Thursday, October 11, 2012

In short: Frogs (1972)

Rich people are really disgusting. So thinks the animal population on the swamp island belonging to the rich Crockett family, and one fine 4th of July (well, actually, they begin the day before), they finally do something to clean the place up. Led by what oh so meaningful shots of adorable animals croaking suggest must be their frog generals (who, like all generals, don't dirty their hands themselves), the animals slowly kill off servants and family, mostly by betting on the natural horror film human tendency to fall down for no good reason, stumble into puddles full of leeches, or - in what might be the film's funniest scene - to step towards the smoking poison instead of away from it.

Accidental family guest Pickett Smith (a name that can only belong to a pre-facial-hair Sam Elliott, or a fence company) tries his best - it isn't much - to keep the family alive, but that's not easy with a family patriarch (Ray Milland really needing the money) who won't have his beautiful 4th of July/birthday be ruined by mere trifles like a few corpses.

In the realm of nature strikes back movies, there are mere films about nature striking back, and then there's the unfairly named - seeing as all other animals are doing all the work and the frogs just croak, unless they are controlling their peers by telepathy, an idea I wouldn't put past the writers - Frogs. Frogs, probably to nobody's surprise, is as bad as its plot suggests, and therefore awesome.

To understand the quality of the movie, just imagine the most boring members of the cast of a soap opera of your choice - let's say Dallas - transplanted to Florida where they are attacked by lots of adorable animals director George McCowan never manages to let look threatening for even a second. Which must be some kind of achievement in a film that does feature an alligator attack. Of course, it is quite difficult to imagine how the poor animals could look threatening in a film that insists on letting them kill off their victims in predominantly indirect ways that really rather suggest the true cause of the film's humans deaths isn't so much killer animals as a proclivity to drink too much alcohol and inborn stupidity.

Needless to say, an alcoholised viewer will find much to be entertained by here, starting with the film's effortlessly ridiculous attempts at doing Southern Melodrama (I imagine the filmmakers seeing themselves not as producing a horror movie Dallas but rather a cross of a horror film and a Tennessee Williams play), continuing through the utter absurdity of many of the deaths (obvious favourite: the glass house with the poison-bottle-throwing lizards, though there's something to be said for however it is Milland is supposed to die), and ending on little flourishes of random weirdness that must come quite natural to a film that dances to an electronic Les Baxter soundtrack that might have been composed by letting frogs jump all over a synthesizer.

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