‘Frogman’ Is Cryptid Found Footage Done Right [Popcorn Frights 2023 Review]
The found footage creature feature is an elusive beast. Yes, we have bigger budget examples such as Cloverfield and Trollhunter, but really they’re few and far between. Yes, it’s often due to budget, but director Anthony Cousins’ feature film debut Frogman, which had its world premiere at Popcorn Frights, proves it is possible. His lo-fi cryptid film proves you can do creepy creature found footage that’s both impressive and effective. Plus the film answers the age-old question, does the Loveland Frogman fuck?
For the uninitiated, the Loveland Frogman is a giant frog humanoid said to lurk in the woods of Loveland, Ohio. Stories of the creature have circulated around the regions for decades and it’s become a bit of a lure for tourists, especially those like me who are drawn to cryptids. Loveland Frogman merch abounds and the creature is even the town’s mascot.
In the film, while driving through Loveland, a family of four makes a quick stop on the side of the road. A young Dallas is armed with a camera, filming everything, and seemingly captures footage of the Loveland Frogman. From there, Dallas’ (Nathan Tymoshuk) life is shaped by his insistent attempts to prove that the footage he captured was real and that the Frogman is not just an urban legend. Fed up with the ridicule, he sets out to capture more footage of the Frogman to prove that he’s not crazy.
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But he can’t do it alone. He recruits college friend Scotty (Benny Barrett) to help film and college (and current) crush Amy (Chelsey Grant) to help him capture evidence of the Frogman. But they don’t understand how seriously Dallas takes this as they travel to Loveland, Ohio in search of the titular cryptid. Along the way, Amy and Scotty joke about the creature and Amy even creates her own exuberant Southern Belle character dressed in a bedazzled cowboy hat and fringe-covered jacket. They see this as a joke, something silly they’re doing for a friend, while Dallas sees this as the most important event of his life.
What follows is similar to the beginning of Bobcat Goldthwaite’s Willow Creek as the trio interview Loveland locals to learn more about the cryptid’s influence on the town. But as they continue to film and Scotty and Amy continue to laugh their way through the process, Dallas gets more and more irritable. The deeper he digs into the Frogman legend, the more he forces his friends into a bigger conspiracy about the amphibian that rules the surrounding woods…
What keeps Frogman from becoming just a silly cryptid film is a strong script from Anthony Cousins and John Karsko. Found footage films have a tendency to eschew well-developed scripts for a deluge of jump scares and creative camera techniques, which in turn keeps the audience from caring about the characters. However, Cousins and Karsko create both a well-paced story and sympathetic characters to give the film a greater emotional depth. This isn’t just about the Frogman, but also about the love and friendship between the trio. That balance of humanity and scares creates an immediately compelling story that hooks you from the very start.
That balance extends to how they imbue comedy into the horrific. Yes, the idea of a humanoid frog running around the woods is an inherently ridiculous image. Yes, it is a hilarious conceit for a movie. And yet, Cousins still makes it horrific without being afraid to lean into the silly. That confidence is what makes Frogman so effective; it knows what it is and doesn’t want to forget that, while also taking it to the scariest extreme.
And of course, the script wouldn’t come to life without great performances from the core trio of Tymoshuk, Barrett, and Grant. The three are incredibly believable as a group of friends with years of history, full of both happiness and resentment. They love and frustrate each other at the same time. That chemistry makes Frogman feels all the more real. Yes, we know it’s found footage, but it’s always impressive when a film like this can really do the work to convince you, even for a second, that this may have happened.
I won’t veer too deeply into spoiler territory here, but let’s just say that the practical effects by Ryan Schaddelee are the cherry on top of a captivating found footage film, an incredible payoff to what Cousins builds from the first frame. Creatures and body horror abound in the final act, and Cousins makes sure to maximize their screen time, not falling into the unsatisfying two-second reveal.
Frogman is the cryptid found footage movie of my dreams. It’s not afraid to be silly and acknowledge how silly its premise is, while also crafting some gnarly body horror that’ll leave your jaw on the floor. Cousins proves found footage creature features are possible, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what he makes next. And in case you were wondering, yes, Frogman fucks.
Frogman isn’t afraid to acknowledge how silly its premise is, while also crafting some gnarly body horror that’ll leave your jaw on the floor.