Here are my notes on the frog-monster movie Bad Blood, which screened at Fantasia and is screening at Frightfest.
Georgia-based writer-director Tim Reis showed where he was coming from with the lively The Devil’s Rook … here, he tells a more concentrated story of mad science, frog/werewolf curses, oppressive family life and gloopy, gory murder. It’s scrappy and silly, but more focused than The Devil’s Rook, with Mary Malloy bringing some intensity to the role of the afflicted heroine – whose transformation parallels woman-to-monster changes in Contracted, Starry Eyes, Bite and other recent films, though this is less concerned with female body horror than old-fashioned scaly rampaging (even if there is a truly creepy moment where a nasty stepfather recognises the metamorphosed heroine because her creature form still has her tits) as if this were a throwback to the days of The She Creature or Frankenstein’s Daughter.
In a backwoods gas station, an intense scientist (Vikas Adam) tries to find a cure for a condition caused by earlier experiments which turn him and his just-escaped-from-custody partner into frog mutant killers when the moon is full. Victoria Miller (Malloy) creeps out of the house to evade her seething stepdad Wade Worthington (Brian Troxell) to go to a party with her best friend Kelly (Chelsea Howard) – only they stop for gas at the wrong place, where Kelly gets decapitated (her blinking head bubbles in a water tank for the rest of the film, but Reis forgets to have her go the Thing That Couldn’t Die route) and Victoria is bitten and infected. Months later, Victoria is missing and Wade hires rageaholic asshole private eye Paul Stensland (Troy Halverson) to find her, though he keeps having distorted Creepshow-type fantasies in which me murders people who slightly annoy him. Stensland is surprised how easy it is to track Victoria, who is camping out near the gas station – and brings her back home, where Wade assumes the test tube of green goop which is a palliative for her condition is some sort of designer drug and smashes it in front of her. Freaking out as the moon rises, she turns into a big, rubbery, toothy, murdery monster and smashes free to decapitate and disembowel all who get in her way. It’s The Hideous Sun Demon with 80s gore – all done through practical effects, with basic but creepy lighting effects and a scummy feel that evokes grindhouse items like The Corpse Grinders or ZaAt.
There’s not that much to the plot, but Reis does make a point of having older male petty authority figures Wade and Paul do astonishingly stupid, mean-spirited things which turn around and bite back – or wrench off heads, or tap spleens. Apart from Miller, who shows some sort of real feeling, all the performances are pitched high, with arguments that escalate into homicide in moments and a lot of yelling. The film’s concise enough to get away with it, though a few calmer moments might have been welcome – surprisingly little is made of the monster’s amphibious nature (presumably the suit would float or get waterlogged) or any connection it might have with nature, the swamp and the moon. There’s a terrific giant frog monster in the laboratory, though – and a few brief creature glimpses (a webbed, clawed hand dropping into frame) are scarier than the full-on footage of rampaging, transformed Victoria (Josh Adam Gould).
NB: the end credits list this as Bad Blood: The Movie, perhaps to avoid confusion with the recent Batman animated feature Bad Blood, the women-in-prison movie Bad Blood, a movie which settled on the alternate title Wicked Blood and several other like-titled projects. Since it’s so generic a title, one wonders why they just didn’t call it WereFrog FreakOut or something else distinctive. No one ever gets Zombeavers mixed up with a Batman movie.
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