Barbara Hoffman is a University of Wisconsin science student. She is also a part-time employee at a local massage parlor (read: prostitute), while listing 'killer of men for their life insurance' as one of her hobbies. Now all Detective Lulling has to do is prove it (the murder part, that is). Based on the 1990 book by the same name by Karl Harter, which in turn is based on the real-life 1980 case in Madison, Wisconsin.
I'm up in the air when it comes to these films that are 'based on a true story', since a sizeable portion of the films that slap this on the front cover of the DVD case/onesheet/trailer tend to take artistic liberties and make the resultant film out to be something that's a half-truth. A marketing gimmick, if you will, trying to spice things up when it makes the film crappier than it should be. That's not to say there aren't good movies that take advantage of the real-life events (ZODIAC, anyone?). That's also not to say there aren't films that fall in the middle of the road, either.
One of the things that comes to mind while watching this film is how good the acting is by everyone involved. Keith Carradine did a great job in his role as Detective Lulling, and seemed to be enjoying himself while doing it, which comes through in the performance. Brendon Sexton also impressed me with his job as Ms. Hoffman's shy and manipulated fiancÚ, Jerry Davies. Speaking of Hoffman, Thora Birch does well as a smart yet seductive tease (especially in lingerie). It made the rumours of her showing the full monty in this film that much more depressing (it didn't happen).
Director Eric Mandelbaum does his job crafting a sort of eerie feeling to the entire film. I'm not quite sure what to call it, but I think it's due to the rather sparse soundtrack. That, and the fact that the film really does feel like it's out of the 70s, as the costumes and color schemes at times really suck you in.
The only problem I had with the film was the script, though not in the usual way. The film is well-researched and detailed, almost to the point of being too detailed. Every character was equally developed, and developed well, with some good dialogue and interaction between them. Unfortunately, this detailing tends to bog the film down in spots, as the flow of the film is interrupted at times by the switching back and forth between past events and the present. It's nice that the writers took the time to flesh everything out, but it seems that they went overboard in spots.
Overall, the film rides on the strength of the performances by everyone involved, as well as the script, which both hurts and hinders the film. If the pacing picked up a bit more, while still maintaining the depth of the characters, it would've kept my attention for much longer than it did. It's one of those films that lacks the consistent events that maintains your interest. Crime buffs will enjoy it, but not as much as they would with ZODIAC.
Video: Being that this is a promo copy, the final look of the film may differ. That said, the 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen has a distinct look to it that makes the film seem like it's older than it is. Colour and clarity are quite good, though there are spots where film noise is more apparent than others. Also, there's the fact that it's non-anamorphic, which doesn't make much sense, but might just be the promo copy.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track is okay. While dialogue is clear without any distortion, it's flat, overall. Nothing really jumps out at you, nor are there any particular transition effects. Again, might just be the promo copy.
First up is a Keith Carradine Interview, which for some reason has the audio in the left channel only. Add to that the fact that the interview focuses more on the woman interviewing Carradine than Carradine himself, it's not as enjoyable as it should be, since Carradine makes for an interesting listen regarding his own career and acting in general.
Next is a Behind The Scenes featurette with the same lady from the Carradine interview, and again features the same audio problem. Made up of sit-down interviews spliced in with some behind-the-scenes footage, it lacks any input from Birch or more from Carradine. Also, the woman interviewing everyone makes sure to remind the audience again and again just what movie they're talking about, which is obviously so much fun to hear.
Following that is True Crime: Behind The Headlines, which is more or less an overview of the real-life case told through slides and lasting 2 minutes. Really, the information should've been integrated into the next featurette.
About The Author takes a look at Karl Harter, the author behind the book the film is based on. Again, told through slides of text, it really would have been better to just have the actual interview footage or audio, rather than reading it. Really, you buy a DVD to watch a film, not spend it reading.
Topping everything off is the trailer for the film, as well as trailers for other Monterey Media films.
An intriguing story with some good performances by the actors involved, but unfortunately gets bogged down by the script, WINTER OF FROZEN DREAMS is one of those films you'll watch, but probably won't revisit. The same goes for the extras of the film, which look to have been shot on whatever money the crew had left over. Those wanting to see Thora Birch follow in the footsteps of her parents (Google it, you'll know what I mean) will have to keep waiting.