In depicting the collapse of homespun American patriarchy before a resurgent nature that can never be completely denied or repressed, George McCowan’s Frogs (1972) is what ecological horror might have been like if tackled by Tennessee Williams, and easily earns its place as one of the very finest nature’s revenge films of all time – yet the failure of this surprisingly nuanced film to deliver on its poster’s lurid promise of giant man-eating frogs (unless the animated post credits sequence counts) must have left some viewers feeling disappointed. Fortunately, Bad Blood: The Movie, the directorial debut of Tim Reis (also its writer, editor and producer) has spotted the gap in the horror market for batrachian butchery, and filled it admirably. The result is a monstrous hybrid of Frankenstein and frogs, with a mutation of the werewolf myth thrown in for good (menstrual) measure.
In a makeshift basement lab (a reflex of the film’s DIY budget) under a full moon, a young scientist (Vikas Adam) works against the clock to extract liquid from frogs, even as news comes in of the extremely violent prison escape of Dr Mark Beltran, chief suspect in a multiple homicide killing on campus a month earlier. Meanwhile distracted 19-year-old Victoria Miller (Mary Molloy) has returned home for a break from university, still mourning the death of her father and unable to move on. “She just never dealt well with change,” Victoria’s mother Lillian explains to her new husband Wade (Brian Troxell) – but Wade, unsympathetic and disciplinarian, just suspects that Victoria is a junkie. That night, after sneaking out in Wade’s car, Victoria and a friend are viciously attacked by a creature that looks as though it might have come from the Black Lagoon. One month later, the missing Victoria is found by private detective Paul Stensland (Troy Halverson), and returned home – but with the full moon rising once again, change is coming.
With its redundant subtitle there merely to distinguish it from a spate of other recent films featuring Bad Blood in their title, Bad Blood: The Movie is in fact full of throwaway details (like the recurrent motif of coffee being spilt, or Stensland’s persistently psychotic habit of fantasising acts of bloody violence) that all contribute to its overall amphibious charm. All the practical monster costumes and ickily practical gore, all the billowing, literally green-lit smoke-machined fog, and all the analogue synth sounds of John Manfredi’s score, suggest a film that is in love with the Eighties – and more particularly with the outrageous Reagan-era body horror of Frank Henenlotter. Somewhere in there is an allegory of Victoria’s metamorphosis into independent womanhood, or of the ethical dilemmas faced by medical pioneers, or of the domestic mayhem engendered by non-legalised drugs – but it is probably best to ignore the subtext, and to embrace the silliness.
© Anton Bitel