A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
Positive Role Models & Representations
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: August 23, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: October 1, 2013
- Cast: John Cusack, Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens
- Director: Scott Walker
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violent content, sexuality/nudity, language and drug use
- Last updated: September 1, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love thrills
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch