Matthew Cooper Director looks at Frozen Ground (2013)

As a freelance film director for hire, script consultant and script writer for hire I thought it was interesting that this week the number one movie on Netflix was Frozen Ground which was made in 2013 and went quickly to DVD at the time it was released.   Not a big hit, not really well known, yet it was the number one movie on Netflix and is still high in the charts as I write this.  The question I guess is why?

I actually saw Frozen Ground in 2013, and I remember it.  Based on a true story, it was gritty, had some good location photography and decent low key performances from Nic Cage and John Cusack. This true story of a serial rapist and killer was disturbing and unpleasant – but the film tried to keep things real and have some semblance of taste out of respect for the real victims (or at least I felt it did, and I felt it on the second viewing too – that the film kept a level of distance from some of the killings as these were real people).

Was the film memorable? I remember the cold location photography, and it was unusual to see Cusack playing a really bad guy – an evil man.  Apart from that, it was an okay, very watchable film based on a very unpleasant real case.  The film is well made, but it’s not some sort of undiscovered gem (or is it?).

 So, why did it fly in at number one?  Was it the presence of Cage and Cusack?  Was it the trailer? Was the thumbnail picture on the Netflix glallery? Was it the subject material – let’s face it Netflix loves a serial killer true story?  Was it a mix of all this?  Was it a film that suddenly, out of nowhere suddenly found its audience on a streaming platform in the middle of a pandemic?  I think yes, to all of these, and I think we might see more of these ‘breakout’ older, lesser known films suddenly smash Netflix.

The director of this film Scott Walker has only one feature film credit – this film, and back in 2013 Frozen Ground was due for a wide cinema release after testing well with audiences and receiving pretty decent critical feedback.   But for various reasons the film never had the release (two studios merged) and the film was dumped.  Leaving director Walker kind of stranded, he would have become a footnote if not for Netflix, and now seven years later, director Walker is suddenly a hot property and his phone is ringing off the hook.

It’s estimated that 100 million people have now seen Frozen Ground in the last few weeks. That’s a huge, gigantic audience for a film, an unexpected bonus and manna from heaven for Walker.   But, the key take away here, is that Netflix should take note of this.  Frozen Ground is old content, a good film, not seen by many, and there are a lot of undiscovered films (often made by major studios) that never got the attention they deserved (stuff like Miracle Mile and Sorcerer) these films, presented to new audiences on a platform that didn’t exist when the films were made could become huge hits for Netflix if treated in the correct manner.  Netflix must take note.

As well as being a freelance film director for hire, Matthew has also enjoyed a long career as a script writer for hire he’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.

Matthew’s directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham was released in 2020

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.

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