Freeze Frame

Though regrettably not inspired by the J. Geils Band song, John Simpson's ludicrous techno-thriller Freeze Frame comes across like a bad cover band whose set list includes such recent hit singles as Memento, Minority Report, and The Blair Witch Project. All these influences have high concepts—Memento with its backward timeline, Minority Report with its preemptive murder investigation, and Blair Witch with its first-person-camera gimmick—but only in service of larger themes about memory, free will, and the ontology of the camcorder, respectively. With its catchy premise about a man falsely accused of murder who constantly records himself to protect against future allegations, Freeze Frame seems natural for an exercise in Kafka-esque paranoia, or perhaps a critique of a system that refuses to let innocent or reformed men lead ordinary lives. But the central conceit yields little more than a trumped-up whodunit, choked with so many talking killers that everyone seems guilty.

When the film opens, it's been nearly 10 years since Lee Evans, a loner accused of killing a mother and her two young daughters, was acquitted on a technicality. With the victims' family, the local police, and expert pathologist Ian McNeice anxious to put him away for good, Evans does what any sane man would do to avoid prison: He walls himself up in a dank, windowless chamber with barred entryways and security cameras everywhere. Since his release, Evans has recorded every minute of his life through multiple in-house cameras and a harness he attaches to his body, and he keeps the footage in a meticulously organized vault for safe keeping. It turns out he has reason to feel paranoid: When the body of a 25-year-old woman surfaces, the authorities finger him for the crime, but when he searches for a taped alibi, he discovers a convenient gap in his video archives.

Compelling as it sounds, the idea behind Freeze Frame doesn't make any sense, especially when realized in practical terms. Setting aside the unreliable nature of video—in which images, time codes, and other "evidence" can be manipulated—Evans' self-surveillance makes a wildly unpredictable and cumbersome alibi. Why not make some friends or get a job? If he's so intent on filming himself, why not rent a small studio apartment rather than a massive, poorly lit warehouse that takes 90 cameras to cover the space, dooming him to an eternity of labeling and filing? When the authorities finally close in on Evans, his screams and cries reverberate around his self-styled dungeon, but if this crazed paranoia is his life, then it seems like hard time would be sweet relief.

Filed Under: Film

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