Throwback Thursday Review: “Swamp Thing” (1982)

 

 
Overview
 

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Direction
6.0


 
Acting
5.0


 
Plot
5.0


 
Execution
7.0


 
Total Score
5.8


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Posted November 3, 2016 by

 
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“Swamp Thing” is a strange beast indeed. It was originally marketed as a horror / sci- fi feature, which is understandable, given that it was written and directed by Wes Craven. Yes, the same Wes Craven that shocked and terrified us with films such as “The Last House on the Left”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, and who would later bring the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” franchises to life. So what’s the problem? Well to begin with, “Swamp Thing” is not actually a horror movie at all. It’s also not a comedy or a spoof, although one can find elements of both genres present at various moments. Is it an action-packed love story? Getting warmer. More than anything, it’s a highly enjoyable hour and a half of campy, B-movie mayhem.

The story (which is actually based on a DC comic from the 70’s) takes place deep inside an undisclosed swampland, where the charismatic Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) has made a breakthrough discovery that could potentially end world hunger. Unfortunately, just around the corner, is an evil scientist named Arcane (Louis Jourdan), who will stop at nothing to steal the formula. Also present (along with Holland’s close-knit team of helpers) is Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau), a security agent sent from Washington to oversee the project. Sure enough, Arcane and his men storm the top-secret laboratory, and after a brief scuffle, Holland is accidentally dowsed with a bottle of his own potion, which leaves him engulfed in flames, and diving into the swamp.

swamp-thing-2The only one to make it out alive is Cable, but when Arcane’s goons attempt to get rid of her once and for all, they are in for a big surprise. Enter the swamp monster, who is half man, half vegetation, and possesses superhuman strength. Much of the movie consists of Cable getting captured, and then punching her way to freedom when the bad guys start hitting on her. On those odd occasions where she does need a little extra help, her leafy friend shows up just in time to rescue her. Eventually she figures out that ‘swampy’ is actually Dr. Holland, who has been hideously transformed into a walking, talking Caesar salad. Soon they form a bond, which naturally, inspires her to remove her all of her clothes, and bath in the swamp. The final showdown between Holland and Arcane is far too absurd for words, but by that point, we’ve already kind of given up on the idea that the film might be worthy an Academy Award.

The dialog is actually rather clever, despite being outrageously over the top. Nearly every sentence delivered throughout the entire film is either a one-line joke, or a setup for a one-liner soon to follow. The acting is about what you would expect from a picture this tongue-in- cheek, and generally serves the film quite well. Adrienne Barbeau’s breasts also warrant a special mention, given the amount of screen-time they command. All things considered, they probably deserve an acting credit of their own.

Objectively however, the real problem with the movie is the production quality. The creature, who is supposed to be the coolest part of the film, looks like a man wearing a really cheap Halloween costume. It is completely unconvincing, and the rest of the effects are frankly no better. It’s almost as if the producers approached Craven at some point and said, “be careful Wes, we don’t want it to look too good”. Considering the picture’s flimsy budget, I’m guessing that was never going to be a serious concern.

Yet, despite these criticisms, the film is surprisingly entertaining to watch. For starters, there is a certain naïve tenderness and old school charm to the Beauty and the Beast like love story that develops between the main characters. Additionally, It is also hard not to smile as our swamp-hero deals with his foes, ie, primarily by tossing them into the swamp, or across the road, or completely out of the picture altogether. I also enjoyed nearly every scene featuring Jude, a young local whos quick wit and river-smarts come in very handy on several memorable occasions. So at the end of the day, is “Swamp Thing” a good movie after all? Not really, but I would definitely recommend that you give it a try anyway. You’ll be glad you did.


MikeD

 


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