FROGS Review

In the spirit of the season, the next three or so film reviews will be dedicated to the spooky antics of various animals attacking various people throughout the 70’s (shoutout to my dad for suggesting a “nature vs. man” marathon). The first film on the docket is George McCowan’s FROGS, an eco-horror film from 1972 that surprisingly enough doesn’t live up to its title or gnarly poster.

A young and very rugged and denim-clad Sam Elliott stars in the film as Pickett Smith, a rugged and denim clad nature photographer chilling in his canoe in the Florida swamps taking pictures of wildlife and the pollution that surrounds them. As he snaps away, Pickett meets the Crockett siblings, Clint and Karen (Adam Roarke and Joan Van Ark, respectively) in the most Florida of ways: by almost getting hit by Clint’s speedboat due to Clint’s reckless boating and drinking. Quickly befriending one another, the siblings whisk Pickett to their father’s, the grouchy and wealthy Jason (Ray Milland), massive estate where the Crockett clan plans to celebrate the upcoming Fourth of July. However, just as soon as you can say “wow, Pickett’s jeans are REALLY tight”, the Crockett clan and Pickett are soon besieged on all sides from the island’s surrounding wildlife including, but not limited to, snakes, seagulls(??), lizards, geckos, spiders, a giant turtle, komodo dragons (??), and of course, the titular frogs, who utilize their screen time effectively by croaking relentlessly and menacingly.

Now, with such an abundance of bloodthirsty fauna at its disposal, one would expect FROGS to deliver the goods, but it’s a shame that the only thrills the film has to offer is wondering which reptile will be disappointingly utilized next. Those damn frogs don’t do anything that’s for sure; they just stand there and hop around and the same can be said for the other creepy crawlies that take a stab at hunting down our hapless human protagonists. For FROGS, terror isn’t the image of frogs or whatever chomping on people but rather just random B-shots of the animals acting normally on camera when not occasionally falling on the face of a victim stupid enough to trip over a branch. No doubt, there isn’t much horror to be found here (not that Les Baxter’s schizo electronic score doesn’t try to spook things up a bit) but there is a lot of schlocky comedy which more or less makes the journey more pleasant than it is. Indeed, seeing McCowan and his writers (Robert Hutchinson and Robert Blees) concoct ridiculous scenes like that of a snapping turtle SLOWLY ambling towards a shrieking victim or a team of geckos/lizards unleashing biochemical mayhem on a hapless man goes a long way to making FROGS a fitfully fun ride. But even with a knowing wink of schlock, the film still fails to live up to the scenarios it sets up with stoic framing and inconsistent performances from its actors (both human and reptile/amphibious).

Which is shame because on idea alone, the thought of animals fighting back against a constantly polluting population of man holds fertile ground for a peculiar mix of horror and comedy. One can see interesting inklings of ideas in a script that outside of the dangers of pollution, also addresses things such as the intriguing familial strain and resentment brewing within the Crockett family, the downsides of capitalism found in the elder Crockett’s musings on man’s control over nature and even race relations as the writers casually throw in a mixed race couple (played by Nicholas Cortland and Judy Pace) that bring up surprisingly visible discussions on racism. None of these ideas are fully explored to satisfying conclusions but for a movie about killer amphibians and reptiles, it’s cool of the writers’ to try and elevate their B-movie setup with interesting cultural themes (that are still sadly relevant today).

Nevertheless, FROGS is second-rate entertainment that still manages to wring out some moments of entertainment (unintentional or not, it doesn’t really matter). While people who easily freak out at the mere mention of frogs or other slimy creatures may find themselves jittering in their seats, the rest of audience will no doubt be caught in bouts of laughter aimed at the film, rather than with it.

2.5/5

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Aspiring Movie Person. To get more personal follow @DaRealZamboni on Twitter.

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Justin Norris

Justin Norris

Aspiring Movie Person. To get more personal follow @DaRealZamboni on Twitter.

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