This is it. My last Wicked Wisconsin Wednesday. 37 weeks of some incredible films. And we can use that word ‘incredible’ in any way we want. But I saved some delicious Bill Rebane for last because really, would this project even exist if it wasn’t for this man?
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake or Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell or Rana: The Creature from Shadow Lake just plain Rana was made around the time his other creature film, The Capture of Bigfoot, graced us with its existence. But this time there was a bit more originality involved because we’ve got a whole new type of creature: a killer frog-man! Oh and some of the funkiest music to ever be featured in a Rebane film (and that’s saying something with this as competition).
Rana takes place mostly in flashback form as Kelly Morgan tells the story of his childhood to a woman in his cabin who may or may have something to do with this movie. Though strangely enough, one of the first bits we see is a flashback that has nothing to do with little Kelly, but since this is a Rebane film, I’m not going to argue. A fisherman is looking in the waters for a catch when he’s killed by his own harpoon.
Though little Kelly is the one who finds some fancy fossil that brings all these strange people together in our little film. He and his forest ranger father are living up at Shadow Lake with a paleontologist woman who has joined in on their camping trip for whatever reason.
But early on, I’m totally won over by the line delivery in this movie. It’s as though everyone is seeing their lines for the first time and are just testing them out to see if they can pronounce the words or not. It’s stiff enough to make the Rana costume look realistic.
There’s also a group of three men in flannel marching around the woods. But it doesn’t matter because LOOK! Baby Raccoon!!
Baby animals are so distracting. I suppose that’s why I missed the fact that these men are supposed loggers. Get it? Because they’re wearing plaid? And remember that funky music I mentioned before? It’s following a strange old man as he runs through the forest. Again, I feel like I’ve missed the point of this character, but he’s hand-down the best part of this movie after the baby raccoon.
But then… older Kelly and random lady are making out in the present-day living room? Of course, Rebane. Of course.
So this movie is still going on, but I feel like I missed something like maybe the point of this movie (as is per usual with Rebane films). One of the loggers/legend-hunter was attacked by something in the lake. Whatever grabbed him has infected his leg with some neon-green pus. They’re looking for the entrance to some find some sort of treasure, which I guess explains something but also begs more questions like, why did anyone bother to hide something interesting in Wisconsin?
The old man is caught sneaking around Kelly’s home. His father catches the old man who warns that the frogs “know” about what’s going on up at the lake and that the logging group are going to be “heaps of trouble.” And they are.
The paleontologist’s niece, Susan, passes out when she’s spooked by one of the loggers who is scuba diving. In one of the more unnecessary moments, he brings her up to the shore where he then proceeds to wrap his hands around her neck like some sort of randomly aggressive animal. I guess this was done to make it feel more satisfying when he gets killed off two minutes later, and it definitely works.
The old man tells the paleontologist that her colleague (the fisherman who was harpooned earlier in the movie) is not around and that she should leave as soon as she can. But why listen to him? Everything feels so inviting by this lake. Somehow she’s put off by this exchange and makes Kelly go to question the man instead. He begins to tell the story about these Indians who find this creature that is half-man and half-frog. The Indian then throws this magical yellow pebble into the lake. This apparently brought game to the area of the woods. These pebbles were apparently some sort of gift to Rana who then gave them food. The “yellow pebbles” were actually gold nuggets. And that gold was to remain in the lake.
Everyone on this place clearly hate each other, and spend their time either avoiding each other or making life a hell for the others. The old man is shot by the loggers after he shoots at the loggers. On his death bed, he tells the paleontologist that Rana is there to protect the gold. As he’s dying, Kelly’s father goes to chat to the loggers who claim they are innocent but then proceed to beat the man up.
At this point, shit begins to hit the fan. One of the loggers finds the body of his friend while Susan finds a skull when she falls over in a field. Then the poor logger gets his face smashed into a tree by Rana. And the forest ranger gives absolutely zero fucks when he finds the body.
But by far the BEST, most unintentionally funny death scene is when the final logger is shot by the forest ranger and dies to the oh-so-subtle town of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. But anyway, our leading paleontologist is (rightfully) points out that now that the old man is dead, there is no one to continue carrying out the ritual of giving gifts to Rana. Obviously Rana’s little froggy years were burning as it immediately punches its green arm through the kitchen window, scaring the shit out of everyone left.
The paleontologist is killed, so the remaining three head down river in a raft only to get invaded by Rana himself. Only the kids escape with nowhere to go but home. It doesn’t take long for them to get tracked down and Susan is taken by Rana, who is finally revealed to be a rubber suit-wearing man that sounds like a chainsaw that’s unable to start up.
And the ending, well, is so strange and pointless it could only be in a movie sometimes called Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell.
Rana is pretty much typical Rebane fare: dark shots, nonsensical directing choices and all with a lot of love and occasional humour, which is almost always unintentional. The weird flashback part is completely unnecessary but sort of adds to the charm. And if you really like people wandering around the woods and lake for 90 minutes, this just might be the movie for you! But after all these weeks, Rana was my parting gift, and I find myself left with just one lingering question:
Is Kelly really a boys name?