1970s Insane Sci-Fi Horror Is Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen, Stream Immediately

By Robert Scucci | Published

Some horror movies rely on the viewer’s fear of the unknown or, even better, some sort of masked murderer who’s out for blood. 1972’s Frogs takes a different approach, however, and uses legions of chemically altered amphibians as its supposed primary source of conflict. Falling into the eco-horror sub-genre, Frogs attempts to generate scares through incessant croaking while trying (and failing) to deliver a profound environmental message.

Nature Strikes Back

Though the movie’s cover boasts a picture of a frog with a human hand hanging out of its mouth, the frogs in Frogs are more of a noisy nuisance than anything else. Throughout the film, tarantulas, snakes, alligators, leeches, and snapping turtles have the highest kill count. Set on a private island plantation, Frogs systematically kills off many of its principal characters in ways Michael Myers could only dream of.

Sam Elliott Was Young Once

Frogs first introduces us to a wildlife photographer named Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) as he travels through the swamp while working on a pollution assignment for an ecology magazine. When his canoe is capsized by Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke), Clint and his sister, Karen (Joan Van Ark), bring him back to their estate so he can dry off and clean up. Clint and Karen introduce Pickett to the Crockett family, who are gearing up to celebrate the Fourth of July as well as the birthday of the family patriarch, Jason Crockett (Ray Milland).

Potent Pesticide Problem Plagues Party

Jason Crockett is an industry titan who cares very little about the environment and often complains about how the entire plantation has become overpopulated with boisterous frogs. Pickett, who suggests that humans and wildlife should be able to coexist in harmony, learns about Jason’s use of highly potent pesticides that are causing all of the species on the plantation to act aggressively. When Pickett discovers the groundskeeper’s corpse on the property, Jason can’t be bothered because celebrating his birthday with his family is the only thing he cares about.

Amazingly Horrible Deaths

Slowly but surely, members of the Crockett family, as well as their guests, are murdered by various creatures in ways that are extremely unlikely but highly entertaining. One of the more questionable kills in Frogs involves a knocked-over jar of toxic gas asphyxiating Kenneth Martindale, one of the party guests, in a greenhouse. Though the jar clearly says “poison,” it’s never established if the geckos that knocked it over are actually able to read the label, nor is it ever even implied.

No One Seems To Care About Killer Frogs

What makes Frogs such an amusing film is the overall lack of urgency that Pickett Smith exudes as he learns what’s truly at stake. Even when he’s fighting off a poisonous snake with a boat paddle and shotgun, he remains eerily calm. Jason Crockett, who may as well be in an episode of My Super Sweet 16, doesn’t seem to care that everybody around him is dying because the only thing he’s concerned with is having a memorable backyard birthday bash.

So Bad It’s Good

For its failure to deliver any convincing scares, Frogs failed to win over critics, earning an abysmal 29 percent critical score against an audience score of 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Though Ray Milland won an Academy Award in 1945 for his harrowing portrayal of an alcoholic writer on a self-destructive bender as depicted in The Lost Weekend, this late-in-career outing is a far cry from his earlier work. But for its willingness to be such an unhinged creature feature, there’s so much unintentional humor that needs to be unpacked.

Frogs is one of those movies that you’ll enjoy if you can watch it in a vacuum and overlook its many shortcomings. While it may not be Sam Elliott‘s or Ray Milland’s finest hour, you’ll find yourself croaking with laughter should you decide to stream Frogs on Pluto.