Monday, April 21, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXV

At the behest of Andrea, I watched this wonderfully bad 1972 horror movie last night. I love frogs. I really do. I have no idea whether I have a totem animal, but I wouldn't mind if it turned out to be the frog. This movie, then, fits right into my frog fetish. It's a throw-away groaner of a horror film, but it's got several things going for it. At base, it's an environmental cautionary tale. If we keep polluting the planet and mistreating the animals that share it with us, eventually, nature and its denizens might rise up against us. A domineering patriarch hell bent on quashing any and all natural infringements on his island home hosts a Fourth of July party for his extended family. An amateur ecologist and nature photographer played by Sam Elliott stumbles across the family gathering while documenting the environmental ills caused by the patriarch. He emerges as the hero figure as, one by one, the family members are isolated from the rest of the pack and killed by a host of frogs, snakes, spiders, Spanish mosses, quicksand pits, alligators, and other natural slayers. Shades of Friday the 13th, this is your basic divide and conquer horror plotline. If someone wanders off, they die. The scene in which one victim is overwhelmed by Spanish moss is particularly interesting, and the almost-constant representations of frogs and toads of various sizes is an absolute hoot. The frogs are so not frightening. Yet the sense of impending, almost Lovecraftian doom is quite effective. In the end, the patriarch comes to a deserved end, and the danger is left open as the nature photographer and his love interest escape. Or do they? Also of interest are the portrayals of interracial dating, alcoholism, and other social concerns. All are given a passing glance, but they're there. Thanks, Andrea. I wouldn't have come across this without you.

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