Twitter Plot Summary: After a scientist is doused in a special chemical (and some fire), he becomes Swamp Thing!
From the directorial chair of Wes Craven and the pages of DC Comics comes Swamp Thing. In the comics the character was somewhat of a joke until Alan Moore took over writing duties and managed to make something genuinely entertaining and deep in a character that was originally a one note creation. Can the same be said about the movie adaptation of the character? Well, it certainly isn’t pitched as anything more than a 1980s B-Movie, an homage to the science fiction movies of the 1950s.
Adrienne Barbeau stars as Alice Cable, a government representative with big hair (well, it was 1982) who is sent to a swamp research facility just as the resident mad scientist Dr Alec Holland (Ray Wise) makes a breakthrough on his research. Unfortunately this is takes place shortly before the facility is stormed by Dr Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan) And his mercenary troop. Doused in his secret formula and on fire a bit, Holland plunges into the swamp while the mercs tear the place down and spend a good half an hour chasing after Alice.
The love story between Holland/Swamp Thing and Alice is a little shallow because it barely has enough screen time to be established before his transformation takes place. I say transformation, it is literally a man in a big rubber suit. The story might be half decent, but the Swamp Thing costume is rather bad. Because of this relatively low budget approach it doesn’t even benefit from letting Swamp Thing use the more advanced powers established for him in the comic – here he’s limited to super strength, the ability to regrow limbs that have been hacked off, and to heal wounds.
Going back to the story, there aren’t issues with the themes of the piece, it’s more to do with how they are executed. It’s little more than an extended chase sequence for much of the running time. And the villain? He’s useless, even more so when he gets a taste of his own medicine. He’s from the arch-camp category of bad guy, to the point where he’d rather spend a bit of time explaining his evil plan rather than doing anything genuinely evil.
It’s an unusual choice of project for Craven given his previous horror catalogue, but then there are sufficient horror elements to this story to explain his involvement. It’s a shame that it doesn’t take another step into full-on horror territory, it would have been a much better film if it had.
It might pay homage to those classic B-Movies of the 1950s, but on the whole it doesn’t move quickly enough to be anywhere near as good as it should be. Blame it on the budget or the script if you like, it doesn’t make all that much difference. The fact is, the poor effects would be forgivable if the script and action were handled well. As both factors are off the mark, what we’ve ended up with is a sub-par Bigfoot-style tale set in a swamp.