youâre stuck there for five days, trying to prepare yourself psychologically to do something that you know is going to hurt or to let somebody else do something whereby theyâre going to hurt themselves. Itâs so rich with things to keep it alive. I know some people are surprised when they see the movie that it was able to sustain the suspense for 90 minutes, but once you see it you realise it could probably have been a little bit longer.â
One of Frozenâs greatest strengths in helping to establish the threat to the main characters and to maintain the suspense, the helplessness and the sense of dread is the location work, which adds a strong element of reality to the proceedings; something not usually seen in this type of movie. So how much of the film was shot on location in relation to the studio?
âThe whole thing. No studio shots, no anything,â says Green. âI had to do my whole Adam Green âall practical, no CGI, no whatever.â That was stupid but it made the difference at the end of the day. I think when you watch the movie you donât feel safe. You can tell that they are really up there. If it was a green screen I think audiences would know. The âmaking ofâ that will be on the DVD when it comes out â and I stand by this â itâs the best Special Feature put on a movie ever. Ninety minutes, documentary style. Itâs not the typical EPK where itâs just the actors and clips from the movie. Itâs very crew-centric and it shows how we did everything and what we went through to do it.â
Watching Adam Greenâs movies, itâs not too difficult to guess the names of a couple of esteemed film directors who have had a marked influence on him as a filmmaker. Spiral was hailed by critics as âthe closest thing to Hitchcock youâll get in this day and ageâ while Frozen has been described as âin the tradition of Spielbergâ and as likely to âdo for skiing what Jaws did for swimmingâ (Green also readily admits that E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial is his favourite movie of all time).
âYeah, Hitchcock and Spielberg are the two biggest [influences] and for Frozen, especially, Jaws and Lifeboat were the two movies that I turned to for things to aspire to,â he confirms. âI think Jaws is a perfect film â that whole man versus nature thing. I really looked into how Spielberg made the movie. With Jaws Spielberg would bring the three actors on to the boat and they would run the scene, find it, figure out the beats and the emotions and then he would place the camera. Thatâs what I did with Frozen. You get a more realistic and organic performance. Thatâs why Jaws was so successful. We all know that the shark didnât necessarily look all that real but it doesnât matter. At least I have real wolves [in Frozen], so Iâm very excited about that [laughs].â
So, apart from the idea of being trapped a hundred feet in the air on a chairlift for several days in the middle of winter, what else scares the man who is being tipped as one of the new masters of cinematic horror and suspense?
âPlanes,â admits Green. âIâm not good on flights. Iâm terrified the whole time, which means Iâve got the wrong career. I canât tell you what I go through when I come to London each summer for Frightfest. The flightâs the scariest part of the festival. Iâm scared of bees. Iâm scared of ignorance, especially the things that I read on the internet. I always give people the benefit of the doubt but if you go on to, like, the IMDb message boards, where somebody said âis where intelligent conversation goes to dieâ, I canât believe that people say the things they say. I think thereâs this new found bravery where theyâre like, âIâm anonymous so Iâm going to sayâŚâ The things they say because they can be anonymousâŚ I mean the racistâŚ Itâs just awful. Thatâs starting to scare me. The other thing thatâs scaring me is the lack of creativity in cinema. Hollywood used to want to find whatâs next. They wanted to find the new thing. They are terrified of a new thing now. They even tell you, point blank, âWe donât want something new. We need something that we know works because our jobs are on the line.â Iâm scared of where the industry is going. Iâm doing my part but the fans are not doing theirs. They complain about the remakes but they support every single one of them. When an original movie comes out they are nowhere to be found. Iâm very excited that The Last Exorcism opened the way it did. Whether people like the movie or not, it was an original title and it did well and thatâs a good sign.â
With Frozen about to be released in cinemas and with Hatchet II already complete and currently scheduled for release in October, the future is looking very bright for Adam Green. But how do you follow up such a double-whammy of horror.
âThe next project is called Killer Pizza,â he reveals. âItâs a kind of a Goonies/Monster Squad childrenâs adventure-horror movie based on a childrenâs book [by Greg Taylor]. Iâm doing it with Chris Columbus who, of course, wrote The Goonies and Gremlins and I could not be more excited. Iâve waited and waited for the right studio movie and this one is it.â
Frozen opens at UK cinemas on 24th September 2010 and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 18th October 2010.