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Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing

What She said:

He

I think when most people think of Wes Craven they think of a few things. First and foremost, the name Freddy Krueger comes to mind. Love him or hate him, the character is horror movie icon. He has been in countless movies, comic books, and even had his own TV show for a little while (Brad Pitt was even in an episode). He is most likely Craven’s most recognizable work to date. The other is the movie Scream. Scream was something of a phenomenon when it came out. Slasher flicks were all the rage in the late 70s through the 80s, but audiences grew tired of them (the quality tends to go down after countless sequels). But Scream embraced horror movie clichés and turned the movie into a successful spoof. It also helps that the movie still works as a legit horror flick.  Critics and audiences loved it.

But before all of that came Swamp Thing. I’m not even sure if I ever knew Craven was involved in this film. If I did, I forgot until I recently checked it out. Swamp Thing differed from Craven’s previous works in several ways. He wanted to show studios he could handle a more action-oriented movie with bigger stunts and effects; which is funny considering the budget for this movie was obviously very low. The other was that this movie very toned down to some of his previous works. The Hills Have Eyes and The Last House on the Left were much more graphic movies. They were exploitation films. It’s funny, you can see elements of that in Swamp Thing, but it’s done in a toned down and campy way; which I think works better.

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing is about a scientist (played by Ray Wise and Dick Durock later on) who is working on some cutting edge stuff. Dr. Holland is attempting to create super durable plant that can survive in less than ideal conditions. He seems like a pretty idealistic guy and wants to use his theories to end hunger, achieve world peace, and all that other good stuff. He’s working for some government agency that seems to have some different ideas about what to do with his ideas. They aren’t the only ones, because an evil madman named Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) is after his research. This character is straight out of a comic book and that’s apparent from his first appearance. I can’t say too much without spoiling, but I laughed my ass off when he first popped up. He also has a group of very stereotypical henchmen; who are equally as amusing.

Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is some kind of federal agent sent to keep tabs on Holland’s work. Who she’s keeping tabs for is never totally clear. It’s also pretty funny that she seems to fall head over heels for the guy in about ten minutes, but hey. The character is only there for her cleavage anyway.

There is also this kid named Jude (Reggie Batts) who ends up getting caught up in the whole thing. This kid is the one cool cat. Not only does he seem to live alone in the swamp, but also appears to be an entrepreneur. When Alice first meets him, he is working at a gas station and seemingly owns the joint. The kid is wise beyond his years. Swamp Thing was the only movie this kid was ever in, which is a shame because his delivery was perfect. That kid was made for movies like this.

It’s interesting that Scream got people to notice his ability to poke fun at the genre that made him famous, because he had done so 14 years earlier in Swamp Thing. He also did so in The People Under the Stairs; which is hilarious if you’ve never seen it.

Swamp Thing is an homage to old fashioned monster movies, mixed with some comedy, and a dash of exploitation film; though very toned down. That’s really what makes it work. It pokes fun at stuff that took itself seriously. Even the fonts and screen transitions they use made me laugh.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on October 31, 2012.

What She said:

She

I always enjoy watching movies that were made around the time I was born. It gives me a glimmer of insight into how the world looked and functioned during that era.  Swamp Thing, a cult-classic film directed by Wes Craven, was released in 1982, just before I graced this planet.  It’s as campy as they come, and serves as sort of a spoof or even homage to 1950s monster movies.  If the movie is any indication of what the world was actually like in 1982, well, then it was unbelievably cheesy.

Swamp Thing

Here’s your basic premise: Alice Cable works for the government and is sent on assignment to some super-secret lab in the Louisiana bayous.  When she gets there she meets the dashing Dr. Alec Holland, who obviously believes in love at first sight.  He’s working on an experimental concoction that creates plant/animal hybrids.  It’s sort of a scary thought, and I’m not sure why the government would be interested in it, but let’s just roll with this.  Cable and Holland don’t get much time to explore the boundaries of their love (maybe about 3 hours) before the lab gets ambushed by some badies who want to get their hands on the top secret technology.  Practically everyone dies except Holland and Cable.  But the good doc is not left unscathed.  He’s exposed to the potion and turns into the Swamp Thing.  He looks like a man wearing a green nylon suit with some gross roots growing across his body like veins.  He scares almost everyone he encounters from this point on, but hey, Swampie’s got a heart, and it still belongs to Cable.  As Cable tries to escape and get help, the Swamp Thing watches over her, saves her life a few times, and helps her bring down the bad guys.

The movie is utterly ridiculous in a very funny and enjoyable way.  From the costumes, to the very premise, to the music; it’s full cheese.  You’ll pick up on the pure hilarity of the henchmen’s names.  They’re textbook.  And then you’ve got young Jude.  This kid was made for one-liners.  Adrienne Barbeau plays Cable, and alternates between feverishly planning the downfall of the evil Dr. Anton Arcane, and running around yelling and looking terrified.  Dr. Arcane is played by Louis Jordan, who you may remember from some classic films like Gigi.  I have no idea who Ray Wise is, but he plays Holland, and apparently appears in a lot of movies and TV shows.  His IMDB listing is crazy long.

So anyway, Swamp Thing is bad in all the right ways.  It’s enjoyable campy and I can see why it’s a cult classic.  Don’t expect this to actually be a legitimately good movie, and just take it for what it is, and you’re nearly guaranteed a good time.

Thumbs up.