Serial offender – The Frozen Ground review

The Frozen Ground

By Richard Haridy
December 10, 2013

After years of running a successful advertising agency in New Zealand, Scott Walker decided he wanted to become a film director and began researching the case of Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen, who raped and murdered at least 17 women throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Now Walker offers us his debut feature, The Frozen Ground, a clunky hybrid that sits uncomfortably on a precipice between true-crime drama and serial killer thriller.

Nicolas Cage plays Jack Halcombe, a state trooper who discovers a pattern linking numerous missing women. Halcombe suspects a serial killer is at play but isn’t sure until he stumbles across the case of Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens). Cindy is a young prostitute who recently escaped the clutches of the nasty Hansen (John Cusack) only to have local police disbelieve her story. Halcombe teams up with Cindy to bring Hansen down while a sceptical police force look on.

The Frozen Ground

Considering the scope and novelty of the Robert Hansen case, it’s quite surprising to have never seen this story hit the screen. Walker uses his Alaskan location well, depicting the chilly landscape in a visceral fashion but I’m not sure he’s a sensitive enough filmmaker to tackle a real-life narrative. There is a compellingly lurid quality to The Frozen Ground as it wallows in the more exploitative corners of its story. (A scene following Hudgens as she smokes meth for the first time before stripping lingers a little too long to be considered entirely tasteful while scenes of Hansen with his other victims feel a little pulpy and sensational.)

A strong cast work hard to elevate the clichéd material, with Cage successfully playing it completely straight and Cusack turning in an exceptionally low-key performance. Radha Mitchell, Dean Norris, and 50 Cent all add support, making sure the film feels more than a B-grade serial killer story.

Ending with a horrible rock song playing over a montage of photographs showing us the faces of Hansen’s real victims, The Frozen Ground is trying its best to act as a genuine tribute to the victims of a horrible crime. Unfortunately, it falls way short of its target. Though still functioning as a solid genre piece, the chasm between intention and execution is embarrassingly apparent.


The Frozen Ground will be available on Quickflix from December 18, 2013.

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