Between 1971 and 1983 mild mannered baker Robert Christian Hansen murdered and mutilated between 17 and 21 women and had it not been for the escape of one of his victims perhaps he would have never been caught.
The Frozen Ground is the story of that girl Cindy Paulson, played by teen star Vanessa Hudgens very much proving her adult acting credentials, a young drug addicted prostitute who narrowly escapes Hansen’s evil clutches only to be dismissed and disrespected by the police officers who disregard her statement.
Luckily her testimonial against Hansen reaches US state trooper Sgt. Jack Halcombe (the amazing Nicolas Cage) who sees a pattern between her accusations and the mysterious murders of many young women found dead in the frozen ground of the Alaskan wasteland.
Sgt. Halcombe sets about not only working out a solid connection between the brutal slayings and upstanding citizen Robert Hansen (the excellent John Cusack) but gaining Cindy’s trust and cooperation to make sure when he does catch Hansen, he will never kill again.
A stark and shocking true story The Frozen Ground written and directed by newcomer Scott Walker tells the twisted tale of Hansen’s mass murders in a realistic and respectful way attempting to stay away from sensationalisation or stylization.
This is a commendable decision cemented by the dedication in the credits to all the victims and the pictures of each of them we see as the film finishes however by choosing realism Walker sacrifices the embellishment and originality that is found in fictitious serial killer movies leaving us with a bit of a by the numbers police murder investigation movie that some may feel they have seen many times before.
There is some innovation however in the stories concentration on Cindy’s tragic life which remains constantly in danger even after her escape adding an interesting element to The Frozen Ground helped along greatly by an honest and open performance from Hudgens who is seemingly desperate to shake off the High School Musical squeaky clean image that made her name.
There is also enough action and excitement in the story to make for a solid thriller with increased horror brought on by the mundane and terrifyingly normal Hansen who Cusack crafts as an average all American family guy hiding a very dark and disturbing side which we and the victims alone witness emerging with brutal consequences.
Bringing balancing to the otherwise bleak film surprisingly is Nicolas Cage’s controlled and calming turn as Jack Halcombe. The often anarchic Cage reign’s in his wild side to bring the stalwart Sargent to life providing a much needed positive figure to root for against the harsh and nasty realism of Hansen serial killing spree and horrifying violence against the females he abducts.
Perhaps not as revolutionary or captivating as some other serial killer horror’s which are either entirely imagined or only inspired by actual murder cases The Frozen Ground should be praised for remaining as true to its source material as it can and the three brilliant central performances more than make up for the movies misgivings.