The Frozen Ground

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Frozen Ground Movie Poster Image
Bleak, very violent, but compelling serial killer story.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 105 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

This is a very pessimistic movie. It takes place in a world in which girls can get mistreated by their parents and run away, only to find no other options besides prostitution or stripping, and in which police are hamstrung by the law. Not even catching the bad guy seems to help much, in the grand scheme of things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main police sergeant is a brave man who's dedicated to helping others and risks his life and job to catch the bad guy and protect the good guys. He truly seems to care. But he's the only positive example here.

A serial killer kidnaps, ties up, tortures, rapes, and murders prostitutes and runaways. All of this is discussed frequently, though only one victim is shown. She gets away, but she's shown being tied up and taunted; her rape is described verbally. She also talks vaguely about being abused as a child, and she's chased, threatened, and terrorized several other times during the movie. Male characters are beaten and shot in the head. A decomposed body is briefly shown. There's some general yelling and tension, and a bloody nose is shown. The movie closes with photographs of many of the killer's real-life victims.
Some scenes take place inside a strip club, and several topless women are shown. One or two naked female bottoms are shown. Prostitutes are shown. The killer's sexual activities are discussed; he explains that he goes to prostitutes because he doesn't like his wife to perform certain oral activities on him.
Language is very strong and includes "f--k," "s--t," the "N" word," "c--t," "bitch," "whore," "Goddamn," "hell," "Jesus," and more.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The teen prostitute is shown smoking lots of cigarettes. She's given some crystal meth before going onstage and stripping for the first time. She also snorts some cocaine and overdoses, but she survives. The hero drinks a whisky at home after work.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Frozen Ground is based on a true story about a man who raped and killed many women in Alaska. Though not everything is shown, the material is very strong and isn't recommended for kids or teens. A young woman (played by High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens) is kidnapped, tied up, and taunted. She later describes being raped, though it's not shown. Male characters are beat up and shot in the head. Scenes take place in a strip club, and several topless women are shown; sex acts are described. Language is very strong, with uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," the "N" word, and more. The teen character is shown smoking many cigarettes, trying crystal meth for the first time, and overdosing (non-fatally) on cocaine. The movie closes with photographs of many of the killer's real-life victims.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byprabuchiyan June 18, 2015
Adult Written bywonder dove October 15, 2013

Chilling & Realistic

The Frozen Ground was an intense solid crime thriller that really pulls you in. I'm not a fan of Vanessa Hudgens but she did fantastic and her acting was b... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bystolton05 October 5, 2018

Too Much Nudity

Unless you are comfortable with your kids hearing about rape, and murder don't let them watch it. Their is also uncovered women parading around the strip c... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byone direction March 22, 2014

Not for kids

This movie is not for kids because of swearing and a lot of sexuality but other than that i liked it.

What's the story?

In 1983, young women keep disappearing from the Anchorage, Alaska, area. Sgt. Jack Holcombe (Nicolas Cage) is about to be transferred when another body turns up. At the same time, prostitute/stripper Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) has just escaped the clutches of potential rapist/murderer Robert Hansen (John Cusack) and has given her report to the police. For Holcombe, it's open and shut, but he must deal with a noncommittal police department that refuses to issue warrants, as well as a skittish witness who doesn't want to get involved. Yet each time Cindy goes into public, her life is in danger. There's only so much time to catch Hansen before another victim loses her life.

Is it any good?

As written and directed by Scott Walker, THE FROZEN GROUND isn't great, but it's surprisingly effective, thanks to its no-frills approach and its care with the actors and characters. Walker keeps his restless camera constantly roving, which is fine when something is happening, but headache-inducing during static conversation scenes. Also, Walker is clearly intending reverence toward the real-life victims, gives the movie an underlying dreariness.
Yet at some point, it starts to work. The characters have an inner life, and the performances are strong, especially a steely-eyed Cage, who here has his best part in some time. As the killer, Cusack is soft spoken but also repellent. He's not an object of fascination, which is a unique and refreshing approach. The movie takes a few silly shortcuts here and there -- and a pimp played by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson seems to be the center for most of them -- but overall this is a decent effort.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Frozen Ground's violence. How much is shown and not shown? Which has more impact, and why?
  • Is it shocking to see former Disney starlet Hudgens in such a dark role? Is she too young for this kind of character?
  • How does the portrayal of the serial killer in this movie differ from other movie serial killers, like, say, Hannibal Lecter?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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