“Today the pond! Tomorrow the world!”
Director: George McCowan
Cast: Ray Milland, Sam Elliott, Joan Van Ark
Synopsis: A group of hapless victims is invited to an island estate crawling with evil frogs.
As anyone who used to frequent video rental shops in the early eighties can tell you, the one cardinal rule of renting videos was that you didn’t go near any case that had a painting on its cover and no photographs. As I recall, Frogs had a bad painting of a fat, somewhat dopey-looking frog with a human hand hanging out of its mouth. I remember it quite well because nobody ever rented the film and the case was always gathering dust somewhere on the shelves.
I finally got around to watching it (as I knew I someday would) because it showed up late one night on the Horror Channel. Well, the film isn’t quite as bad as I’d expected. It’s still bad — just not mind-numbingly, irredeemably bad. Early on it sets itself up as an eco-horror but, other than showing us a few shots of rubbish and sewage in the rivers, the film neglects to give any kind of explanation as to why the pond life on grumpy old Ray Milland’s private island have suddenly become a co-ordinated unit of assassins led by a bunch of frogs who seem to have acquired telepathic powers. We can only wonder what kind of private hell Milland, an Oscar-winner in The Lost Weekend, must have been going through when he accepted the role. Perhaps that’s why he’s so convincing here as a cantankerous rich old man; he certainly gives the best performance by far.
The film’s other strong point is its location photography, but this fails by some way to make up for all the other deficiencies. Chief amongst these is the fact that the film just isn’t horrific — even by the standards of its day. The deaths — when they finally arrive — range from comical to dull: one woman is somehow murdered by a turtle (although we don’t actually see that murder) while another excitable old girl is chased around a forest by snakes for what seems like half-an-hour. In between these killings we are subjected to interminable shots of frogs doing nothing (apart from when someone just off-screen has thrown them onto a patch of grass the camera happens to be looking at; when this happens the frogs squirm a little bit before doing nothing). And, let’s face it, frogs just don’t look scary. They look stupid.
Actually, I was wrong about the film’s chief deficiency: it isn’t the lack of scares, it is the complete lack of attention paid to continuity. Killings that begin in darkness somehow continue into daylight before being completed after night has fallen once more. And shouldn’t that ‘surprise’ freeze frame in the car conclude the film instead of being the penultimate scene?
At the end of the day nobody is going to watch this film hoping it will be a good movie. We all know it’s bad, and so we can’t really justify ripping it apart when it fails to entertain. But, when there’s precious little good to write about something what other option do we have?
(Reviewed 11th April 2008)