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Film / Mister Frost

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"The price of action is colossal, and we are
going to hell."

"I do believe in God. And I believe in The Devil. Frost is not mentally ill, Doctor. He has no place at your hospital. You have taken evil under your roof."
Felix Detweiler

Mister Frost is a 1990 Religious Horror film directed by Philippe Setbon, starring Jeff Goldblum, Kathy Baker, and Alan Bates.

A mysterious yet charismatic man, known only as Mister Frost (Goldblum), remains silent for two years after being arrested for the multitude of bodies found beneath his English mansion, until the day he is transferred to yet another European mental hospital and meets the psychiatrist Dr. Sarah Day (Baker), the first and only person he chooses to speak to. As their sessions progress, Frost makes a claim that she had previously been warned about by Felix Detweiller (Bates), the since-disgraced police inspector who first discovered Frost's crimes and has since stalked him across the continent — that claim being that Frost is actually the Devil himself.

Sarah does not believe in God nor Satan, and has a very strong will; she's determined to figure out what's really behind this psychopath's actions, even as Felix (who has taken his own interest in her and her welfare) tries to keep her safe, even as strange events begin to happen to other residents of the asylum and to her. She soon has to face the fact that Frost really is more than what he appears — and that more than her sanity is in danger, because he has a very specific endgame in mind for this doctor-patient relationship.

This film provides examples of:

  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Even after Mister Frost melts her ring in his hand during their second session together, Dr. Day still doesn't see him as anything other than just another crazy patient.
    • And after what heís seen of Frost, Felix stops believing he is the devil... but there is a chance that 1) Frost is making him do that to test Sarah, who he wants to believe in him through her own free will and/or 2) Felix has realized that Frost's power depends on others giving it to him, and is trying to depower him (and save Sarah) by denying it.
  • Attempted Rape: One night, Sarahís colleague, drunk and angry that they had sex once and she never showed interest again, lures her to the hospital under the pretense that there is something wrong with Frost in order to do this. Because he was begging her to get rid of Felix, he may or may not have been pushed to do it by the devil upstairs. The distress of this causes Sarah to confess to Frost that she believes that he is the devil — but he does not think she is sincere.
  • Badass Boast: Frost makes many of these.
    Sarah Day: 24 corpses buried under your lawn, several of them children, all of them tortured to death. I find it hard to imagine a more extreme case.
    Mister Frost: Itís not hard, itís impossible. I am the extreme case. Iím Darkness, Iím The Prince.
  • Berserk Button: To suggest in any way that The Devil is no longer relevant, that humans donít fear or need him anymore, leads to a break in Frostís usual calm.
    • In a related issue he HATES wordiness and being lectured to. During one of his confrontations with Sarah he angrily demands she shut up and claims that his nature and ability are beyond what can be expressed in words — in fact he claims to have created language itself as a tool of concealing truth. He's highly annoyed by her lecturing, especially as he knows what lies beneath it due to his all-seeing nature. Later, when Sarah tries to verbally maintain her disbelief in the face of Frost inducing a nasty nosebleed in the head psychiatrist, Frost shakes his head and softly says it's "Words...just words..."
  • Cassandra Truth: Felix ends up looking mad as he tries to convince police and psychiatrists of Frostís real identity to no avail.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Sarah bolts upright after having a nightmare about Frost.
  • Cold Ham: Mister Frost prefers to be intense — often to the point of being unnervingly calm and/or amiable — rather than loud, though Sarah proves adept at pushing his buttons on several occasions. Indeed, after the two year time skip he won't speak to anyone but Sarah, and only when they are absolutely alone. This doesn't stop him from commanding attention via his gestures and expressions.
  • Cosmic Chess Game: Frost describes his relationship with God, and theirs to humanity, in this manner — "It used to be simple, good on one hand and evil on the other. There was a struggle. We had a game, and yes, we made it up." Humanity putting more belief in science than deities — and believing that Evil doesn't actually exist — is, as far as Frost is concerned, spoiling the game.
  • Crusading Widow: Felix becomes one after losing his wife and working on Frostís case.
  • Deal with the Devil: Frost pines for the days when he regularly struck deals with mortals. In the end, Sarah effectively finds herself in one of these without fully realizing the terms — she accepts that she has to fulfill Frost's desire to die at her hands to stop any more possessions in the asylum, despite it being the ruin of her life. She doesn't consider that Frost can fully possess HER once that body is dead!
  • Downer Ending: In the end, Sarah is locked away after she murders Frost. Not only is her life and mind in ruins, but it is implied Frost will live on through her as his new vessel...or at least trophy.
  • Driven to Suicide: In the third act, Christopher, guilty after waking from his murderous trance, jumps in front of a truck. Inverted with the lead psychiatrist who almost flings himself off the hospital roof, as Sarah begs Frost to let him go (which proves she does believe in his abilities).
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Mister Frost's hair in the opening scenes is short and almost coiffed — befitting some rich yuppie type. Two years on it's almost long enough to touch his shoulders, giving him a wilder look. From the in-universe prospective of those looking after/analyzing him this is likely seen as a signpost of his madness, but he's probably glad to be free of the elegant masquerade he had to uphold while he was committing all those murders. He might also be using his hairstyle to further others' assumption that he's simply a madman to make sure that whoever does come to believe in him comes from a sincere place.
  • Faux Affably Evil: With how friendly and witty he appears, and with the way he has healed people, Frost often comes off this way before people glimpse whatís behind the act. He is, after all, Evil incarnate and could never be anything else at heart. (His explanation for healing Sarah's brother? Good can come of evil and vice versa.)
  • Flies Equals Evil: Downplayed. The odd fly seems attracted to Mister Frost; one can be seen on his chair as his conversation with Detweiller comes to an end at the mansion, and he later uses one crawling upon a window of the asylum as a Literal Surveillance Bug to overhear a conversation in the courtyard below (and once he gets the information he needs, crushes it). A later scene has him actually being annoyed by a buzzing fly and trying to catch it. This is definitely an Actor Allusion to Jeff Goldblum's most famous film and role at the time; a clip of the window scene even opens the film's trailer.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Frost — or rather a vision he sends her — decides to show up and kiss Sarah after Felix does, and she allows it and passionately reciprocates. Before that, there seems to be a slight undertone of Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • God Needs Prayer Badly: People used to worship and sell their souls to the Devil before the acceptance of science caused belief and his power to wane. Weakened and wanting a comeback, he comes to Earth to enact his plan.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Frost is determined to bring Sarah to the point where she'll believe in his abilities — in him — and murder him to stop the possessions; this will not only ruin Sarah's life and career (a doctor murdering a patient!), but also reaffirm/restore his — Satan's — waning power over humanity.
  • Grand Theft Me: Mister Frost's human form might or might not be a case of possession because no authority is ever able to find anything that proves he actually "exists" (i.e., a birth certificate, even a first name). Given his powers, he may have manifested himself, his mansion, and riches from wholecloth as a lure for victims and, later, the authorities. In any case, this trope is implied to happen to Sarah in the end.
  • Humans Are Bastards: When arguing about how obsolete The Devil is, the frustrated Sarah tells him of how people commit more evil than he ever could.
    Sarah Day: If I were to kill you, what would that prove?
    Mister Frost: That you believe in me and that Iím stronger than passing time.
    Sarah Day: "Stronger than passing time." Iíve never understood this ďdevilĒ idea. Itís hopelessly out of date, a faded image. This is a century that belongs to science, knowledge has replaced faith. Babies are produced in laboratories and superpowers have enough nuclear warheads to blow us up thirty times over. Rainforests are being destroyed while football stars make the headlines, and tourists are being murdered by five year olds while their brothers and sisters sell their bodies for crack. That is evil, Mister Frost, thatís your evil. Itís done everyday, itís taken for granted, and man is responsible. This devil is another facet of show business. You know, you remind me very much of a washed up actor who is trying desperately to make a comeback and no one gives a damn.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Frost has these.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: In his Kick the Dog moment, Frost hammers home to Felix why the latter blames himself for his wife's murder.
    Mister Frost: I wanted to talk to you about Carol. You left her at homeÖall alone that night. And those kids got in the house. So senselessÖbut with you at the corner pub. You know what your wifeís last thought on this earth was, Felix? She hated you for not being there to save her life.
    • Made all the worse by the possibility that Frost made it happen and called Felix in to brag about it.
  • Imaginary Enemy: Felix is attacked by the ghost of his wife. It turns out that it was his dog that was attacking him.
  • In Mysterious Ways: Wickedly twisted. Felix points out to Sarah that if God can move in mysterious ways, it makes sense that his eternal opponent Satan can as well, in the form of Mister Frost. Frost later explains to Sarah that this is exactly the case.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Christopher — even when he kills his father and innocent priests and rabbis.
  • Literal Surveillance Bug: Frost uses flies on windows to listen in on what people say.
  • Love at First Sight: What happens when Felix first sees Sarah, a much more benevolent version of when Frost first sees her.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: A complex, twisted example: The film starts with two car thieves breaking into the garage of Frost's mansion and discovering a corpse in the Aston Martin they intend to steal. They flee (Frost silently witnesses this from an upper floor); caught for their crimes a few days later they tell the authorities about the corpse. Felix goes to question Frost about this, and Frost eventually, nonchalantly reveals that he was just burying the body when the former arrived. Frost then reveals he's a serial killer. It's clear he was just waiting for the opportunity to let this trope play out.
  • Misery Builds Character: After Frost reveals to Felix what the latter's murdered wife was thinking in her final moments (she hated him for not being around to save her), he explains to the despairing inspector that he's telling him this because he believes in this trope.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: It seems Frostís first step to his rebirth is for him to be killed — specifically with Sarahís help.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the climactic stretch, Felix intends to use a gun to kill Frost and save Sarah. Unfortunately, while they're having dinner together at her place, she finds it...and unbeknownst to Felix, she is already under Frost's power. She puts the gun back, but after he falls asleep she steals it and uses it to kill Frost herself, meaning The Bad Guy Wins.
  • No Name Given: What he goes by is the only thing anyone knows about him. His name, nationality, birth date, and any other information are a mystery.
    Inspector Corelli: ďFor all intents and purposes, the man simply doesnít exist.Ē
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The audience sees almost nothing of what Frost did to his victims, save for a woman's severed hand when Felix takes up his coat — at Frost's gentle reminder — during their initial meeting. However, Sarah is deeply disturbed upon watching the video of his "trophies", just as Felix was.
  • Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: The coworker she has a one night stand with ends up being this way, possibly with a little "help" from Mister Frost.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Christopher, when he seems to come to.
  • Real Men Cook: Though the food goes to waste — during his very first meeting with Felix, he explains that this is because he has a small appetite and an even smaller number of friends — Frost seems to genuinely enjoy cooking. He takes the trouble to photograph each completed dish before he throws it away, keeping the photos as trophies (much the way he videotaped his murders so he'd have trophies of his victims). He asks for access to the kitchen when arriving at the mental institution, and a pivotal confrontation between him and Sarah takes place there while he's preparing soup.
  • Religious Horror: An unconventional Judeo-Christian example. The 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting review discusses how, given that Mister Frost seems content with regaining and reaffirming his power over humanity and continuing a Cosmic Chess Game with God rather than actively trying to conquer the universe or suchlike, he's a Satan of the Old Testament rather than Newnote .
  • Sanity Slippage: Felix and later Sarah go through this when Frost targets them.
  • Satan: Mister Frost is this in human form — an embodiment of Evil out to remind humanity of its/his existence as a driving force when so many would deign to explain it away as simple mental illness/deviance.
  • Science Is Bad / Science Is Wrong: Mister Frost seems to think so, as itís taken away so much of his power. He needs people to believe in him, and psychology in particular, by diminishing the concept of capital-E Evil as a motivating force and trying to explain the fundamentally unexplainable, has diminished such belief.
    Mister Frost: You take a few years and undid centuries of effort. It used to be simple, good on one hand and evil on the other. There was a struggle. We had a game, and yes, we made it up. But then you came along, the scientists, the geniuses. You know, you couldnít care less about the human spirit. Youíre in your heads, youíre half-hearted, you believe in nothing. There was a time when people sold their souls! To me, for youth, for wealth! Well these days I know. You think you donít need Mister Frost, but whereís your enthusiasm? Thereís no passion, thereís no life!
    Sarah Day: So what do you want from us, what do you want from me?
    Mister Frost: I want, I must, reveal to the world your impotence in the presence of the age-old power of the wild side.
  • Smurfette Principle: Sarah is the only woman on her medical team. Her co-workers think that this is why Frost chooses her and only her to speak to.
  • Stalker Without a Crush: Felix, knowing Frost is the devil and trying to prove it, follows him from prison to prison, country to country, for two years, leading to only the prisonerís silence and the loss of his job as an investigator.
    • Frost comes off as this when he tries to scare/influence Christopher.
  • Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred!: This is what Frost eventually goads Sarah into doing.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: The titular man himself, as is to be expected when he's played by Jeff Goldblum.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Her wheelchair-using brother suddenly shows Sarah that he can walk. Seeing that his spinal injury has miraculously healed, this is when she starts to believe in who Frost really is.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: At one point, Sarah sees Frostís eyes in the rearview mirror while driving late at night.
  • Twinkle in the Eye: Shown in Frost and the people he controls.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Sarahís patient Christopher, whom she cannot even believe he would do such a thing.
  • Wham Line:
    Mister Frost: Iím back, Sarah. Iím more powerful than all your knowledge, stronger than your pretty phrases. I am strong. (Sarah shoots him)
    Sarah Day: (But with Frost's voice!) Stronger than passing time.
  • Wheelchair Woobie: Sarahís younger brother. Though he is cheerful, with Sarah being much more worried about it than he is.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Discussed: Sarah compares Frost to one of these to mock his claims (see above).
  • Would Hurt a Child: Seven of the twenty-four people Frost tortured to death and buried beneath his house were children; the youngest was 10 years old.
  • Yandere: Frost shows shades of this towards Sarah.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: A possible variation happens in the third act. Mister Frost lifts his control over Christopher once Sarah fully believes in him and his power to do so. As Christopher is consumed with guilt over the actions Frost forced him to commit, he commits suicide shortly after the authorities apprehend him. Frost may not kill him directly, but given his all-seeing nature he probably knows Christopher won't be long for the world once out of his power.