I’m going to make a statement for the defence for a film that is supposedly one of the worst horror films made. So, why did I buy it and watch it? Well, it was a penny on Amazon and I got curious.
However, I found much to enjoy in “Frogs” (1972). It’s a kind of amphibian version of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Ray Milland plays Jason Crockett, the owner of a mansion on a private island who has gathered his family together for his annual birthday celebrations. However, the island’s wildlife has other ideas and slowly but surely start killing off the family. It sets itself out as an eco-horror from the very beginning although, as with “The Birds” there is no exact explanation given for the behaviour of the animals, other than the fact they are giving some kind of revenge on humans who are polluting their environment.
I’m sure much of the film’s bad reputation comes from the title, which does admittedly sound rather daft. However, the film itself is surprisingly well done, all things considered. The atmosphere is built up through endless shots of, well, frogs within scenes (virtually ALL scenes). This is set up at the beginning when Pickett Smith, played by Sam Elliott, is taking photos of the wildlife of the island. What makes this build up of tension work so well, however, is that there are long stretches of the film that are effectively silent. Other than the sounds of birds or croaking from the frogs, there are no sound effects, and the usual crescendo of music that nearly always signals a murder or death in a horror film is absent. There is no music here for the most part, and it only adds to the bizarre creepiness of the film.
Some of it is very silly (such as death-by-turtle), but some of the deaths are rather uncomfortable to watch – particularly the first one that we see occurring on screen. And, as with the Hitchcock film, even more eerie is the lack of intelligent explanation at the end. These events just happen.
The film falls down in some respects, though, not least through the writing of Milland’s character. His actions are downright absurd at times, and the dialogue he spouts is often ludicrous. Milland’s acting is less than great also – I’ve never found him to be the most convincing of actors at the best of times, but there are moments here when he is downright appalling. Some of the other actors are less than stellar too, but Sam Shepherd is superb, and manages to hold the whole thing together.
So, I put the DVD in expecting to be giggling my way through a campfest, and ended up thinking “that wasn’t at all bad.” It’s a lesson that we should all know by now – some films have a reputation for being bad for no real reason, and this is a case in point. So, if you see it on Amazon for a penny, it’s well worth considering for ninety minutes of sometimes daft but sometimes very eerie entertainment.