Popcorn Frights 2023: Frogman

Image courtesy of Popcorn Frights

Just when I thought I had reached the tragic end of my Popcorn Frights 2023 coverage I was graced with a present in my inbox. As stated previously, there were a few films on my list that I was incredibly excited to cover. The film at the top of that list was Frogman. With a title as concise as that, and with Anthony Cousins at the helm, I knew it was going to be a winner. When it finally showed up I literally twirled around my living room for a minute. With a bowl of popcorn and a box of snowcaps, it was finally time to watch my most anticipated film of the festival. It’s time for Frogman.

Frogman is an insightful look at the true consequences many UAP and cryptid experiences go through. During a family trip many years ago a young Dallas (Liam Hage) historically catches footage of a local legend: the Frogman. Now, 32, Dallas (Nathan Tymoshuk) is a listless wannabe filmmaker who has been crashing at a friend’s house for far too long. After receiving endless ridicule online and claims that the footage is a hoax, Dallas convinces his best friend Scotty (Benny Barrett) and his former best friend Amy (Chelsey Grant) to join him in going back to this town to get irrefutable proof of the Frogman. Will these three finally get the proof Dallas so desperately needs? Or will they croak before the credits roll?

Where to start with this film? It would probably be best to start by talking about the directing. Anthony Cousins brings his A-game in his directorial feature debut. Cousins is no stranger to directorial duties, though, with segments in Scare Package with “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV – The Final Kill” and Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge with “The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back.” These are two of the strongest segments in their respective films. From just those two segments it’s fairly clear Cousins has a strong directorial voice, and seeing this translated into a feature proves his true talent. The direction of the found footage works with the conspiratorial tone of the story, with just enough shown, but never showing too much. Cousins, and writer John Karsko, trust their audience to fill in the blanks and to accept what isn’t shown in a Hitchcockian sense.

There’s this beautifully framed scene when Dallas is in the driver’s seat, Amy is in the passenger seat, and Scotty is asleep in the back seat. They are parked with the camera at a low Dutch angle pointing toward Dallas and Amy while they have a deep discussion about their friendship. In the background, a thunderstorm rages on as we see sporadic flashes of lightning dampened by thick storm clouds. Due to the chaotic nature of most found footage films, we rarely get to see a focus on the surrounding locations, unless there are drones being used for establishing shots. To see a shot like this in the middle of a found footage film shows not only that Cousins, who also serves as the director of photography, understands the beauty that can come out of found footage but also that he completely understands and appreciates the craft.

Anthony Cousins and John Karsko wrote a very tight script with no fat or padding. While it’s unclear if there is any improvisation, as found footage films can tend to be, the conversations all feel convincingly credible. Sure, with any found footage film you’re going to have some moments of unbelievable/awkward dialogue but it’s so few and far between that it has zero impact on the film. I’ve recently been reading Nick Redfern’s The Real Men In Black. There are so many people who want to believe, or disbelieve in some cases, something existing beyond our comprehension. To see these people have their lives completely uprooted and ruined just because they came forward with a story that’s hard to believe by the masses is sad. Cousins and Karsko take this concept and expertly weave a tale of sorrow with a hint of hope.

A man starts to grow vocal sack and is covered in bumps
Image courtesy of Popcorn Frights

As genre fans, we obviously want to see the Frogman, but as empaths, we want to see the Frogman so Dallas can be vindicated. Even if he is stuck in a bed he made for himself, Dallas is truly a tragic character, and that’s something you don’t really see a lot of in found footage. At least, it’s something you don’t often see done well. Also, there are some incredible lines of dialogue in Frogman. Hands down the best line is, “Are you saying Frogman fucks?”

The acting from our three leads is great, especially for found footage. But hands down the star of this film is Chelsey Grant. We get two sides of Amy in this film: the true Amy and the cheesily fun character she puts on when they are filming. There’s a true talent to a good actor trying to act “badly” and Grant finds that middle ground and completely nails it. At the drop of a dime, she goes from the Amy we’ve been getting to know so far into this incredibly charming authentically inauthentic farce of a Southern belle. It seems that working with Cousins before in both Scare Package films they’ve created some real trust between each other where Grant feels she can give a completely authentic and charismatic performance every time.

SFX and creature design are incredibly important when it comes to films like this, and acknowledging the best places to focus the budget you have is incredibly important. Having Ryan Schaddelee on as the makeup department head was an incredible choice, as he has been integral as a special effects makeup artist in films like The Pale DoorWrong Turn, and Old Man, to name a few. I might have caught a few digital enhancements throughout the film, but strictly from a visual perspective, everything looked completely practical.

I want the world to know the truth about Frogman. The truth is that Frogman is gnarly. When found footage is done to the extreme it has been it’s difficult to find ways to make yours stand out; Anthony Cousins makes this film stand out among the masses. Frogman is the delightfully gooey afterbirth of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek and Adam Green’s Digging Up The Marrow. This film is an absolute ton of fun. It’s great to watch on your own and would be even more fun with a group of friends and a six-pack. Or maybe a 12-pack. Oh, and Frogman definitely fucks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

A Zoom Call with Nick Psinakis on the left and Hororr Obsessive's Sean Parker on the right

FrightFest 2023: CHEAT Interview With Co-writer/Director Nick Psinakis

A woman under a red light screaming

FrightFest 2023: The Mind is an Echo-Chamber of Guilt in Cheat