Review: Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
In Hell Comes to Frogtown wrestler/actor “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays Sam Hell, one of the last virile men in a post-apocalyptic society, who’s on a mission to free fertile women who are trapped in Frogtown. That’s right, the title of the movie boils down to [Character] comes to [Location].
We can see why Piper was attracted to this role. Being a wrestler, his options must’ve been limited, and how can someone say no to playing a character that is basically the most desirable man on earth. When the movie opens, Hell is told by embarrassed actresses how important he really is to the human race, and then sent off on a dangerous mission to rescue fertile women to mate with. See, a nuclear war took place before, and turned earth into a Mad Max-esque landscape filled with infertile humans and mutated frog-like creatures.
Don’t expect too much from the mention of Mad Max however, as the movie’s locations are restricted to the California desert (over the Australian one in Mad Max) and a construction site.
If it doesn’t make much sense to you as to why Hell is being sent off on a mission if he’s so valuable, then you might not understand what kind of movie this is. This is a movie that could only have been made in the 80s, borrowing freely from Mad Max and Escape From New York. Except here the explosives to prevent the hero from running off are attached to the crotch region.
Hell Comes to Frogtown was shot on a limited budget, and it shows. It’s surprisingly pleasant to watch, but not amusing enough to put on for a bad movie night with some friends. For this the movie has too many slow spots. For one, it takes 36 minutes for the movie (which is 86 minutes long) to reveal the frog mutants to us. Instead of this setting off the action, we are introduced to a mutated frog dancer as Hell sits down to grab a drink.
The rest of the movie plays out like an extended – and cheaper – version of the opening to Return of the Jedi (the Han Solo escape). The action is surprisingly limited, and most of the fun to be had stems from Hell’s desirability. In our current #metoo society, it’s hard not to cringe when a female scientist drugs a fertile woman, so Hell can sleep with her. It’s all good though, as the rape victim thanks Piper afterwards. And to be fair, he was about to get raped a few minutes earlier into the movie.
That female scientist also serves as Roddy’s love interest by the way, as the movie attempts to establish a Romancing the Stone type of dynamic between the two leads. We want to stress attempts here.
What we’re left with is a movie that feels like a hodgepodge of 80s movies, struggling to find its own identity. This isn’t a forgotten classic from that decade, but it’s also not a disaster. The laid-back atmosphere of the movie and fun practical effects to the frog mutants make it pleasant enough for a sleepy Sunday morning.
4 years after Hell Comes to Frogtown, a sequel was released without Roddy Piper. Reviews were not kind, and we can’t have faith in a movie in which perpetual bad guy Robert D’Zar plays the hero.
In 1988 Roddy Piper also starred in John Carpenter’s They Live. If you’re looking for a great piece of 80s cinema and haven’t seen it yet, we recommend you watch that one instead.