Film Review: Frost
In 1999 a little movie called The Blair Witch Project came out. It was a low-budget film that set itself up as a real collection of “Found footage” of people who vanished in a forest. The film turned out be a tremendous hit but it took Hollywood a little while to catch on. Then in 2008 and 2009 we had Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity which both made it big and since then a handful of found footage films, such as Chronicle, Project X, The Last Exorcism and Apollo 18, have been made. This fad has been catching on outside of H-wood with such films as the Spanish REC trilogy and the Norwegian Trollhunter, and now it’s Iceland’s turn to ride the bandwagon with the movie Frost.
The premise is simple. A young woman named Agla (Anna Gunndís Guðmundsdóttir) working on a glacier expedition gets a surprise visit from her filmmaker boyfriend, Gunnar (Björn Thors) (thus setting up the excuse for having a camera there). When they wake up the morning after they find that they are all alone on the camp site and can’t reach the rest of the research team. Soon it turns out that something really strange is going on…
The idea for this movie is not bad at all and after a slightly clunky opening it seems like this movie might go somewhere interesting. But gradually it turns out the film won’t be going anywhere very interesting at all.
The problem here seems to be that the filmmakers had this very nifty idea to make a found-footage sci-fi horror flick set on an Icelandic glacier but little idea where to go with it and then just went ahead anyway. The film takes forever to get going and the first half mostly consists of the two main characters spouting rather inane exposition to each other. They get very little interesting to do or say and all attempts at characterization are simply weak. These characters also don’t have very much in the way of an interesting personality so you never really care much for them.
Then when things start happening and things are supposed to get scary they never really get scary at all. The filmmakers seem to think it’s enough just to shake the camera a lot, add some digital interference to the film and throw in a bunch of blinking lights. But no, it doesn’t work. It never feels like there’s anything out there than just blinking lights. We never really get to know exactly what’s going on and it seems like scriptwriter Jón Atli Jónasson probably never knew it either.
Another annoying thing is the use of the cameras. The purpose of having this a found footage film was probably to help build up a better sense of unease and the unknown. The camera can’t be controlled and doesn’t properly show what’s going on, which should make stronger the fear of the unknown. But how the camera is used in the film is very inconsistent and you end up way too often wondering why the hell the camera is turned on in the first place. It also seems like sometimes Gunnar is holding the camera in his hand and sometimes he has the camera mounted on him, but where and how it’s mounted is never clear and it mostly seems like the camera is placed wherever it suits the filmmakers. It’s also unclear how many cameras are used and the found footage elements end up being too much of a distraction and take you away from the film. It adds nothing to the Found-footage genre and you start wondering if this could have been a considerably better movie without the use of this technique.
In the technical department, on the other hand, Frost is a considerably more impressive film than in terms of writing and directing. The sound design for one thing is pretty impressive. It never feels fake and the feeling of being stuck on a glacier is well transmitted aurally. The sound people seem to have done their homework. The music also ain’t bad but it’s sadly underused. At least it feels like more could have been done with it to help build up a better sense of unease. The film was also mostly shot on location on a real glacier and it shows. These are some pretty amazing locations and the film makes good use of them.
Another department that’s not so bad is the acting. The two leads are pretty convincing and make for a believable couple. They make some of the bad dialogue seem a little less bad and Guðmundsdóttir is especially good at making you feel like she is really scared shitless out there. The rest of the cast gets little to do so there’s really not much to say about them.
It’s a pity that Iceland’s first attempt at not just a found-footage movie but also at doing a feature-length sci-fi movie is such a botch. The idea is promising, the technical department does a decent job and even the lead actors aren’t bad. This could have been a really cool movie but instead it’s a dull, unimaginative dud that’s nothing more than an 80 minute build up to a whole lot of nothing. In the final section the movie abandons the “Found-footage” style with some sort of epilogue which seems like it’s gonna explain everything but, without spoiling too much, things simply don’t get resolved at all and the ending is truly terrible as it both takes some of the mystery out of the movie and also leaves you scratching your head with even more questions (not to mention that all the dialogue and acting in that section is laughably bad). It takes the film from being merely mediocre and dull to being kind of awful and stupid. Skipping that final section would have been a wise choice.
Final verdict: A cool idea sadly botched. The film does little interesting with it and doesn’t manage to be suspenseful for a moment. It’s technically well made and nicely acted but all to no avail as the script is thin and weak and the story goes nowhere. A truly terrible ending drags the film even further down.