Hell Comes To Frogtown

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In the distant future, in the wake of WWIII, there are few humans alive capable of procreating. The nuclear fallout that has rendered almost all of humanity sterile has also created a race of mutants who have been driven to isolated reservations. Sam Hell (Roddy Piper) is one of the only fertile men left in existence. He’s been recruited to go into one of these mutant reservations, Frogtown, to liberate a group of fertile women and impregnate them. With the help of Spangle (Sandahl Bergman) and Centinella (Cec Verrell), Sam just might stand a chance against the dreaded Commander Toty (Brian Frank) and his frog forces.

The premise for this post-apocalyptic epic doesn’t do justice to just how absurd and bizarre the film really is. But Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988) isn’t a serious film about the end days. For the first two acts of this cult favorite the film is actually a relatively successful and subversive sex comedy. Sam Hell is the antithesis to every B-movie hero and exists in a perpetual state of gender role reversals within the traditional narrative complex of this genre.

The discourse around Hell Comes To Frogtown, be it between fans, scholars, cinephiles, etc., seems to make the mistake sometimes of judging this film as an earnest attempt at a serious post-apocalyptic film, à la Mad Max (1979). When I rented this film the clerk referred to this movie as “garbage”. Hell Comes To Frogtown isn’t a good movie, but it certainly isn’t garbage. No one who worked on this film took it that seriously, so what they did was say something simple about the gender politics of the genre while entertaining audiences. All of that aside, no movie with frog-people costumes of this caliber could ever be total garbage.

This commentary on gender politics is conveyed pretty much within Sam Hell’s first two scenes. After that, it’s all spectacle and laughs. So what carries the viewer through the film is the unlikely chemistry between Bergman and Piper. Piper is a complete fuddy-duddy whose oafishness is endearing. Bergman is super horny and super capable; a manifestation of a manic, heteronormative male fantasy of female supremacy. The scenes between these two players/types have a kinkiness to them that’s a lot of fun and manages to avoid being problematic by remaining campy in its depictions of kink.

Hell Comes To Frogtown is a fun way to waste ninety minutes. I wouldn’t rank this as one of the best cult films I’ve seen, but at least it was worthy of its reputation. I could see this as a good double bill with Alex Cox’s Straight To Hell (1987) or Sam Irvin’s Oblivion (1994).