"The Frozen" isn't content with telling another man versus the elements saga nor your standard horror story.
The film, out today on DVD, casts two people out in the unforgiving wilderness with only a tent and their wits to keep them safe. When a stranger appears - and then disappears - in the snowy woods the expected slasher template clicks into place.
Not so fast.
Writer/director Andrew Hyatt knows how to summon standard horror tropes, and he does so with a confidence which belies his modest resume. He's after something more substantial with "The Frozen," an approach which demands patience but offers a compelling conclusion.
Mike (Seth David Mitchell) and Emma (Brit Morgan) embark on a chilly vacation, one that starts with Emma learning she's pregnant. The pair rent a snowmobile and head toward an obscure camping ground, with Emma harboring her secret as well as a distaste for her beau's idea of a vacation.
Their snowmobile crashes, leaving them separated from their car and nowhere near a solid cell phone signal. Emma is panicked, but Mike has faith in his survival skills. Neither anticipated the presence of a mysterious man near their camp, someone who may offer help - or a new reason to be afraid of the dark.
"The Frozen" represents a "reveal" film, one where it's clear early on the pieces finally snap into place in its waning moments. When said moment arrives, it's not quite as satisfying as one hopes - this genre almost always generates too much anticipation. To reveal more, however, wouldn't be fair to Hyatt's singular vision.
Morgan of "True Blood" fame excels as a woman torn between her motherly instincts and a gnawing sense she may have chosen the wrong partner, and both Morgan and Mitchell must carry the bulk of the film as well as our sympathies.
James Grundler's evocative score enhances the pair's plight, and spare sound design complements Hyatt's efforts to tell an unconventional tale.
"The Frozen's" DVD packaging hints at a spiritual element swirling alongside Mike and Emma's story. It's another reason why the psychological thriller refuses to be lumped together with less complicated genre outings.