Movie News & Reviews

'Frogs' aren’t scary no matter how many people they kill

Who among us has never trembled at the thought of organized frog armies hopping through our front doors to pillage our housefly supplies and stare into our deepest failings with their frowny frog faces? All right, hands down, entire population of the world. I get the point: more people are afraid of getting eaten by malfunctioning dryers than they are of frogs.

But that doesn't mean frogs can't be made scary. Like birds in The Birds and full-frontal nudity in About Schmidt. Other times, like in the subject of this Big Awful Friday, 1972's Frogs, dumb things are just dumb.

On a jaunt in the local swamp, photographer Sam Elliott is brought to the private island of wealthy old coot Ray Milland, who's looking forward to tyrannizing a string of family birthday parties. Instead, they find themselves overrun by hordes of frogs, skinks, and pretty much every other small, disgusting creature you'd never want to touch with any part of your body besides the bottom of your foot.

Before that happens -- the first onscreen death doesn't show up until 45 excruciatingly pointless minutes in -- it's time for unfocused yakking about pollution and a dozen other subjects that would be boring even if they were delivered by a dynamite-juggling troupe of supermodels on unicycles.

Not to say the frogs aren't there. Director George McCowan devotes several reels to closeups of amphibian actors who look so angry the producer must have just told them they were getting paid in stinkbugs. They just don't do anything, not even when their snake, gecko, and tree-moss (tree-moss?) buddies start racking up corpses in some of the most absurd death scenes put on film. With no explanation for what's made the frogs such "cold-blooded killers" (heh heh) or how they're bossing the swamp around, it's impossible to take even a moment seriously.

Even if the rules were clear, the suspense was long dead by the time the mayhem started. Sillier ideas have made for great movies, but Frogs is far too dull to stop thinking about how all you're watching is a bunch of dang frogs.