Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cage Match Review: The Thaw (2009) vs. Frozen (2010)



Welcome back to the octagon, kids. It has been brutal so far...and this Cage Match Review is no different.

'Tis the time of the year when the icy cold seeps under your skin. The weather takes a turn for the unbearably frigid and your fight to survive another winter begins. This new blood-match is between two very different films starring twin actors Aaron and Shawn Ashmore and the cold. The cold? What in the Sam hell is so scary about the cold? Are these films going to take place in someone's Kenmore Elite?? Is old man winter going to rise from the snow and slay a bunch of hot young college girls??? No. But, the two films in today's Cage Match Review do make you think twice about questioning the power of mother nature's cold heart.



The first film ready to do battle is....The Thaw.


Imagine a world where man is completely selfish and devoid of the fact that the world is being depleted and global warming is occurring at an alarming rate causing the polar ice caps to melt alot quicker than scientists had anticipated several decades ago. Oh wait....I guess we don't really have to imagine all of that.


The Thaw is a film about a research team led by famed ecologist, Dr. David Krupien (a self-absorbed Val Kilmer) that discovers a thawing woolly mammoth carcass near a remote Arctic research facility while uncovering the impact of global warming. Dr. Krupien invites his daughter Evelyn to join three "lucky" ecology students on their way up to the research facility. However, once the good Dr. Krupien realizes that the thawing mammoth was hosting a prehistoric parasite capable of ending mankind, he sends orders to decline his invitation to his daughter, Evelyn (played rather ineptly and schizophrenic by Martha MacIssac whom you might recall as Becca from the awesomely awesome film Superbad). Of course, Evelyn rebels against her douchebag father's last request and joins the "lucky" students on the helicopter ride to the infected research facility. There's your basic premise.


Now here's where things get a bit tricky. The film thinks it's better than it really is. It's not a bad film by any means, mind you.....however, it tends to be highly ambitious in its finger-waiving and mediocre in its execution. It's kinda like Johnny Knowmorethanyou giving you a lecture on why you shouldn't do whatever it is you're having fun doing and then...when you ask him why...he basically tells you that you will die. So, you basically shrug your shoulders in a "whatever" kinda way and proceed with your fun-having activity. The Thaw is kind of like Johnny Knowmorethanyou. It's a film that should have more depth to it and yet...it all amounts to bugs that lay their eggs inside your body to incubate its offspring. While I don't want the film to necessarily hold my hand and tuck me into bed...I would've loved to have gotten lost in the world it has created. While watching the DVD extras, I learned that the premise was inspired by a bedbug infested hotel room in Prague. The film feels like the creators thought of an idea incorporating "bugs" that burrow into your body and lay eggs and make you puke bile...and then added a back story about global warming and a woolly mammoth for good measure without ever expanding on the ambitious potential the film has going for it.

Aaron Ashmore as Atom is really good in it. So good...I almost thought it was Shawn Ashmore. I wonder if they've ever fucked with any of their directors during an audition.

Anyway...The Thaw is a good film that teases you with the notion of it being better. I really enjoyed some of the genre staples like the paranoia borrowed from The Thing. The parasitic creatures inspired by Night of the Creeps and Slither. Even more traditional elements like the mad scientists foregoing reasoning for a more vast mission of showing the world the carnage that it is capable of inflicting on itself. While all of these elements are done much better in films like those mentioned above, it is an amusing little film worth the watch. It has its charms. The special effects and CGI vertebrate parasites are pretty well done, despite spending most of the film's budget on Kilmer's paycheck.


The Thaw is much better than you would expect for a direct-to-DVD film....I just wish the film makers would've raised the bar a little more and made it something more memorable.





The next film making its way to the Cage is...Frozen.


Snowboarding is one of my favorite pass times...I wish I could do it more. Although I tend to bruise my ass quite a bit, I love the rush of shooting down the hill at lightning speeds. The one thing I do despise most about the whole snowboarding experience, though, is the chair lift. I fuckin' hate that thing. You see, the only things I really fear in this world are The Exorcist, vampires.....and.....heights. So, whenever I look at going back up the hill for another run a rush of fear fills my insides.

The premise for the little film Frozen is a simple one. Three friends get stuck on a chair lift at a ski resort on a Sunday evening right before they close for the week and must endure the harsh elements in order to survive. On the surface, the premise doesn't conjure up any images of horror in the traditional sense. However, when you watch the performances by the three actors in the leads it is easy to get swept into the terror that they encounter.


The actors of this intimate film are the centerpiece of the experience while the director and cinematography both play key roles, as well. You simply are engrossed in the film due to the quick character development and the good acting within the roles. Shawn Ashmore brings his usual brand of charming young wise-ass into this high wire horror and Kevin Zegers, whom we last saw in Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, is also really good as the good guy buddy.


The stand out performance belongs to the young Emma Bell. She's been carving out quite a path for herself in the horror genre turning out memorable gigs in Hatchet II and more recently in the phenomenal TV series, The Walking Dead. Here she displays a natural ability to counter two male leads and create a feeling of despair within all of the dread that really makes you feel for her character. If there is one anchor to this fun little film, it would be her role of Parker that carries you throughout the film, which is a breath of fresh air given the fact that females are usually killed off pretty quickly in survival films like this one.

Frozen is my favorite film from director Adam Green who is mostly known for his Hatchet films. And, while I do admire those films for what they are, it is in Frozen where he truly displays what he is capable of doing as a young director talent. I am excited for what he has in store in future projects.


The film is an assault on all of the senses. It is an emotional roller coaster full of dread and little hope. While you may think you would know what to do in such a precarious situation, it isn't until you are actually left in such a predicament where you find that you really have nothing but your inner sense of survival to guide you through. It stands as an achievement in the careers of all involved and should be noticed as a small little film based in the power of acting and direction.

Frozen is a good little film that won't leave you cold.


The Results:

Hot Female Factor: This one belongs to Emma Bell, hands down. I think Martha McIssac is too busy trying to figure out if she's a good actress or not. While, The Thaw offers the potential for more female nudity than Frozen, it doesn't hold a candle for the feelings and emotions displayed in the latter. Watch Emma pee herself silly. Winner: Frozen

Gore: Both films offer some really grizzly deaths that make you really turn away in terror. However, The Thaw does something quite impressive with a butcher knife and a parasite infected arm...despite squandering the budget on Kilmer's salary. Winner: The Thaw

Acting: Out of both films, Frozen is the genuine stand out as far as acting is concerned. It is what drives the film. While you could make an argument for interchanging the Ashmores at will, Emma Bell is the true champion out of both films. Winner: Frozen

Film Quality: Both films are shot beautifully and display an expert sense of cinematography, which is rare in low budget projects these days. I could make a case for why I would like one more than the other. But, I don't really feel like it right now. Winner: Tie

Overall Score: This one's an interesting battle due to the fact that both films are really good films that stand on their own. Given each interesting premise, the film makers actually do a good job of making each story riveting and unique. Even the performances by the actors, for the most part, are better than some other bigger films with bigger budgets and more well known actors. You really can't go wrong with either one of these films....however, as I mentioned before, there can be only one!

While The Thaw presents a truly unique take on a standard premise, it doesn't make the most of its story and ultimately falls flat within its main flaw...you really want more from the story. Frozen has no such flaw. In fact Frozen's main flaw is that it sometimes presents too much dread (i.e. wolves on a ski resort???)...however, we are watching a horror movie directed by the guy known for Hatchet so, flesh eating wolves are ok. There are details that distract a little from the overall plot in this film...but, there are such great moments in Frozen that it is hard to dispute its originality and genuine quality.

The Thaw receives an 8.5 out of 10.

Frozen gets a 9.5 out of 10.

Winner: Frozen



Thanks for reading,


bryan.

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