Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…George McCowan’s Frogs.
The “nature run amok” concept isn’t anything particularly new in the world of low budget horror movies. We’ve seen killer sharks, birds, snakes, spiders, bees, squids, piranha, and then there is Frogs. Our movie centers around a photographer that unexpectedly ends up visiting a family’s island estate just as the surrounding swampland decides to strike back and go on a murder spree. Hilarity ensues.
The acting isn’t great, but I’d say it hits that sweet spot of bad acting that I’m fine with. Most of the characters are kind of bland, but there are a few that really elevate the film in this department. Sam Elliott plays photographer Pickett Smith and is likable in the role. This certainly isn’t his best performance, but the talent is there and you can see why he ended up moving on to better things after this. Ray Milland plays the wheelchair-bound head of the family and he’s a joy to watch. He’s totally unreasonable and grouchy, unwilling to interrupt his own birthday celebrations to deal with the obvious problems that are happening (such as a corpse popping up in the swamp).
For about the first half of the film they set up the fact that the swamp itself is out to get them, and it’s kind of a slow burn during that section. The family talks about the frogs that have been showing up, and there are some mentions of nearby pollution, alluding to a cause for the things that happen later, though they never explicitly explain anything (which I like). This section is fine, but not particularly interesting. Fortunately though, once people start dying all hell breaks loose because it doesn’t slow down from there. The kills are frequent and basically just happen one after another. The pacing is so lopsided in this way, but it definitely makes it so that the movie ends on a high note as the kills are the best part of the experience.
What’s particularly interesting about these deaths is that for a movie called Frogs the frogs don’t really do a whole lot. They just sort of sit there and hang out, watching from the background, but when it comes to the actual killing, other animals generally do the dirty work. Like I mentioned before, the swamp itself is out to get them, and it doesn’t shy away from throwing a large variety of animals at the protagonists. We get to see snakes, tarantulas, lizards, gators, and one pretty huge turtle all go on the attack. The film uses real animals and given the amount of different creatures it certainly keeps things fresh and entertaining. Seeing a man get wrapped up in moss as spiders slowly overtake him, a woman fall into a puddle of killer leeches, and a man get destroyed by some lizards that knowingly knock over jars of poison is a blast. Despite all of this, the frogs do maintain a presence throughout the film. Again, they don’t do a whole lot, but the movie continually cuts to them. They’re always there…watching. You really get the sense that they run the show in some odd way. I was waiting for them to take action throughout the whole movie and when they finally do it’s pretty great.
This movie’s not without its’ faults however. Far from it, in fact. As previously mentioned the pacing is extremely weird with the first half being a chore and the second half being nonstop. The acting isn’t all that great and the dialogue is often pretty cheesy. There’s also about a hundred little things that just threw me off throughout the film. It’s low budget and feels like it. It’s rough around the edges and oftentimes the directing and editing are choppy or just plain weird. These factors don’t really detract from the experience because of just how strange they can get, but they’re obviously not intentional. I had to laugh at Sam Elliott finding a corpse that is obviously still breathing.
Overall, Frogs is an enjoyably bad movie. The characters are bland save for a few and the acting is generally bad to match. It’s low budget and brings all of the baggage that goes with it, including strange directing and editing quirks. The kills are the highlight of the movie and they’re all loaded into the second half, completely destroying the pacing, but at least things end on a high note. The kills aren’t gory, but they use real animals and there’s enough creativity involved to make it a lot of fun. At the very least you get to watch a man wrestle an alligator. I’d say check this one out. It’s on Netflix so you have nothing to lose.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.