I’ll say from the off, I rather enjoyed this film. It’s a no-frills fright fest on ice, with bad weather and fearsome wildlife on stand-by.
The story goes as such: two guys and a girl (a couple and two male best friends) are on a snowboarding weekend. It’s a first for the girl, while the two lifelong friends are more experienced.
The best friend objects to the girlfriend being there. He feels she is encroaching on his territory, in what should be a boys’ holiday. Although aware of this, she always goes on the slopes with them, and her inexperience puts a damper on the boys’ day out. They are also trying to cut costs, so they offer the ski lift operator a backhander to let them on at a cut price.
As they feel they have been slowed down by the inexperienced girl, they bribe the operator again on his last shift, and a set of unfortunate circumstances means that they end up forgotten and suspended in midair in the freezing, blustery and snowy cold until the ski lift operates again… in a week.
The premise is simple, and the tension is achieved by dialogue, camera work and brilliant performances. No special effects mean that the trio really were perched on the ski lift for hours.
The tension grows steadily and the plot developments will make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat as well as root for some kind of positive resolution. There is a lot of humour in the first half, in moments reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s touch, where terrible, but almost slapstick, things happen which make you giggle at the same time. I was relieved writer/director Adam Green relied purely on an everyday scenario gone wrong rather than supernatural presences to send chills down your spine.
There are gruesome moments, which I personally feel were not strictly necessary and were perhaps rushed instead of working on the crescendo of fear. The tension could have built up some more before one early development kicks in. (You will know what I mean when you see it.)
Actors Emma Bell, Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers (the latter two are cult movie veterans, having already been in X-Men and Wrong Turn, respectively) deliver well judged performances, the script allows them to stay ordinary, albeit at times gratingly annoying, and their performances are all the more powerful because of it.
They are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstance. Their anguish and fear is so resonant because they are so normal, the dialogue allowing the viewer to slowly start feeling empathy for the three, after a beginning which had made you pray for an avalanche to get them.
Their recriminations are brief. This is no existential thriller. There are inevitable echoes of Open Water, as they start blaming each other and nature gets dangerously closer.
Their immediate concerns are how to survive and how to escape from a hostile environment which has gone from breathtakingly beautiful to chillingly treacherous in moments. Trying to survive frostbite, starvation, hypothermia as well as menacing wildlife are problems they need to solve with no tools (and no mobile phones. Yes, really!). This provides the core for the tense build-up.
Director Adam Green has relied on a simple story, a basic set-up, good editing, effective, but non-intrusive music to give us a little gem of a low budget thriller, which will keep you gripped in your seats for the whole of its 90 minutes, and it might give you food for thought next time you board a ski lift.