Frozen Scream (1981), by Frank Roach

Renee Harmon returns again! I'm not reviewing her films in a very good order--really, I should have given her time to shine in Lady Street Fighter first. But Escape from the Insane Asylum was not a terrible place to start, and Frozen Scream is an excellent way to continue. After all, Escape from the Insane Asylum used stock footage from Frozen Scream! There are a surprising amount of things that use stock footage from Frozen Scream, as bits of it show up in Bryan's Run Coyote Run as well. Add in the fact that Frozen Scream shares that awesome soundtrack with Don't Go in the Woods and you begin to see the amazing James Bryan-Renee Harmon-Frank Roach web that extends through the '80s. Frozen Scream is  yet another Trash Cornerstone, a film without which a proper definition  of These Sorts of Movies is not possible. This one's been long overdue,  so let's take a look!

We open with Renee Harmon,  German accent thicker than ever, narrating over footage of the ocean,  which we'll return to several times: "Ever since the creation of man,  man has dreamed of immortality. But his pursuit of eternal life is  always devoured by death itself." Yeah, that's usually a true statement.  Following this we go to the home of Tom Girard, who appears to be under  duress as he calls his wife Ann. It turns out his stress has reason;  there are black-hooded men trying to break into his house. Eventually  they catch him and inject him with something, and next we know Ann is  the hospital, having broken down over Tom's mysterious death. The  doctors say it was a heart attack but Ann knows better, and with the aid  of her cop ex-boyfriend Kevin she intends to get to the bottom of  things. She and Tom used to be part of a study led by Renee Harmon, a  study concerned with turning its participants into immortals. It seems  it all began with mind-expansion experiments involving meditation, but  eventually led up to surgeries that turned the participants into the  dark-robed creatures we saw at the beginning. It seems immortality comes  at a price, and Ann and Kevin will soon learn how cold and lonely Hell  is.

Frozen Scream is over before you know it,  and its relatively bare-bones plot had continued to elude a lot of the  people I've shown the movie to. The movie approaches the plot strangely,  placing events out of order and being too vague in some places. It's  never made entirely clear how the scientific processes used to make the  zombies overlap with the immortality group's philosophical musings about  "love and immortality." It appears very dream-like, but it's not clear  if this is deliberate. It's surreal in the same way that Don't Go in the Woods is,  but I know that that movie's quirks were intentional. Frank Roach and  James Bryan are very similar filmmakers--I know from Roach's other  effort, Nomad Riders, which I always confuse with Bryan's lesser Hell Riders, also featuring Harmon. I wouldn't be too surprised if there was some tongue-in-cheekness to Frozen Scream's creation, much as there was with Don't Go in the Woods. It seems like there's a method to the madness.

Of  course, it may also be simple cheapness. This movie is edited like if  it runs over 85 minutes, everyone involved with it will die. That leads  to scenes like Kevin giving one of his oddly-omnipresent voiceovers  during a surreal sequence where Renee Harmon slits her wrists and drinks  her own blood. It comes across as goofy, and forced, as if we're  supposed to know that Kevin's interruptions are basically for the  purpose of throwing in tawdry exposition. The movie can't decide if  Kevin or Ann is the protagonist...we have more of a stake in Ann than  Kevin, but Kevin gets the voiceovers and the ending. It's an uncanny  mix, but a captivating one. As a side-note: I'm absolutely positive,  from analyzing these voiceovers countless times over the years, that  Kevin's actor, Thomas McGowan, is the uncredited man who played  Detective Tim O'Malley in Doris Wishman's A Night to Dismember--another movie I need to get to soon.

If nothing else, Frozen Scream is a fun revivification of the sci-fi zombie movies of the past. It reminds me of a more mature and more risk-taking Teenage Zombies, but with boobs and bizarre dream sequences. If you haven't seen Frozen Scream, it really is one of those Bucket List films. Make your cinematic experience a bit more complete and give it a shot.