FROG-G-G! (2004) – By Albert Walker

In this low-budget homage to/satire of 70’s “nature run amuck” horror films, contamination of a small town’s groundwater causes a frog to grow to huge, mutant proportions and become the Frog-g-g, a latex-suited monster with the genetic need to mate with human females. And, I should add, this reviewer is one of only a handful of people not directly involved with the movie to have actually seen it.

Now, I definitely don’t want to turn into the Harry Knowles type of reviewer. I promise you, I won’t be using an 18-point purple font to describe the fourteen hours leading up to the screening, the route I took on the way to the screening, what I ate before the movie, or all the free handouts I got from the studio (or as Harry would say, “pwesents”). But, in the interest of fairness, I should mention that I saw Frog-g-g! at a special midnight showing in Hollywood that was attended by many of the people who had actually worked on the movie in one capacity or another. In fact, as the audience filed in, it became clear that my friends and I were probably the only non-Hollywood types in the whole crowd.

As we sat there listening to people “network” (read: brownnose), my friends and I debated on the proper pronunciation of the title. Eventually, we settled on “Froguhguhguh!” Sadly, nobody else at the screening pronounced it that way; They just called it “Frog”. Losers. Also, there was word that the Frog-g-g itself was going to make a special appearance after the screening, but he never showed. For his sake, I hope he didn’t get pulled over on the drive to the theater, because I’d feel sorry for anyone who had to explain being in that suit.

I should also mention—again in the interest of full disclosure—that there was a special drawing before the showing, and yes, I was one of the winners in that raffle. At first, I assumed this was because the makers of Frog-g-g! already knew about the much-anticipated debut of Rogue Cinema, and that these “pwesents” were just a transparent attempt to get me to write up an enthusiastic review.

And boy, was I planning to write one. Then I got home, and saw that the DVD I was given only contained a low-resolution copy of the same trailer on the movie’s web site, and the poster I won… Well, let’s just say a typical fourth grader has more artistic skill than whoever designed the movie poster. But I digress.

The film started promisingly enough. Like most entries in the 70’s killer animal genre, it opens with an ominous teaser where a small child is the first to stumble upon the mutant menace, and of course, said menace is never seen, but only suggested through the magic of POV shots. And also, like other entries in the genre, the teaser is totally unrelated to anything in the movie, as none of these characters were ever seen or heard from again.

Then the credits began. This immediately drew hoots from the audience, because they played over a sequence of soft-core lesbian sex. Yes, it turns out that the main character in Frog-g-g! just happens to be a practicing lesbian. So, at this point, all things considered (raffle, poster, DVD, lesbians), I was thinking to myself that this was going to be one awesome filmgoing experience. Then, sadly, the plot kicked in.

Thinking back on it now, I’m not really sure what they were going for with this movie. Was it meant to be a straight homage to 70’s mutant critter films? Or was it supposed to be a farcical send-up of the genre? You can’t really tell, and no matter which one it was trying to be, it’s safe to say that the movie doesn’t try very hard either way.

The only prior filmmaking experience on writer-director Cody Jarrett’s résumé was as a stand-in for various skinny actors like Guy Pearce, Johnny Depp, and the inimitable Jon Bon Jovi. There’s another film he supposedly wrote and directed called Surfbroads, which, as far as I know, only exists in the form of a screenplay, a brief trailer, and a t-shirt worn by a character in Frog-g-g! But just to show that all that matters in Hollywood is who you know, Jarrett was able to work his connections and coerce genuine professionals into participating in this movie.

For most of the film, we’re watching a straight homage to drive-in horror movies. Frog-g-g! focuses on EPA investigator Dr. Barbara Michaels (played by Kristi Russell) as she looks into reports of groundwater contamination in a small town. She attempts to question the owner of the local chemical plant, Huntley Grimes (played by Michael McConnohie) who of course stonewalls, then immediately takes steps to cover up the illegal dumping he’s been doing. In frustration, Barbara takes her findings to the local sheriff, Buford Lawson (played by Rob Brink) who of course is good friends with Grimes, and casually dismisses Barbara’s warnings with the expected “well ain’t that nice, little lady” sneer.

So, within ten minutes, we already have in place all the tropes from 70’s mutant animal rampage movies: The Plucky Scientist, The Evil Capitalist, The Disbelieving Sheriff. And for the majority of the running time, it’s all played completely with a straight face. In fact, the first three-fourths of the movie is filled with nothing but dull, poorly-paced exposition about the chemical plant, its history, and the nature of the chemical that it’s been dumping in the water. I mean, I’m sure director Jarrett thought it was absolutely hilarious to have his bubblehead girlfriend spout off mathematical formulae and sketch molecular structures on a chalkboard. Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t let in on the joke.

The only slight twist on the genre is that Dr. Barbara Michaels is a practicing lesbian. And not only that, her typical working attire consists of a skin-tight jumpsuit with a zipper in the front that’s open all the way down to her navel. Kristi Russell may not be the best looking actress around (she’s certainly not the most talented), but you won’t hear me complaining too loudly about her choice in wardrobe (or sexual partners). Sadly, even this wasn’t played for all it was worth. There were only brief, scattered laughs as Barbara surveyed a pond and struck a pose straight out of a Russ Meyer movie as she was doing it.

Finally, at about three-fourths of the way in, the titular monster appears. Admittedly, this lengthy delay in the appearance of the creature is totally in keeping with the conventions of 70’s animal horror movies, too. But that doesn’t make the first 75% of the film any less excruciating to sit through.

When the monster does appear, the barest hint of farce and satire takes hold. After all, the Frog-g-g itself is quite obviously a guy in a green latex frog suit. And furthermore, it’s the kind of suit that would have the makers of The Creature from the Black Lagoon beaming with pride fifty years after the fact.

Using sketchy science alone, Barbara not only deduces the existence of the Frog-g-g, but also the true nature of the creature: Due to a genetically-induced compulsion, all the Frog-g-g wants to do is mate with human women. Let the wacky hijinks begin, right?

Not really. We do get the typical scene of the monster attacking two virgins, but the only comic “twist” on the cliché is that the girl is actually lying about being a virgin, har de har har. There’s also some business involving the Frog-g-g attacking during a high school football game, then assaulting a local Catholic girl’s school. I won’t go into much detail on these events, because frankly, they’re just not that funny.

The most disappointing aspect of this movie is all the useless padding. There’s a scene where two of Grimes’ men bury drums full of toxic chemicals, and the scene goes on for so long, audience members actually turned to each other with “what the hell?” looks on their faces. It was probably the most uselessly dragged out scene that’s not in a Coleman Francis film.

There’s also a lot of time spent pointlessly setting up a mysterious black sedan that tails our heroine. Eventually, it’s revealed that the black sedan is driven by a sheriff’s deputy, and the sheriff just wanted someone to keep an eye on her. And that’s the end of the whole subplot. No, really, that’s it.

After all is said and done, you get the feeling that nobody involved with this movie was really putting that much effort into it. It plays like several audition reels for different no-talent actors and technical people, all strung together into a ninety-minute portfolio. I have to wonder: Was this movie ever meant to be entertaining and/or make money, or was it created for the sole purpose of lengthening a few résumés?

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on this movie. I suppose if your idea of humor is dialogue like “That’s Doctor Sweetheart to you,” or “Call it my Spider Sense,” then maybe Frog-g-g! is your idea of a good time. And if you’re a big fan of the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost, you’ll definitely get nostalgic over the design of the creature. The rest of us, however, are probably better off sticking with the similarly paced The Giant Spider Invasion or the similarly plotted Humanoids from the Deep.

Frog-g-g! is playing at Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood at midnight on Fridays for a limited number of showings. After that, your best bet is to wait until they’re selling the movie directly from the Frog-g-g! website at http://www.froggg.com because there’s no way this thing’s ever finding an actual distributor.