Swamp Thing (1982)
Directed by Wes Craven
[this rewind review brought to you by the jaded viewer's first guest reviewer Dylan Duarte, who secretly works at Area 51]
When watching a film a few decades old, especially a horror film, you have to adjust your expectations. Well, you don't have to, but you might be disappointed. You should expect camp and you should expect cheese, partly because of traditional effects, and partly because what worked back then is just different than what works now.
So I went into Swamp Thing with these expectations and was pleasantly surprised by the lack of either, though Adrienne Barbeau's hair is very much a product of the 1980s.
After a violent incident with a special chemical, a research scientist is turned into a swamp plant monster.
Swamp Thing tells the story of scientist Alec Holland (Ray Wise), who runs a research station in the middle of a swamp, working on plants. He develops a chemical that makes plants overly aggressive, which he hopes will help them survive in harsh conditions. Unfortunately, the dastardly Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) wants Holland's research for himself and employs a group of mercenaries to take it by force. In the ensuing battle, Holland comes into contact with the chemical and is transformed into the monstrosity known as Swamp Thing.
The immediate problem, as someone who's familiar with Swamp Thing, is the lack of moss and other leafy greens that should be decorating the creature's body. Swamp Thing has always looked like something of a giant plant, whereas in this adaptation he's just a smooth, green-skinned giant that looks more like the Hulk. Not only is it disappointing as a fan, but it also takes away one of the more unique aspects of the character. Now he just looks like any old thing you'd see in a creature feature, when he should look like a living, breathing salad.
Granted, a disgusting living, breathing salad, but one all the same. This may seem nitpicky, but it really does damage the overall feel of the movie and makes it seem more derivative than it actually is.
The acting is exactly what you'd hope for, especially with Arcane. Jourdan chews the scenery all to hell in the classic villainous pursuit of power. Barbeau is a tough cookie as Alice Cable, a government agent sent to protect the lab. She's reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley in the Alien franchise. Not only does she look similar, but she displays the same scared confidence. She doesn't know what the hell is happening, but she's not going down without a fight.
And then there's Ray Wise, who takes his role much more seriously than he probably needed to but the movie is so much better for it. It's difficult to truly embrace a character when you're so familiar with the actor, but that's an issue with the viewer, not the actor, and Wise deserves credit for breaking through that barrier.
And then there's Jude, a young man that Cable meets while running from Arcane's goons. Jude is played by Reggie Batts, who to this day has never starred in another movie nor a television show. Batts gives one of those performances that blurs the line between terrible and amazing, because he isn't really acting. He's just himself, Reggie Batts, and he's gotten caught up in some monster madness in the Louisiana Bayou. He looks something like Steve Urkel and he talks like Stevie from Malcolm in the Middle and he's far and away the best part of the movie.
Unfortunately, the cheese begins to creep its ugly head in as we near the end and the movie takes a serious downhill turn that embraces the horror clichés of the time. It's truly disappointing where Swamp Thing ends up, especially considering what it started out as. It's still a good movie, but if it had the stayed the course that it established early on, it could've been something great.
"Dylan Duarte is a horror buff and writer who regularly writes about StarCostumes.com He can be reached at dylnduarte at gmail.com."
Check out the trailer below!