Editor’s Note: Freezer opens in limited release and on VOD on Friday January 17th
A closing credits mention of “specialty mold creators” suggests an attention to atmosphere that’s nowhere to be found in Freezer, erstwhile Oscar-nominated cinematographer Mikael Salomon’s belated third theatrical feature after a decade-and-a-half long stretch making TV movies. And here, really, he does much the same: as cinematic as accurate fungal growth might be, this is a film destined for digital distribution despite its minor theatrical plans, accorded “real movie” status only by way of the peculiar demands the business still places on earning critical coverage. Such is the way these movies attract their audience, with reviews—good or bad, it’s immaterial—touting the thriller concept that makes them “unique” and, no matter the cautions they may carry, earning at least a little curiosity.
It’s as though co-screenwriters Tom Doganoglu and Shane Weisfeld each pitched an entirely unrelated take on this premise, and strapped the two together without any adjustments whatsoever.
For is your interest not piqued, even with a disclaimer declaring how dull the end product is, by the prospect of a movie locking Dylan McDermott up in a freezer for eighty-two minutes? Certainly it is pleasant to see him suffer—the character, that is—given the nonsensical approach he takes to his predicament, awakening alone in these conditions only to quip quietly to himself. “Happy fuckin’ birthday,” he sighs in one breath; “you’re a shit magnet” in another. The absurd action hero posturing the script affords him is only made more unlikely by the manner in which he’s constructed as an out-of-his-depth everyman. It’s as though co-screenwriters Tom Doganoglu and Shane Weisfeld each pitched an entirely unrelated take on this premise, and strapped the two together without any adjustments whatsoever.
And so we’re given a movie pegged to a single scenario its protagonist’s behaviour makes impossible to believe. The depth of his duality is such that it’s tempting almost to imagine that this might furtively be an exceptionally intelligent examination of an archetype—like putting John McClane on ice, as it were. But such temptation is little more than the mind desperately clutching at straws, keen to find a way—any way—to make this nonsense any less interminably dull. “Am I being punk’d?” cries McDermott at an early stage; would that he had been: seeing him in the same scenario without this script to follow could only have made for an improvement. As it is, he just mumbles profanely and grunts and looks gruff and bores us to tears.
Once the roster of leftover puns from Batman & Robin is rolled out in all their so-bad-they-can’t-possibly-believe-they’re-anything-but glory, it’s tempting to think the movie and its makers have, like us, found giving in to its stupidity is the only way to survive.
Yet this is a movie, its cavalcade of flaws considered, that aims so utterly low it can’t but hit its mark here and there. Questioned by caricatured Russians who demand a fortune he claims not to have, McDermott manages to make the odd snippet of his otherwise intolerable dialogue work, though never so much as to make us stop thinking how much better Nathan Fillion might have managed to do so. But perhaps, like our hero’s hypothermic body, our brains have just by then begun to shut down and give in. Once the roster of leftover puns from Batman & Robin is rolled out in all their so-bad-they-can’t-possibly-believe-they’re-anything-but glory, it’s tempting to think the movie and its makers have, like us, found giving in to its stupidity is the only way to survive.
If only. As Freezer carries on in its pathetic efforts to function as a low-rent chiller thriller, it’s obvious that Salomon really believes this to be more than it is. And as plot point after plot point gets rolled out under the auspices of his remarkably unremarkable visual style, it’s all we can do to wonder just why. There’s a strange dream scene about halfway through the film, one of a few moments of terribly staged aesthetic abstraction, where the camera just rapidly runs through the freezer in overexposed circles. Not often does a movie offer up so perfectly precise a visual representation of how it feels to endure it. In that sequence, as in the movie as a whole, all we can do is hope for the faint pleasure of feeling a little dizzy.
[notification type=”star”]37/100 ~ AWFUL. Freezer is a movie, its cavalcade of flaws considered, that aims so utterly low it can’t but hit its mark here and there.[/notification]