As a follow-up to our recent review of the upcoming found footage monster movie, Frogman, Cinepunx contributing writer and co-host of Horror Business, Justin Lore, spoke with writer/director Anthony Cousins and had a lot of fun talking cryptids, found footage in general, and the joy of happy accidents in filmmaking. Frogman hits VOD on March 8.

So as someone who has also been obsessed with cryptids over the years, why the Loveland Frogman? I understand that Mothman has been beaten to death and everyone knows about that, but why not the Flatwoods monster, or something like that? What about the Loveland Frogman grabbed you to make this movie?

It was just kind of a perfect storm when he came to my attention. I’ve always loved cryptids, but you know, he’s definitely a much lesser known one. He didn’t come to my attention until 2018. And I just love frogs and toads in general, especially if they’re in, like, fancy suits or hats, which unfortunately, we didn’t figure out a way to put frogman in a fancy suit or a hat.

A tragedy that we didn’t get to see that.

Yeah, but maybe in the sequel we can work that in. So, yeah, I’m already into frogs. Frogs, monsters and cryptids. And then, I find out about this guy who has a wand, which no other cryptid can claim.

Yeah, that’s weird, because I kind of knew about the Loveland frog man and then, “Oh, they just saw the big frog.” But then, “Oh, he had a wand that shot sparks!” Which is very, “what the fuck? Why would you make that part up?” Debunkers said it’s apparently a tailless iguana, which isn’t true. It’s not an iguana, it’s a frog man. Why has he got that wand?!

Why? And how have so many people seen him with that wand? That’s the thing that really cracks me up and fascinates me. I can totally understand how you could misinterpret something as a Sasquatch, or a Loch Ness monster, or something like that. I could also understand how those things could exist, you know, those are plausible creatures. But the fact that multiple people have supposedly seen this thing with a wand in its hand is just fascinating. And it’s just cool. He doesn’t have enough love yet, although there is the Frogman Festival now in Loveland, two years running, which makes me so happy that he’s getting the fandom he deserves. I hope we can be a part of that.

Yeah, it’s one of those weird phenomena around the United States, how there’s those towns that have their cryptid names. Obviously, Point Pleasant, West Virginia. There’s a place here in Pennsylvania, I think it’s a little further out west, where they have some goofy little cryptid called the squonk. And then somewhere out west, there’s another one for the hodag. I had no idea. I didn’t know about the frogman festival, but that tracks, because he’s a great mascot.

The funny thing is, the town doesn’t really embrace him yet. And at the time that we made the movie, I looked into it and it was like the town wants nothing to do with him. And there’s even people in the town that don’t even know about the legend. It’s really not embraced. And it wasn’t until we had already shot [the movie] last year in March that the first Frogman Festival was held in Loveland, Ohio, but it’s just a guy that puts it on and brought it all together, and does it at the convention center there. The town, to my knowledge, is not involved at all. But it had a huge turnout. There was like 600 plus people there last year, so who knows what’s gonna happen this year. The town is probably kicking themselves at this point for not being involved.

Yeah, that was actually one of my questions. If you had shot it in Loveland and, if so, what’s it like? I don’t think you shot this in Loveland, did you?


That was one of my questions, how people would have talked about it. Because a few years ago, I was down in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and the hotel I was staying at, there was this old lady working the front desk. And I asked what it was like when the Mothman was there and she’s like, “That shit’s made up. It didn’t happen.”

It was on my list of things to do to visit Loveland before we shot. And I really, really wanted to, but then time got away from me. It was a super busy summer. I was working as a crew member on some features, like up until the point that we started shooting Frogman. So unfortunately, I never got to visit. We shot the whole thing in Minnesota where I’m from and no complaint so far. In fact, there’s some people from Ohio familiar with the legend that asked me if we shot in Ohio. So that was a big relief. And even Loveland, there were people that know Loveland who said,  “Okay, yeah, that’s definitely not Loveland, but it’s got the vibe of Loveland.”  Like, it’s a cute little town with a couple streets, which is kind of the vibe I got, and so we found something in Minnesota that fit that.

Very cool. One of the things that I really appreciated about this movie is when it comes to found footage, there’s often this very…okay, so you know how in the Blair Witch Project, there’s the moment at the end when the protagonist, the main filmmaker, apologizes for getting everyone killed. And that’s become a staple. And I like what you did where there wasn’t any sort of cornball apology to make a dramatic point. But there was this sense of Dallas, the main character, the whole thing of him having this kind of failed life, or a successful life. He had this high point when he was a little kid when he saw this frog man. Was there anything behind that? Was that something that you drew from personally, or was that just a random narrative choice?

Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely a lot of me, my co-writer, John, and Nate, who plays Dallas. I had just turned 30 when we started writing this script and I’m very thankful that I’ve had a career working in film as a crew member, and I’ve been able to make my shorts every other year or so. But it was always my dream to make a feature by the time I turned 30. And here I am, turning 30, haven’t done it, doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen. So we wrote this script and really I love found footage, so I’m happy to do a found footage movie, but it was really kind of a necessity thing of, “let’s just write something that we could definitely do, for whatever money we can find.” Because I have to do this, or I might not keep going in film anymore. So, in that respect, yeah, the Dallas character and what he’s going through is definitely very personal for me. I wasn’t quite at rock bottom, but I did feel like I was at rock bottom when it came to film, in a way, so it’s really kind of crazy watching the movie, because as he’s kind of throwing his Hail Mary and he’s gonna make his Frogman documentary, that’s really what we were doing while we were making Frogman. We at least got to make this one feature and see if anyone cares or not, or if anyone will let us make another one, but we just got to do this one so we can say that we at least tried.

I appreciate how candid you were with that, because one of my biggest problems with found footage movies is a lot of times, it doesn’t feel like they set out to make a found footage movie. It feels like they had an idea for something and they couldn’t figure out a way to tell the story, so they just were like, “Oh, it’s tapes we found in the woods and there’s a monster in there.” I really respect that you did what you did with what you had. There’s a very punk ethos to that. It’s a lot less cynical than a lot of found footage movies that just feel like lazy storytelling, if that makes any sense.

I love found footage and thankfully, there’s been a lot of really good found footage lately, but you know, since “Blair Witch,” the good stuff always trickled in here and there. Yes, there’s so much of it that it kind of gets bogged down and there’s a bad rap by sheer quantity, but there is quality in there. There’s a lot of quantity of people that do it because it’s cheap, do it because they think, well, “Blair Witch” did it, Paranormal Activity did it, we could just turn in a pile of shit and make some money.” That’s just not how it works. And what I’ve told everyone, what I learned about this experience is, when people say making found footage is easy, that’s true. But what they don’t tell you is it’s not easy to make a good found footage movie.

I actually think found footage is incredibly hard to make, because you have to…there has to be a suspension of disbelief that goes above and beyond what you’re normally feeling in horror films. I’ll accept in Hellraiser that the guy found the cube and blah, blah, Pinhead, but when I’m watching The Blair Witch Project, I’m supposed to believe that this is actual footage and it has to be that much better to suck the viewer in. And you did it. With this film, I actually felt like I was seeing a guy at his wit’s end struggling to just make it. And then the rest of it, like the whole frogman thing, was just kind of circumstantial. This felt more like a story about a guy who was just grasping at straws to do something and there just happened to be a frog man. Like, the scene when they found the guy running in the woods and he was wearing a frog costume, I was like, “Oh my God, please, that would be such a ballsy movie if that was it.” I mean, obviously, I like where you went with the whole Lovecraftian Mike Mignola stuff, but there was that moment where I was like, “Holy shit, if he does this, it will be the greatest found footage movie of all time.” A guy who just puts it all on black and just loses is awesome.

Well, yeah, you know, at one point, Amy calls him out because they’re trying to chase Frogman through the woods and she’s like, “What is your plan? Like, what are you really gonna do? You’re just like a dog chasing a car.” And thank you for saying that, because that’s a huge lesson we learned in making this thing. The authenticity is not as simple as just getting a couple of great actors and putting a camera in their hands. It takes so much more than that. You need those two things, but there’s so much more than that to get that authenticity right. And it’s a weird balance, because you’re making a movie. Movies or drama; drama is interesting, but you can’t go to the lengths that a traditional movie goes with drama, you can’t push the edges of theatrical. If you even flirt with theatrical and found footage, it falls apart with that authenticity. And there are scenes, quite a few scenes, that we shot three times over, because we’d shoot it once, try it out, I didn’t have a great feeling about it when we shot it. But let’s try it in the edit, let’s see what happens. And it’s like, nope, it feels like I can smell the bullshit. It feels staged. So we’d go back out and shoot it again.

I respect that as a consumer of film. I appreciate you going to those lengths that you did to really nail it. And one of the things I noticed that you did in this film was, a lot of times in found footage, it looks like when they show the ghost, or the fucking bigfoot, or whatever it is, it’s shot a little too clean and crisp. It’s not like someone scared out of their mind is holding a camcorder and they somehow get the perfect shot of this monster. The thing I like that you did was the noises of it. A lot of times, it was all communicated through noise. And then the character of Amy, when they found her in the woods, just shell shocked. That was the first moment where it was like, okay, this very easily could have been: they go out in the woods and look for a giant frog, and they get picked off one by one by these frog monsters. Instead, you went with it where you went with it, which I think was a bold choice, because it could have gone very bad very easily and you pulled it off. Why did you decide to make this a sort of Lovecraft, “Dunwich Horror” style movie instead of staying in the safe zone and having a regular monster movie?

It’s funny you say that, because the Lovecraftian influence was always there. There was always this Innsmouth-like approach of the whole town. At one point, the entire town was in on it and they were all descendants of Frogman. And then, we shot a little, that’s one of those things that we shot a little bit of. And it was like, well, we got 10 extras scouring the town and you don’t feel the scope. It just made it silly, so I was like, okay, how about this is a small group? Maybe even people in town don’t know it exists, or there’s just rumors, so that was always there.

But originally, there was this idea in my head that that always cracked me up, that maybe he’s just a big, dumb frog that has stood the test of time. You know, like the Loch Ness monster, or Bigfoot, and this town has just projected what they want to believe on him and there is no intelligence there, and it was not enough. It didn’t feel like enough was happening. It felt like maybe we were trying to be too “Blair Witch” and we weren’t bringing anything new to the table. And we didn’t have the wand and that felt wrong. You know, that’s kind of his key that sets him apart from all the other cryptids. And we left that out so that it could maybe be ambiguous about what his origin is, or his intelligence level. And it was like, we’ve got to give him the wand. We’ve got to go back to those caves and give him the fucking wand. And when we did that, him not being intelligent was out the door. If he’s got a wand, either he is magical, or he’s got some sort of advanced technology, but he’s definitely not just a big, dumb frog. So that kind of snowballed into, well, if he’s got a wand, maybe, you know, he can infiltrate your mind and he can read your mind. That was just a fun, silly thing that we threw in there, but it was like, well, what if he can? Like, what if he can get into your mind? So all of that stuff came way late in the game. And that moment with Amy, where things start getting crazy, that came in the editing room. When we were 12 hours deep into editing and kind of going delirious, which, you know,  if you’ve ever edited a movie, you do hit a point where you kind of feel like you’re losing your mind. And we started throwing out crazy, crazy stuff. We were like, “What if Frogman built the pyramids?” And at one point, our editor was just rewinding the footage to get back to a moment and it was Amy running in reverse. It looked really creepy and freaky and I was like, “Oh my God, do that again, we gotta figure out how to put that in the movie. How do we have her running in reverse in the movie?”

That’s really interesting.

Yeah, so that was all just crazy, delirious, three a.m. stuff that just came out of nowhere.

That’s so cool. I love little like stories about film like that, where it’s just something happens by accident and it’s like no, no, keep it that way. Like Lenny Montana and The Godfather for real reading his lines before he talks to Brando.

So this is kind of a…I don’t want to call it a cop out question, but I’d like to get a feel for what some of the films, or just art in general, that influenced the way this movie looked and unfolded.

Sure. Well, the two big ones were Willow Creek and Digging Up the Marrow. We had a double feature before we started writing Frogman and Willow Creek is, for my money, the best cryptid found footage that’s been done so far. It’s got engaging characters, a simple setup, and it’s really effective. And then you have Digging Up the Marrow, which takes a very unique approach to found footage that I haven’t seen in a long time. What Adam Green did well is, he shows you the monsters in all their glory and shot them well, and I knew we couldn’t make a movie called Frogman without showing you frog man and showing you some crazy shit. Like, Bobcat Goldthwait can get away with making Willow Creek and not show you Bigfoot, because we all know what Bigfoot looks like. We’ve all seen Bigfoot. There are a million Bigfoot movies, we can keep it in the shadows, or ambiguous, you know? But like, this is the only Frogman movie right now, so we’ve got to deliver. So it really was kind of a mashup of those two movies. And then for the look, it’s really “Blair Witch.” That movie had such an immense impact on me when I saw it and still does to this day. And as much as I love the modern found footage, I miss it a lot. Analog, you know, the lo-fi feel of “Blair Witch” and those early ones that were shot on like DV cam. What’s the other one, The McPherson Tape?

Oh, with the aliens.

Yeah. That’s another reason why we had to deliver on Frogman, because The McPherson Tapes, I think that is some of the best found footage ever done. I would love to pick their brain on how they did that, because the opening, when it’s just a birthday party, it feels like there’s no way this was staged. There’s no way these are actors. I feel like this is just home movie footage, you know? And then you get to the end, and the aliens are just ridiculous. I still love the movie, but we can’t do that to people again.

I remember when seeing that movie when I was a kid. I was 10 years old when Fire In The Sky came out and I’m ruined by that movie. And seeing The McPherson Tapes, being like, “Jesus Christ.” And then I watched it as an adult and I was like, “What?” Like, there they are. 

But those movies are products of their time. They work as period pieces because they take place when they were shot and something I really wanted to do was shoot on Hi8, but there was no way that we were going to be able to shoot a movie authentically out in the wild and make a period piece. We couldn’t set this in ‘99. I had enough trouble with that opening scene that’s supposed to be ’99, avoiding cars because cars were just not nearly as shiny as they are now. It was so hard. So we tried to come up with a reason that would work, story-wise, of why he would be shooting on this camera when he could just shoot the whole thing on his phone.

And it works, too. I think it ties in, again, with the kind of the reclamation of his moment in the sun, so to speak. Also, kudos for that Youtuber. That is the most annoying shit in real life.

It was really awesome talking to you. I never really get a chance to talk to many other hard people who are into cryptids like this. I’ve been all over the country and gone to some of these places, like Point Pleasant, and now, after seeing this movie, I gotta go to Loveland. I have to go there and talk about the Frogman to people who don’t want to hear about the Frogman.

Dude, Frogman Festival next weekend.

Is it really next weekend?

It’s next week, yeah. We’re doing a screening on Friday night and Saturday night.

All right, man. Thank you so much for sitting down to talk to me. I really, really appreciate it.

It was awesome talking to you. Thank you so much.

FROGMAN will be available on VOD/Digital March 8th, 2024. Read our review by Justin Lore here.