The last movie in my bloodening vacation horror-palooza is my favorite of all that I watched.
This movie is practically perfect in every way. It’s full of seventies cheese, has lots of synth and recorder music, and judgmental frogs. Plus, glamor, because Joan Van Ark is in it. Joan. Van. Ark.
The movie opens with Picket Smith (Sam Elliott) paddling a canoe and taking pictures of pollution in a lake. Pickett Smith rocks the dry look and wears a Canadian tuxedo, so I pretty much love him.
Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke) is drinking and driving a speedboat when he knocks Pickett out of his canoe. His sister, Karen (Joan Van Ark), invites Pickett to the family Fourth of July gathering. I guess this was filmed in the days when you could accept an invitation from a stranger and not assume that they’re going to hacksaw your carcass in half. Anyway, here’s Joan!
Pickett wins the approval of crotchety patriarch and FDR-impersonator Jason (Ray Milland.) Jason confesses that they’ve been having problems with the local wildlife, specifically the frogs. Maybe they could try living in a swamp? I’m pretty sure there are less frogs in places that aren’t swamps.
Basically, the family starts to be picked off one by one by the local wildlife. Grover, the handyman, is found covered in snake bites after being sent to spray pesticide. The Chamber of Secrets has been opened! Enemies of the heir, beware!
Jason insists that Pickett keep the death a secret, even as the rest of the family succumbs to the wildlife. The phone lines are down so Michael (David Gilliam) goes to the mainland to check the lines. He sees some birds and just starts shooting them but then he shoots himself in the leg. A bunch of tarantulas start to bite him and wrap him in webs. I really fail to see how this is the fault of the frogs. It seems unfair to blame them for this. Every time there’s a death, the camera pans to a shot of the frogs looking judgmental.
Kenneth (Nicholas Cortland) goes into the greenhouse to choose some orchids but lizards knock over glass bottles of poison and he asphyxiates. That’s almost as undignified as death by autoerotic asphyxiation. Almost.
When Kenneth’s girlfriend, Bella (Judy Pace) hears that Kenneth is dead she decides she wants off the island of craziness and leaves with the servants, Charles (Lance Taylor Sr.) and Maybelle (Mae Mercer.) Clint takes them to the mainland where we see birds attacking them. You know, they couldn’t afford actual birds for this movie so they just superimposed footage over them. It still looks better than anything from Birdemic Shock and Terror and this movie is thirty-eight years older than Birdemic. Clint finds that his boat has been untied and tries to swim to it but is killed by a water moccasin. His wife, Jenny (Lynn Borden) tries to find Clint but she gets stuck in the mud and is killed by the slowest moving snapping turtle ever.
Meanwhile, Jason is insisting that the Fourth of July/birthday party will go on as usual and all he wants is a damn double old fashioned. I like the way Jason rolls. Aunt Iris (Holly Irving) is lured into the swamp, attacked by leeches, and finally bitten by a rattlesnake. Her death is actually different in the movie than in the trailer. In the trailer, a butterfly lures her into some quicksand but it was decided that that was too goofy. Since when is American International Pictures so picky? I’ve seen the goofiest stuff from them! Plus, their logo looks like a chubby guy standing next to a surfboard.
Anyway, Iris’ husband, Stuart (George Skaff), goes looking for Iris but is eaten by an alligator. Karen and Pickett beg Jason to leave the island with them but he refuses. Karen, Pickett, and two kids leave in Pickett’s canoe while Jason sits alone. Eventually frogs break into his house and he has a heart attack. I think this is the only death that the frogs can actually be kind of blamed for. Pickett fights off snakes and they land on the mainland. Everything is deserted but they manage to hitch a ride. The woman comments how empty everything is. Is this happening everywhere? I don’t know why but that idea delights me. Zombie apocalypses are so common, imagine if all the animals just turned on humanity. Credits roll and a cartoon frog eats a hand.
I just love this movie. It’s not really scary, unless you’re scared of snakes and lizards (I’m not) but it’s cheesy seventies fun. I just feel bad that the frogs get all the blame when it’s more like they’re the managers of the other animals. The only person they kill is Jason and it just seems wrong to blame them. His family was awful! And they were trying to kill all the cute amphibians.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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