Frozen Scream (1975)
WRITERS: Screenplay by Doug Ferrin, Michael Soney & Celeste Hammond
Story by Renee Harmon & Doug Ferrin
DIRECTOR: Frank Roach
STARRING: Renee Harmon as Lil Stanhope
Lynne Kocol as Ann Girard
Thomas Gowen as Kevin McGuire
Wolf Muser as Tom Girard
Bob Rochelle as Kirk Richard
Lee James as Sven Johnson
Sunny Bartholomew as Cathrin
Wayne Liebman as Father O'Brien
QUICK CUT: When one man dies, a cop reunites with his lost love, and the pair of them try to get to the heart of the mystery behind a strange group of cloaked figures, and frozen zombies. Yeeeah, this is a weird one.
Ann - The wife of one of the first victims in the movie. She's certain that there was foul play, no matter how many people tell her otherwise, and does her damnedest to try and figure out just what is really going on. And if she ever figures it out, maybe she'll tell me.
Tom - Ann's husband, who exits the movie pretty early on. But that doesn't stop him from being in the rest of the flick. He's got a thing with living forever, and after he dies, he keeps bugging his wife.
Kevin - The detective investigating a series of unrelated disappearances that all start to tie together when Tom Girard dies mysteriously, and he's reunited with Ann, the woman he once loved. And boy does he like voiceovers.
Doctor Sven Johnson - The mastermind behind the frozen zombie project, a man obsessed with immortality, and not particularly bothered with morality.
Lil - The doctor's assistant and fellow doctor, who JUST so happens to also be Ann's doctor. She's pretty much on the same page as Sven when it comes to morals, and she's loyal to him and the cause.
Father O'Brien - A local priest who strangely seems involved for no particular reason other than the plot dropping a priest into it. He's a source of comfort to several people, but also keeps his mouth shut when the cops come around. Pesky rules of confessions.
Cathrin - One of the many subjects of the frozen zombie project, and the nurse assigned to watch over Ann and make sure she doesn't find out too much...er, I mean, doesn't over exert herself after she passed out and had an episode from her husband's death! Yes, yes, that's what I meant. She's strangely cold and emotionless, and also loyal to her creator.
THE GUTS: Merry Boxing Day! Since this isn't a Christmas movie, I decided to hold this month's final review for the usual day. And because it will probably make you wanna punch someone in the face.
This WAS going to be the movie that was going to kick off the month, but it was HARD to find. I'm also not 100% sure of the copy I got, but they do work with Amazon so I ran with it. Instead, you get this really weird movie to wrap up 2014, called Frozen Scream. And finishing up the year on a really weird note feels right.
It's got ice cold frozen zombies and weird cults. How bad can it be?
We kick this thing off with not one, but TWO voiceovers about immortality. Not only do we get someone blathering pretentiously about how the search for immortality is consumed by death, but then we get a hard boiled detective's thoughts on why would anyone WANT immortality??
Ohh yes, we've got the hard boiled, noirish Blade Runner narration going in full force here. This movie is gonna be *great*.
The movie screeches wildly from that to a couple getting murdered in their pool. And I mean that quite literally. I think a cat was killed for the sound they used. It is so jarring, so sudden, and SO DAMNED SILLY, I actually started laughing at the movie while people where getting their brains smashed in. This is either a terrible sign, or the best sign ever.
I'm not gonna lie. Starting off with two random killings by a guy in a hooded robe, making crazy bug eyes, and with two competing overwrought voice overs? This movie has me sold and the credits aren't even rolling yet!
We watch another cultist carrying a woman, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to assume it's the one from the pool? Anyways, she gets left on the doorstep of a motel, where she's brought into a lab, cleaned up a bit, and a tiny disc-like thing slapped on her neck.
THEN we jump straight to another woman, Ann, calling her husband Tom to let him know she won't be home for awhile because of the weather. Okay movie, we are NOT EVEN five minutes in, and you gotta slow down and give me something, because I should not be losing track of who's who this early in. We are approaching Pod People level of juggling plotlines.
Names are helpful, yes.
Tom gets off the phone and worriedly calls a priest, probably to exorcise this movie. Or possibly to seek counsel for the state of his soul after being in it.
His phone immediately rings again, and Tom answers the laughing telemarketer, telling him the 'angels' will be there for him soon. Moohoowahahaha. And if you think I'm joking, that's pretty much the exact laugh. Oh yes, this movie just gets better and better.
Tom starts to get panicky and calls the cops, but gets interrupted when he hears something smashing, and goes to investigate with a firearm.
Which is when our friendly blackcloaks arrive and give Tom a fright. And get shot for their jumping out of the doorway. I have never before seen a guy get chased down a stairway by a rolling, shot body before...but I now have. Frozen Scream, everyone!
He rushes for the door, and there's another blackcloak out there, jumping right at the camera. Tom shoots that guy right in the face, but the guy behind him stops rolling and grabs him from behind. The pair grab a needle and inject Tom with whatever it is, gleefully grinning and awfully acting the entire time.
They hear Ann come home and run away like Brave Sir Robin, but not before making her scream off camera. Ahh, low budget filmmaking when the actor's not around.
We find Ann in the hospital, where she's being tended to by Arianna Huffington's long lost cousin, if I judge by her accent. Anne tries to talk about what happened in the hallway, but no one will believe her stories of cloaked thugs grabbing her and drugging her. They just say she's just having a bad mental reaction to Tom's 'heart attack'.
Those two continue to talk, but we can't hear what they're saying very well, because Sergeant Kevin McGuire interrupts so he can Blade Runner all over their dialogue. He explains that he's the guy Tom called and he was investigating those earlier two murder/disappearances we saw.
Kevin explains how he arrived on the scene to find one of Tom's colleague's there, and no signs of a struggle or needles or anything, but it was too suspicious! Hmm, almost like there was someone there who could have cleaned it all up! Who could that be!
He shows up at the hospital to talk to Arianna...er, Lil Stanhope, who just so happens to be *another* associate of Doctor Johnson's, AND Ann's doctor. Could they all be lying together??
A clue: Yes.
I'm not sure what makes this movie harder to understand. The myriad of plots thrown at you in the first two minutes, the competing voiceovers, which also compete with on-screen dialogue, or the accents on certain characters. It is like someone went, "Okay, how can we make this plot as murky and indecipherable as possible, while ALSO clearing things up with handy VO explanations??"
Kevin tries to visit Ann, but Lil tells him she's just been sedated, and he'll have to see her another time. He sees through it though, "A pretty bad acting job, I'd say!" Yeah, and YOU said it, not me!!
While Lil meets up with Doc Johnson to talk worriedly about cops poking around their lies, Kevin comes back in with his overhead voice to drown them out. Heaven forbid they say something important.
But McGuire buggers off after dropping the plot complication that he almost married Ann himself. Made all the better that in his voiceover, McGuire outright says he sees this as a chance to win Ann back. Tom's not even buried yet!!
Then Lil drops the bombshell of the doctor's 'cold, immortal creations'. That...that's kind of a total undercutting of payoff for your entire plot right there, isn't it? Talk about anticlimactic.
I would say things get surreal at this point, but the movie is already pretty surreal. And yet, somehow manages to find new depths as Ann has a nightmare of her husband as one of the blackcloaks and a weird ceremony.
It's just...really weird, and involves stripping, skulls, removing clothes, and just generally what the heckness.
Lil decides its time for Ann to go home though, and on the drive she tries to convince Anne to hang around the university to keep an eye on...er, to mingle with people and get back into things. But Ann is upset with Arianna here, because she's not helping her decipher her strange dreams.
Lady, not even Freud is ready for THAT task.
The movie randomly flashes back to an earlier Tom, gathering with Johnson, and Lil, and the priest, and everyone else, including a woman named Cathrin, who isn't bothered by the cold, and people comment on her being cold, and I don't think they mean her attitude! Whatever could they be referring to??
Johnson drags Tom aside because he's saying too much in front of Ann, and there is just some hilarious dialogue here. Tom is chewing scenery with the best of them.
Meanwhile, a blackcloak finds a woman in her garage and axes her in the face. No reason, just...felt like killin' someone, I guess.
Back on the beach, Johnson explains that he's decided to end his class on this Halloween night, because it's symbolic of death and resurrection, and hands the speech over to the priest. He waxes poetic about fire and Jesus, and rebirth. And somehow manages to not mention a phoenix.
All the students start chanting about "Love and immortality" and nooo, this doesn't sound cultish at all. While they're being indoctrinated, the priest hangs out with Tom and they talk about paganism and immortality, and whatever.
While Tom and the priest head off to have a private talk, Cathrin strips down and starts swaying nakedly around the fire. Which feels more common at a college event than I'd like to admit, honestly...
Finally back in the present day, Lil drops Ann off at home, where she gets one of the classic scares when her husband appears in the mirror. But wait, there's more! They tweak that classic moment where she would turn around and not see anything...but instead finding Cathrin there!
That...doesn't make ANY sense, but it's a cool double twist that makes a common use of the mirror scare actually fresh.
A good moment that's quickly ruined by another voiceover, this time going back to Lil telling us that death is nothing more than a changed state of living, that can sometimes be cured. Uhh...
Which leads into her and the doctor talking about the ethics of tampering with nature. Doctors do it all the time, it's pretty much their job description! That makes it okay! Yeah, I'm sure that's what Mengele said too. And is this movie really the place for deep, philosophical, ethical quandaries?
And that leads into ANOTHER surreal scene as Lil talks about her husband's death, and how that made her feel...and eventually another flashback of her swaying around a candle, as what I can only describe as clanging swords fight on the soundtrack.
So of COURSE Kevin gets jealous at the other voice over, and decides to interrupt and moan about Ann running off to be with Tom, just as Lil cuts her wrist, and drinks the blood and...What even is this movie?! None of these things go together!
That wraps up and we slip back to a relative level of reality, with Ann going back to school, and watching Lil talking more about immortality. WE GET IT. YOU WANT PEOPLE TO LIVE FOREVER!
But it gets better when she blurts out the line that, "All men must die". Seriously? That line, and frozen zombies? Did George RR Martin see this and have the ideas stick in his head for decades, gestating to come back as A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones?
I *do* really like the metaphor that we can repair machines, and we've gotten better at maintaining our bodies, and medicines, and all that. There IS an idea there of prolonged life. We've all seen lifespans increase. But immortality of the sort they want, I don't think will happen. Our consciousnesses may one day persevere, but I don't think we can ever endlessly keep our bodies we started with going.
Unless we're talking bogus movie science, like these guys.
That's when Officer Voiceover wanders back into the actual plot, and he and Ann talk about things, catch up, and have ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHEMISTRY. Each and every line they deliver just falls dead out of their mouths.
Kevin and Ann grab a meal to talk about the case, while Cathrin reports back to her masters. Kevin tells Anne his suspicions, but she won't believe it. Gee, only minutes ago she was the person telling unbelievable stories. You would think she'd be more receptive.
I like that when Kevin insinuates Tom's involved in the earlier disappearances, Ann storms right off, and blames Kevin for trying to toss his competition under the bus. That is the single most realistic thing in this movie, and something seen too rarely in movies.
He's too recently dead, she DID love him, and if someone you know still carrying a torch for you tried to tarnish your husband's name, of COURSE you would see it as an attempt to get back together.
While they hatch their scheme to figure out what the plot of this movie is, things get murkier as Johnson checks over Cathrin. He and Arianna talk about the instability of their creations, and how they have a bit of a tendency to go a bit mad. And apparently gain a taste for dressing in cloaks.
They also try and explain what they're doing, using circuitry to maintain the body's temperature at a low state, to retard the aging process, and cause eternal youth. Yeah, okay, if you say so... There's a huge gulf between 'slow the aging process' and 'eternally young'.
Meanwhile, similar information is being given by the priest to the borenamic duo on the case. He mentions Tom experimenting on rats, wondering if they have souls, using curare poison to kill them, then reviving them in much the same way. But they'd come back with altered personalities.
Okay, I have the solution for the problems here. It's the cold. This whole sour disposition goes back to keeping the revived bodies cold. If I was back from the dead, but constantly chilly? Yeah, I'd be pissed off too.
After their visit, Father O'Brien gets visited by some of the blackcloaks and pays the price for knowing too much.
Later, Ann gets a call from beyond the grave, as Tom decides to let her know that he's cold. And lonely. And wolves are after him.
Before she can properly freak out over that, the blackcloaks arrive to chase her around the empty house.
She calls Kevin, but then Tom appears to her, and as she tries to find Cathrin to protect her, she gets pounced on by one of her attackers, and threatened with a knife. And bonus, he tells her that Tom says hell is cold and lonely. He was right there! Tom could have easily delivered that message himself!
Cathrin finally arrives and Ann demands to know where she was, and if she saw anyone. She says she didn't see a soul.
Get it? Because the frozen zombies don't have souls? So she's not lying?
Back at Deep 13, they're talking about Ann becoming a problem, and Johnson wants to kill her and bring her back, to sway her to their side. Or, y'know...JUST kill her? Why go the extra three steps?
They keep experimenting on their zombies, slicing them open and timing the healing process, which they've gotten down to a few seconds.
Let me get this straight; they chill the dead to slow the aging process, which ALSO somehow *accelerates* the metabolism of the healing process. I...don't think things work that way. I'd imagine slowing one slows the others but... SCIENCE!
Kevin and Ann figure out that the nurse is in on things, and that he believes her now, even though he's still not sure about the Tombie.
He sends Ann into the lion's den to find some files and evidence, but because we haven't had a voiceover for awhile, he butts in to wonder why Ann hasn't said she loves him yet. IS THIS REALLY THE TIME AND PLACE?? Let it go!
They continue to plot, and Ann is sure she can uncover more at Johnson's annual Halloween party. How does he find the time to throw a Halloween party and have his regular campfire naked dance off?
And this is where the movie kinda derails a bit. Ever seen an old monster movie from the 50s? Where they would randomly throw in a party with a band to pad things out, or throw in some music, or give a shout out to some friends with a band? Well, that tradition was still alive in the mid-70s, I guess, or at least in Frozen Scream it was.
At least there is an excuse of a party, but it still comes off as very much of a throwback, especially in the way they really focus in on the band, that has zero to do with the plot. It gets even better that the songs are recognisable, but the melodies are off JUST enough, and the lyrics are JUST different enough that they're not the real songs.
Meanwhile, Cathrin is dancing up a storm, until she collapses. Her partner assumes she's dead, but I'm not sure if she's just dead, or is she DEAD dead?
Ann sneaks downstairs when no one is looking, and finds the secret zomboratory. Doctor Johnson and head blackcloak Kirk arrive though and she overhears them plotting to do away with her.
Once the coast is clear, she sneaks back up to the yard, and stares at her husband standing naked in a window, while Kirk strangles a puppy in the bushes.
Well, that answers the soul question, doesn't it?
And the party and dancing continues, despite someone having literally died on the ground they're tromping over! Woo! Did they even move her body?
Kevin comes running when Ann calls him, but that still leaves her plenty of time to wander around and look into unconnected hallways and rooms...er, a very large house that is not made up of various sets and locations!
She eventually comes across the room where Tom, and friends are being stored in a freezer to keep their freshness preserved.
The frozombies awaken and she casually strolls off to hide. Kevin finds her, and asks her why she's hiding in such a voice that just defies description. It's almost like when you call that person you like and are like, "Soooo, whathca doooin'?"
Our heroes rush back to the meat locker, but the blackcloaks are already outside it, and gloating that the door is locked. Well, sure, fine, but you're outside it, and they were looking for you anyways, so...kinda pointless.
But at least we get badly choreographed fight scenes!
Kevin runs off to find Ann, but stops in the road and gets hit by a random car in the middle of the night on a lonely country road. That may be the most ignoble way of going out ever. Saved only by Kevin not quite dying yet.
Elsewhere, Ann is still running around, and is suddenly somehow in the warehouse district. She tries to hide behind a dumpster, but has apparently walked into a wino's living room. He gets thrown around by a blackcloak as the chase continues, and ultimately survives.
Well, that was pointless.
She hides for the briefest of moments before the watchman shows up, and before you can say Silk Spectre, he rushes off at some noise and gets a shard of glass or mirror in the face.
Well, that was also pointless. Albeit slightly less so thanks to stabby.
Ann continues to hide, but eventually Kirk shows up, with Lil not far behind to stop him before he does anything TOO bad to her. Sigh. The doctor says do what he wants. Zsa Zsa here says no. This is why having too many people in charge never works.
Kirk starts acting weird - er, weirder - as Lil tells him its over for him, he's burning up, immortals live in the cool of the clouds, but he's in Hell. Just when the movie can't get any more weirdly, pretentiously poetic.
Or maybe Lil just turned the heat up, and the frozombies can't take the heat, OR get out of the kitchen, so just end up dying instead.
I tell ya, I have never seen a zombie killed by increasing the thermostat before, but here we are.
Which leads to Ann strapped down to a table in the zomboratory, where Doctor Johnson tells her if she'd just minded her business at the party, this would not have happened.
Umm, except for all that talk about doing exactly this to her a few days ago?
The doctor takes this opportunity to try and explain what he's done, but the technobabble is just making my head hurt. On the one hand, THIS is when you should have this scene, yes, but you've also gone and done it repeatedly during the movie. Making this not only repetitively unnecessary, but also failing to make it coherent at this stage of the game.
Not only did the movie blow its explanation too soon, it's also built up such a weird feeling and tone thus far, you don't care when it tries again when it should. Everything about this movie's style and storytelling is just wrong.
But they do get into Tom agreeing to fake suicide, but then wanting to back out at the last minute. But it was too late! Once started, the procedure could not be stopped! Yes, well, that doesn't mean you had to KILL HIM! You could've had him fallen ill, done your thing, then had him continue on with his life.
If Sven Johnson isn't a cousin of Cave Johnson, I will be sorely surprised. They both have that same level of silly planning.
Ann naturally doesn't want to go along with this either, but the doctor leaves her little choice in the matter. And with an additional operation, she'll be 'quite pleasant and manageable!'
She's getting a zombotomy!! Best word ever.
Lil, however, was not in on THAT part of the plan and shoots the doctor in the neck, or whatever. And he gurgles in such a satisfyingly hilarious way. I think he may have just made the Murloc sound.
With the doctor taken care of, Lil asks Ann if she'll help her perfect the process, and Ann's reaction is pretty much, "What?? NO!"
But the opportunity to be free is too good to pass up, so Ann eventually agrees if the straps are undone. Lil says she trusts Ann, although we've seen no reason why she would. And really, she shouldn't.
The first thing Ann does once she's freed is flip a switch that magically makes lots of equipment explode, spark, or just generally flame out. Because that's how technology works!
But Tom may be dead, along with the rest of the frozombies hooked up down there, but there's still the serum, so the experiments can go on!
Father O'Brien walks in from just off camera, and Ann pleads for the man of God to help. She should've been suspicious that he just so happened to wander into the underground zomboratory from just off camera.
Another hilarious thing with this movie is that every time someone says or does something important, or something important is shown, or there's a reveal, they do this amazing sound. This "BWOOOWWWW" noise. If George RR Martin didn't see this for inspiration, Christopher Nolan certainly did.
So, Ann gets injected by the serum, and implanted with the tech, and they all go to visit Offiver Voiceover, who's ability to talk over the movie, survived the car crash.
Ann finally tells Kevin she loves him, something he's been whining about her not saying for the entire movie. But she's cold and emotionless about it, which is quite a trick to pull off considering her total lack of emotion so far.
But Kevin realises what has happened, and is visibly disgusted that what he's always wanted has been given to him. Geeze, ungrateful much?
If that wasn't enough, the movie literally ends with a needle coming straight at the camera, like you're Kevin about to be jabbed, unable to do anything other than watch and scream.
Aaaand that's how we end. With the bad guys not really dead, or even defeated, and our only heroes being converted to their cause through various means. Well, that's a downer.
But Captain Voiceover and Anne will be together forever. No termination date. He doesn't know how long they'll have together...who does?
Video: Oof. This is not great. I cleaned it up quite a bit. It's dull, grainy, washed out, and needs to be cleaned up so much. There's still much worse out there, but this is way below average.
Audio: Honestly, better than the video. Although a lot of the dialogue sounds very ADR. Especially Officer Voiceover. But NOT when he's voiceovering. Well yes, then too, but even when he's on screen. The dialogue is largely understandable, when it's not being swallowed by accents or technobabble. For a mono track, it's doable.
Sound Bite: "Listen, Tom, I'm not going to let your little guilt trip spoil this project!" "I'm not going to guilt! I'M GOING TO HELL!" The single best cinematic moment I've seen all year.
Body Count: I know we're talking dead and resurrection and coming back, but if someone dies, even briefly, I count it. It's just easier.
1 - Barely a minute in, and some poor schmuck is already getting himself killed to death by a robed cultist.
2 - Followed so very quickly by the girl with him being strangled and left in the pool to drown.
3 - And Tom's just waiting to jump on the death train by having an *ahem* heart attack.
4 - Random girl gets axed in the face by a blackcloak. I still don't know what the point of this scene was.
5 - Father O'Brien gets strangled in the confessional.
6 - Cathrin overheats while dancing
7 - One of the zombies might have bit it when Kevin rips his throat out. Somehow.
8 - Random security guard gets his brain stabbed by glass.
9 - Kirk dies from overheating
10 - Lil kills Doctor Johnson to stop his mad need to freeze dry people.
11 - Tom and a bunch of frozombies die at Ann's explosive touch.
12 - Ann technically dies to become a frozombie with a zombotomy.
13 - Kevin technically dies as the movie ends to become a frozombie.
Best Corpse: The random ones seem to be the best kills in the movie. The poor random woman with the axe to the face is probably my fave.
Blood Type - C+: Splatters here and there.
Sex Appeal: Cathrin seems to be averse to wearing clothes.
Drink Up! every time I misspell Anne as "Anne" in the review! Or whenever there's a voiceover, if you prefer.
Sights and Sounds: I am giving y'all something special for Christmas, THREE clips from the movie. Because this is a weird mess of a movie. The first is the amazingly over the top line delivery about the guilt trip, the second is the legitimately great moment with the mirror, and the final clip is Dr. Johnson's death gurgle. Because it made me giggle.
Movie Review: Gyah, this one is bad. It is so damned weird, the plot is ALL over the place. It's juggling ideas, voiceovers, bad acting. I am hard pressed to find ANYthing good here. The audio is weirdly ADRish. The movie is on one level this bizarre zombie scifi adventure, then it tries to get super philosophical, and it does that a LOT. It has no consistent tone, it veers from a silly zombie killer movie that then throws out over the top philosophical notions on immortality. It's almost a 50s throwback monster movie in its ideas, and it's just...what IS this movie?! The best thing I can say is, underneath it all, there IS a plot. Kinda. Two out of five zombie neck patches. And that's only because they pull off a few neat tricks and some weird atmosphere.
Entertainment Value: And Trisk ends 2014 with what may be the SINGLE most entertaining movie I've seen all year. I was laughing and shaking my head and shouting WHAT so frequently during this. The acting is woodenly awful, which makes them pointing out how cold and emotionless the frozombies are extra hilarious. HOW CAN YOU TELL! The voiceovers are amazingly pointless, talk over the actual movie, and just such a weird addition that makes the movie noirish on top of everything else. The science is absurd. There is not a moment in this film that is not baffling on some level. And I love every moment of it. This movie is surreal, a trip, and just so damned *weird*. Even just the rough idea of a scientist killing people and freezing them to make immortal zombies as the next stage of human evolution and to defeat death? Frozen Scream starts at 'crazy' and shoots for the stars. Five out of five overwrought voiceovers.