Toxie's Triple Terror, Vol. 3 2004 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
This review is for “Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell,” one of the films included in this package. The rating is for that film, since I haven’t seen the other two.
Genre fans may already know that the original title to this film is Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, and that it was made by independent Wisconsin filmmaker Bill Rebane in 1975, who also did “The Capture of Bigfoot” and “The Giant Spider Invasion.” The new title apparently came about when Troma acquired the rights to the film. It was NOT a Troma production. I first saw this film when I was in college in the early 90s on USA Up All Night, Ned the Dead’s Chiller Theater, or some other such late night horror movie venue. At that time Karen McDiarmid, the main star of the film, was doing TV commercials for ShopKo stores. I’ve since learned that this was her only film appearance, and in addition to the fact that movies made in Wisconsin have always interested me, that was the main reason for my searching for this on DVD. In fact, it was filmed at the same location as 1983’s “The Devonsville Terror”: Gleason, Wisconsin.
It’s a very low-budget film, and not a masterpiece by any means. However it is better than a lot of the stuff passing itself off as horror these days. It has a rather interesting plot: prehistoric froglike creatures, worshipped by the local Indians as gods in days gone by, are guarding a lake that is apparently rich in natural gold deposits, and they kill off anyone who tries to take any of the gold. The story is set in motion when a young boy, whose father is the forest ranger in the area, finds a strange fossil and sends it to the nearest university for identification. Simultaneously, some greedy treasure hunters have heard the legend of the creature and the gold they are guarding and, passing themselves off as a logging crew, are secretly diving in the lake for gold. Scientists come to investigate the fossil, and conflict arises between them, the treasure hunters, and the frogmen.
The movie has good atmosphere, and the director wisely keeps the creature off camera for at least two thirds of the running time. There’s no known actors in it, with the exception of Karen McDiarmid who will probably only be recognized by Wisconsinites as the attractive lady on the ShopKo ads. She’s really quite pretty and is probably the main reason to watch this movie, unless you’re like me and you enjoy films about cryptozoological creatures or local legends. There’s some unintentional laughs here, too. One scene involving a goat trying to climb onto a bed is hilarious, and McDiarmid’s fall into the swamp just before her death is enough like an unwary insect falling into an antlion’s pit to elicit a few chuckles. The most glaring technical error in the film comes early on when her scientist character tells the others the fossil is “from some kind of aquatic reptile, like a frog only much larger.” The writer obviously didn’t do much research on the subject, because most people with even a rudimentary knowledge of biology know that frogs are amphibians and are nothing like any kind of reptile. The use of Tchaikovsky’s “Death of the Swan” during the slow-motion shooting death of one man also makes for a memorable, if somewhat off-the-wall, scene.
This movie is one that should appeal to low-budget film fans, or those who have an interest in cryptozoologically-themed films such as “Legend of Boggy Creek,” “Creature from Black Lake,” or even “The Mothman Prophecies” (although Mothman’s backstory is certainly much more complex than Boggy Creek or Rana, and “Mothman Prophecies” is a much higher budget film than most others in this genre). Also, if you really want to see Karen McDiarmid acting, this is the only film she was ever in. She doesn’t get naked or anything, but she is nice to look at. Transfer to DVD is not perfect and the film shows it’s age, but it’s not too bad. There’s some grain especially in the night and underwater scenes, and sound is somewhat low-volume. No extras or trailers or anything like that, unfortunately. Hopefully someday there will be a better edition with director’s commentary, background on the story and how the film was made, etc, but for the time being, this will surely do.