In his directorial debut, Scott Walker wrote and directed ‘The Frozen Ground‘ in 2013. It was made by Grindstone Entertainment and released through Lionsgate in a limited theatrical run.
After a body is found in an isolated part of Alaska in 1983, retiring detective and state trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) is assigned the case. He discovers a link between this victim and a prostitute named Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) who managed to escape a kidnapping. She claimed that resident Robert Hansen (John Cusack) abducted her, assaulted, and tortured her before she got away. When Hanson produced an alibi, he was no longer considered a suspect. After single-mother Debbie Peters (Gia Mantegna) goes missing and is presumed dead, Jack raises against time to build a case, but faces red tape at every turn.
Robert Hansen was one of the most prolific serial killers in the United States, despite this, you do not know his name like Ted Bundy, Ed Kemper, Aileen Wuornos, or John Wayne Gacy. To my knowledge, this feature was one of the first that takes this story and turns it into a chilling psychological biopic.
The movie does a good job of ramping up the tense moments, pulling you into the story and feeling the twists and turns of the case. I would not say it was a “cat and mouse” game, but more of a thriller that was meant to tell the story of a dangerous and horrifying predator that stalked and murdered many young women.
There were a few plot points added that did not happen for dramatic purposes that you could tell were not accurate, but I did not feel that it was inappropriate or exploitive. Now, the story actually happened in the eighties, but I never got the feeling that the film took place in that time period. The clothing was more neutral, but I think if we had some music popular in 1983, it would have made the time period more succinct.
Nicolas Cage does a good job as Jack. You can feel his frustration as he tries to navigate his case but encounters reluctant witnesses, a clever adversary, and bureaucracy. Likewise, John Cusack did an excellent job as Robert Hansen. While he did not resemble him, he did a good job of playing the smug, yet creepy serial killer who thinks he is the smartest guy in the room. Vanessa Hudgens does a good job as Cindy. You can feel her anger and desire to flee after the system failed her the first time. All around, excellent performances.
To my knowledge, Scott Walker has not written or directed a movie since this one. That is a shame because he does an excellent job of crafting the narrative and getting you invested in the plot. Now, the movie had a few moments that dragged on a bit, particularly toward the end, but it did not completely take you out of the movie.
Bottom line, The Frozen Ground is a tense thriller about one of the most dangerous killers in the United States. It crafts a story that keeps you invested from beginning to end with a ton of excellent performances.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong violence, Terror, Strong foul language, Sexual content including nudity, Substance abuse
FAVORITE QUOTE: You know, he stalks them like his next trophy animal, he rapes them and kills them. He is probably doing it right now. We don’t have a few days!
Check out the trailer below:
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