Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake is set on an isolated Wisconsin island called Rana which refers to a lake god worshipped by Indians, presumably a long time ago. We begin with a man named Kelly (Glenn Scherer), isn't that a woman's name?, telling a woman named Chris (Doreen Moze), isn't that a man's name?, about local legends & the way things used to be when he was 11 years old... Cut to that point in time & the young Kelly (Brad Ellingson) lives on the island with his Father John Morgan (Alan Ross) who happens to be the local Ranger, things were usually very quiet on the island with just Kelly his Father & an old hermit named Charlie (Jerry Gregoris who also has co-writing & co-producing credits) but ever since Kelly found a rare bone fragment that was 125 millions years old things had become busier on the island. A local university sent female paleontologist Dr. Elli Hatley to investigate & her niece Susan (Julie Wheaton) went along for the ride. Three men posing as loggers also turned up at about the same time, Burley (Jim Iaquinta), Cal (Bruno Alexander as Bruno Aclin) & Mike (Michael Skewes) while yet another paleontologist named Sorensen (Lorry Getz) was attacked & killed by something that lives in the lake... Kelly carries on to explain that in the legends that surround the island it is said that somewhere at the bottom of the lake there is huge amounts of gold, but the legend also states that a prehistoric frog creature known as Rana guards the gold & kills anyone foolish enough to attempt to locate it...
Co-photographed under the pseudonym Ito (?!), co-produced & directed by Bill Rebane Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake is a pretty dire film on all accounts. The script by Gregoris, Lyoma Denetz & Mike Landers is tediously slow, dull & boring to the extent that those 96 minutes felt considerably longer. The character's have no personality or likability, the dialogue is stiff, unnatural & really flat I mean people just don't talk like this do they? The basic story could have had potential if the flashbacks were used to unravel a mystery but here they are just used to pad the running time out & there really isn't any need for Kelly to be narrating the film apart from the fact it's an easy way for Rebane to cram a lot of dull exposition in with the least amount of effort. The whole film is just stupid & doesn't gel at all & what about Rana the frog creature himself? Well he makes an appearance at the end for about two minutes & that's it, the rest of the film we just get point-of-view shots & a rubber claw. The extremely predictable twist ending leaves the door open for a sequel which, thankfully, has yet to materialise.
Director Rebane again shows his general incompetence here straight from the opening sequence featuring really jerky aerial shots of the island to the way everything looks to have been filmed in natural light so the brightness & colour levels appear to shift all over the place & it's not an easy film to watch. One more thing Bill, where does all that neon lighting come from in those underwater caverns? He fails to create any sort of tension, atmosphere or excitement & as a whole Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake is a real chore to get through. Every other shot seems to be of a landscape, a tree, the surface of the lake or some local wildlife just to stretch it out even further & it reminded me of a really dull & dry wildlife documentary in terms of content, entertainment value & style, basically very little on all three accounts! There are a few gore scenes, someone has an arrow pushed through them, a body severed in half, someone has their face crushed against a tree & some severed fingers.
With a budget that probably wouldn't buy a round of drinks in a pub these days Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake is a shoddy production from beginning to end, terrible static cinematography, music that feels like it belongs in a different film & Rana himself when he eventually turns up is obviously just a guy in a rubber wetsuit painted green & a silly rubber mask. The acting is awful although there is a great scene when a goat tries to stand on a box in the background & falls off in spectacular style! Plus there is absolutely no reason for it whatsoever...
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake is a real chore to sit through & is of very little, if any, entertainment value. I'll give it two stars because one or two bits of gore & the bizarre but cool goat scene, although in themselves they are hardly recommendations to watch this. Apparently Troma released this under the alternate title 'Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell' which is a cool title for a crap film, one to avoid.
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