FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 4, 2007

Dial R for Ribbit

I planned on including Frogs (1972) with the Animals Run Amok Week 2 festivities, but Netflix dropped the ball and the DVD didn't get here in time. Perhaps it's for the best, though, because instead of viewing it sandwiched between other animal attack flicks, I watched Frogs sandwiched between Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and some beer, and oh my friends, sometimes life is good.

As the film opens, we meet Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) as he gently paddles his canoe and takes photographs of wildlife and pollution. While he's being all sensitive, rich kids Clint and Karen Crockett (Adam Roarke and Joan Van Ark) are zipping around the same waters in their fancy speedboat. Before you can say "You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!", the two boats have a near-collision and both Pickett and Clint end up in the drink. Clint and Karen offer to take Pickett back to their family homestead so he can dry off and have some lunch.

Now, we're not even ten minutes into this movie and I'm already shocked on several counts. Look at that picture! First of all, Sam Elliott is sans moustache and I found this off-putting. The man simply needs a 'stache. Second of all, who knew that Joan Van Ark was ever hot? As a faithful Knots Landing watcher in the '80s, I can assure you that I never expected to utter "Joan Van Ark" and "hot" in the same sentence, unless maybe it was a sentence about the sun or something. But check her out- she was a '70s superfox! I want those glasses.

Back at the Crockett Compound we meet the rest of the bizarre family, headed up by the crotchety, wheelchair-bound Jason (Ray Milland). They're the "ugly rich", you see, which means they're all obnoxious, they all hate each other, and they all put up with Jason's a-hole behavior because he's got the money and, therefore, the power. The family has all gathered for the annual July festivities, which includes celebrating Independence Day as well as about 23 family birthdays. Sadly, though, an odd proliferation of bullfrogs threatens to rain on everyone's parade, what with their croaking and their...uh...sitting...

My favorite frog from the film- it looks like it's wearing lipstick.

Fortunately for the Crocketts, Pickett wasn't just taking those pictures for fun- he's a super freelance environmentalist photographer! As his work in this capacity obviously renders him an expert on all things ecological, Jason asks Pickett to have a walk around the island so as to assess this frog situation- and to see if he can find one of Crockett's employees who's been missing since that morning.

Pickett sets out through the woods and soon finds the missing employee dead, face down in the muck. Or at least I think he was dead, though there was a wee smidge amount of evidence pointing to the contrary; he was very clearly breathing, and when a snake crawled over his back, he moved. Also, when Pickett turned the body over, the eyes were closed...

...but then a second later they were open.

But hey, if the environmental photographer says the dude is dead, then the dude is dead.

Pickett reports his findings to Jason, but Jason suggests they keep mum so they don't start a bloody panic. The next thing you know, however, there are frogs trying to get in the house- and there's a snake hanging from the chandelier! What on Earth is going on? Pickett says it's nature seeking revenge on Crockett for his wanton use of insecticide; Crockett says fuck that noise, mankind rules all and I'll do whatever the fuck I want on my island. Oh, Jason Crockett. If only you'd seen Day of the Animals, you'd know you're bound to eat those words!

It's now time in the proceedings for various family members to wander off on their own and meet an untimely end thanks to the frogs. Right? I mean, the movie is called Frogs, so the frogs are going to do the killing, right? Yeah, sure, the frogs on Crockett Island aren't poisonous tree frogs, they're harmless bullfrogs...but maybe they can, like, spit acid. Or maybe their tongues have poisonous barbs on the end! Or maybe they'll grow to be ginormous in size and they'll squish all the people! Or maybe, just maybe, they'll fart fire like super cockroaches do! I can't wait to find out!

The first one to wander off on his own is Jason's son Michael. As he's trudging through the woods with a rifle, he trips and shoots himself in the shin...then, he's killed by spiders, I think. See, it looks as if the spiders are blasting him with webbing, but then Michael ends up covered with Spanish Moss. He lays there on the ground buried under shrubbery going "Ahhhh!" and then there's some spiders on him and then he's dead. So...yeah, I guess the spiders bit him. Not the frogs. The frogs, however, are watching, and I suppose that's scary.

Next up, it's Crockett grandson Kenneth, who heads to the greenhouse for one reason or another. A whole bunch of lizards enter the greenhouse behind him, and as Kenneth is looking at flowers the lizards knock over some jars marked "poison". This creates a big toxic cloud which asphyxiates Kenneth...but oddly enough not the reptiles. The salamanders have a victory party on Kenneth's face as the frogs simply continue to watch.

Can you feel the terror? If you can, let me know because I sure as hell couldn't.

Pickett finds Kenneth's body and tells everyone back at the Crockett Compound. Upon hearing that Kenneth has somehow been asphyxiated by poisonous gas, someone blurts out "I knew it!" which defies...well, it defies everything. Crockett, meanwhile, isn't going to let a little something like a dead grandson and a dead employee ruin his fun: "I'm as heartbroken as anybody over this tragedy," he says, "but I won't let anything interfere with today's schedule!" Yes, God forbid they have to postpone the sandwiches and Jarts tournament.

Crockett's daughter Iris has missed all the hubbub as she's off chasing butterflies. This means, of course, that it's time for Iris's death sequence, which for me was the highlight of the film. First of all, as Iris is casually strolling along she walks into a vine and almost chokes herself. Between this and the whole "chasing butterflies" thing, we know we're dealing with someone who's...let's be politically correct and say "simple-minded", shall we?

Her close encounter with death averted, Iris continues on. Soon she encounters some frogs on the path, and she totally overreacts...she's absolutely horrified. Maybe she doesn't know that the frogs don't actually DO anything in this fucking movie.

Iris somehow musters up the courage to soldier on; before long, however, there's a rattlesnake on the path. Yes, rattlesnakes are, in fact, dangerous and frightening. Of course our Iris still completely overreacts by shrieking. Notice how her hair has fallen? The bitch is losing it!

Iris turns around only to find...another snake on the path behind her! Eyyyyagh!

Yes, Iris could just take a few steps off the path, go around the snake, and continue on her way. Remember, though- Iris is "simple-minded". As such, she drops her butterfly net and takes off into the woods. Within moments, her dress is torn and she's cut up, bleeding, running into branches, and acting like a wild woman. She's about 2 seconds away from going all crazy Clan of the Cave Bear or something.

Iris trips and falls in a big puddle...this is no ordinary puddle, however- it's a puddle full of leeches! Poor Iris!

She pulls all the leeches off and stumbles further on, only to end up right back where she started. The rattlesnake she initially freaked out over ends up biting her dead. Check out the awesome fake hand!

As Iris lays there dead, the frogs look on in an evil...oh, dammit, they're not evil! They just sit there while all the other animals do the work! Unless the frogs are controlling all the other animals with the power of their minds, then I really don't see why we need 50,000 shots of the frogs. Yes, the movie is called Frogs, but it's evident by this point that that makes no sense. To bolster this argument, I provide the following evidence: in addition to the deaths by spiders, snakes, and...crafty salamanders, people die thanks to water moccasins, alligators, and birds. What's missing from the list of killer animals? Oh yeah...FROGS.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice Crockett Compound, people are getting fed up and want to get off the island before it's too late. Jason doesn't see what the big deal is, but if everyone wants to pussy out and row back to the mainland, that's fine with him. Pickett, Karen, and a couple of nameless Crockett kids hop in Pickett's canoe and say bye-bye. Jason is left alone, and that night his house is frogs! Jason finally gets scared, because the frogs are finally gonna do some damage, right? They've only been waiting for their moment, right?

WRONG! The frogs just sit there. Jason has a fucking heart attack and dies.

To prove once and for all that there no dignity in death nor in the late career of an aged Hollywood actor, we're treated to a shot of frogs climbing all over Ray Milland's ass. The End, indeed.

I'm not sure whether or not the title Frogs is, in fact, deceptive. There sure are a lot of frogs in the film; maybe I was wrong to assume that they'd actually do any of the killing. Of course, by that logic, the film could also be called Cake; there's a cake in the film, too, and it certainly doesn't kill anyone either. Is it false advertising? Meh, who cares. This movie was terrible, but hey...I love Sam Elliott, I love Ray Milland, Joan Van Ark was magically hot, and the death scenes were hilarious- that's good enough for me. Call me, if you will, "simple-minded" like Iris.


Anonymous said...

Good lord, that's a good cast for a bad movie.

I mean, they even got Frog #6...

(Nice review, as usual!)

Steve said...

Ha, great review.

I had a dream about you last night. Something about being in a real-life horror movie and you were one of the people with me. Now THAT was scary, haha.

I'd love to read your review of "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" too!!!

Anonymous said...

This is THE Animals Run Amok flick...and one of the few Sam Elliot sans 'stache movies out there. And God bless Ms. Van Ark.

I wonder if this was another Lost Weekend for Mr. Milland...

Anonymous said...

Also, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, aside from being a tad long, is an incredible movie - so "of its time." Ebert should be proud. And Russ Meyers!

have you seen "Mudhoney"?

John Barleycorn said...

That crazy running-through-the-woods lady kinda looks like a pudgy, less stunning Bette Davis. Am I wrong?

Amanda By Night said...

Here's something for you to ponder, Ponder: What if the HUMANS were the frogs.


Get it?

It's like so metaphorical it's wicked crazy and shit.

This is an awesome review and like you, I was shocked at how cut Joan Van Ark was! Who knew?

Stacie Ponder said...

Steve- I had a dream about pizza, but sadly I woke up before I actually got to eat any of it. :(

BVD is INSANE. I mean, it's crazy all the way through but then it takes an abrupt trun in to WTFville in the last 10 minutes. It's AWESOME.

Mr Barleycorn- No, you're not wrong at all. She looks like Baby Jane Bette Davis without all the makeup!

Amanda- that would simply be the worst metaphor ever, and the movie would make even LESS sense! But I admire your moxie and willingness to think outside the box. :D

The McGuffin said...

Another insightful and slap-nuts funny review Stacie! I'm wondering over here, what gives you so much power to conjure up writing this unique?

Oh yeah, I forgot...crack and hooch.

M said...

I love movies where people practically kill themselves. Remember Denzel Washington in The Bone Collector? All he did was bite his killer's ear. And Harrison Ford in What Lies Beneath. Michelle Pfeiffer is pure dead weight on that bathtub, and he manages to knock himself out without any movement on her part. A collection of all those moments would make one awesome movie documentary.

Josh DeSlasher said...

I remember seeing this when I was younger. Hehe, hey! It scared me. :D

Should probably seek it out. A classic, so it won't be too hard.

-Body Boy (bodyhorror)

Des said...

That's a long piece of written work on Frogs! Never cease to amaze Ms. Ponder...

Anonymous said...

Awesome review, Stacie. I just found your blog and I love it! I especially love how you dissect Iris' death scene in this movie. Actually, in the movie's theatrical trailer (on YouTube), they show Iris sinking in quicksand rather than being bitten by the rattlesnake on her (fake) hand. I'm not sure why they let that scene hit the cutting room floor, but I guess it ultimately didn't matter since in either case the frogs simply looked on.

Check it out at:

GroovyDoom said...

I just found your great review of "Frogs", rather belatedly of course. The movie is dumb as rocks, but if you ever in a million years find yourself watching "Frogs" again, notice the way this movie lingers over the images of death and decaying bodies. There's a very sick quality to the film that gets overlooked because of how ridiculous the situations are. I find it disturbing, and one of the great drive-in flicks.

Cliff said...

And here I thought it must be Aristophanes