“Frogman” (2023) [Popcorn Frights]

by Joseph Perry and Mike Imboden

In our “The Good, the Bad, and the Verdict” film reviews, Joseph and Mike give their thoughts on a slice of cinema. For this installment, it’s the found footage local legend cryptid tale, Frogman, from Anthony Cousins courtesy of PopcornFrights Film Festival.

Three friends in search of the legendary humanoid frog known as Loveland Frogman are about to find out he is more than just a local legend.

The Good
Joseph: Thankfully, Frogman avoids some of the trappings of found footage horror. Most notably in my opinion, our three main characters are likable and they attempt to work out their differences, rather than being annoying and bickering the whole time. Nathan Tymoshuk, Chelsey Grant, and Benny Barrett are all solid in their trio of main roles. Many found footage movies have the main characters merely wander around a location for two acts before anything startling happens. Director/cowriter (with John Karsko) Anthony Cousins instead opens up the world of his film more widely than usual, and although there is the expected car trip and ambling and rambling in search of a cryptid, viewers meet persons-on-the-street and locals of Loveland, Ohio, in different locations. One big thumbs up from yours truly is given to Cousins for how he handles what at first seem like questionable editing choices in a found footage film — giving away any more than this would be an injustice to this well thought-out work. Finally, Frogman delivers one of the more intriguing third acts of a found footage film in recent memory.

Mike: On paper the found footage style of movie making seems easy enough, but the truth is that it’s much more than it looks at face value.  It takes an interesting premise, better than average actors, and a creative team with a “sixth sense” of sorts that knows how to balance the ad-lib with the scripted and find the sweet spot where the viewer can’t tell the difference.  Anthony Cousins, working from a script he and co-writer John Karsko put together, has found that spot here with Frogman.  Unlike many attempts at the style that spend 4/5ths of its runtime with nothing of any consequence happening, this doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the matter with a second act that feels like a third, and a third that turns the metaphorical dial up to eleven.
The trio of friends (Nathan Tymoshuk, Chelsey Grant, and Benny Barrett), are excellent in their roles portraying characters that come across as quite believable with individual good and bad points and clear motivations for doing what they’re doing.  Kudos to all three for their parts in making this stand out from the pack. 

The Bad
Joseph: Some of the minor-character cast members come off a bit on the corny side, and though I admire the use of practical effects for the titular creature, they do show their budgetary limitations and may suffer from more on-screen exposure than is necessary.  

Mike:  The blessing of making a found footage film is that a low budget doesn’t stop you from making a movie since many things can be “hidden” within the confines of a jittery screen.  That blessing can also be a curse, however, and Frogman suffers a bit from the extensive use of degraded tape effects and the limitations of a handheld camera. It’s not a totally bad mark against the film and the reason for the crappy quality of the camera is explained within the story itself, so it makes sense - but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bit overdone.  Honestly, though, that is really my only knock on Frogman.

The Verdict
Joseph: Frogman offers a nice amount of originality in its tale of a search for a creepy cryptid. Creature-feature fans and found-footage enthusiasts should find plenty to enjoy.

Mike:  A lot of found footage films rely on the tropes and cliches in their presentation and storytelling, however Frogman avoids the majority of them and provides a compelling, if a bit silly on its surface, story.  There’s some great “mythology” introduced and a story that gives you characters you actually find yourself rooting for.  Sure, the low budget shows in some of the effects and the reliance of the dreaded “shaky cam”, but Cousins, his crew, and most importantly his cast, rise above the majority of the shortcomings that would trip up a lot of filmmakers and deliver a movie I think people who dig found footage horror films will enjoy.

Frogman, from Anthony Cousins, screened as part of the 2023 Popcorn Frights Film Festival, which ran August 10–20, 2023 with both in-person screenings and a virtual lineup.

Directed By: Anthony Cousins
Written By: Anthony Cousins, John Karsko
Starring: Ali Daniels, Benny Barrett, Chari Eckmann, Chelsey Grant,
Run Time: 1h 17m
Rating:  NR
Release Date: 2023

Unfortunately there is no trailer available at this time.