Hell Comes To Frogtown - DVD Review

'whilst it’s unlikely many will go into Hell Comes To Frogtown expecting high art, it’s frustrating how quickly co-directors Donald G. Jackson and R. J. Kizer turn this into a smutty, tedious experience'

Believe it or not, at times during the unashamedly B-movie-flavoured Hell Comes To Frogtown there are glimpses of shared DNA with the likes of Planet Of The Apes and Children Of Men. This is a far cruder, less evolved specimen than either of those films however, which far more often comes across as something like “Confessions Of A Post-Apocalyptic Convicted Sex Offender”.

Said sex offender is Sam Hell (Roddy Piper), a former soldier living a nomadic existence in a desolate USA of the future following a nuclear war, after which many people have been left infertile and women significantly outnumber men. Tracked down by the provisional government in place through the trail of impregnated women left in his wake, Hell is promptly cleared of all charges in order to make his fertility and, ahem, manhood government property and sent out to knock up as many fertile women as he can in the name of repopulation. Oh, and the nuclear war also created a race of mutated humanoid frogs that Hell must contend with. And all of a sudden that title takes a much more literal meaning.

So far, so ridiculous. But whilst it’s unlikely many will go into Hell Comes To Frogtown expecting high art, it’s frustrating how quickly co-directors Donald G. Jackson and R. J. Kizer turn this into a smutty, tedious experience. Hell is set up from the very start as a fundamentally unlikable character, and yet we are expected to forget his despicable past (the word “rapist” is never used, but very strongly implied at several points) as quickly as the government does, something which it’s unsurprisingly difficult to do. Hell is modelled after the likes of Big Trouble In Little China’s Jack Burton, but the antipathy fundamental to the character coupled with Piper’s limited acting ability make him a protagonist difficult to root for or even buy into.

The inherent misogyny in Hell Comes To Frogtown also makes this regularly unpalatable. Despite knowing of his nefarious past, both of the main female characters - Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) and Centinella (Cec Verell) - actively titillate Hell, with the latter jumping into bed with him literally at the first opportunity. By the time Spangle has donned a sex slave get-up complete with dog collar and lead under the premise of a disguise to infiltrate Frogtown, you’ll have given up on any chance of the film using its potentially interesting set-up of a female-heavy population for anything other than cheap sexual thrills, perversely reasserting outdated ideas of male chauvinism.

When we do finally reach Frogtown, things get marginally more interesting as the film’s pacing picks up and the action kicks in. The frog costumes and effects are for the most part laughably bad, relatively forgivable considering the film’s obvious B-movie slant. The real missed opportunity is in the film’s failure to explore in any detail how the mutated amphibians have been treated by society in the way the Apes film franchise has continually done, and that more recent offerings such as District 9 have successfully managed.

The main reason Hell Comes To Frogtown avoids the lowest score possible is that it never takes itself seriously. Whilst this is at times the cause of some of its problems, it also reminds you that this is never intended as anything more than trashy entertainment, and as such probably shouldn’t be taken as a threatening or pivotal piece of cinema. There are moments here which are guiltily enjoyable - the final battle, for example, between Hell and frog leader Commander Toty (Brian Frank) holds a cheesy reminiscence of Kirk battling creatures on alien planets in the original Star Trek series. That said, there’s too much in Hell Comes To Frogtown which sits far too uncomfortably in a film clearly aiming to provide cheap thrills; perhaps even more fatally, this just isn’t nearly as entertaining as it needs to be to get away with any of it.

Hell Comes To Frogtown is out on UK Blu-ray and DVD now.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment