Review of Swamp Thing (Old)

This review was originally posted on November 19, 2009. I will be posting some of my old reviews, unedited, before launching into new territory.

Yo, Cine Beast reporting. This is my first movie review, so please keep your criticisms light, okay?

Anyway, just yesterday I watched a film I had recorded a few weeks ago off of TCM. I had seen the film once before, but during my pre-teen years, so I only vaguely recalled the imagery of the film and none of its dialogue or story. Now that the film is fresh in my mind, I propose a review of it.

Swamp Thing Movie Poster

Directed by: Wes Craven

Featuring: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise, David Hess, and Dick Durock as Swamp Thing

Written by: Wes Craven

Year of Release: 1982

Running Time: 91 minutes

MPAA: PG (I would personally label the film with an R rating)

Budget: Approx. $3,000,000 (Source: Wikipedia. Yeah, yeah, most people frown on that place, I know. However, I trust the site to a certain degree, so, until I find a more reliable site, you’ll have to live with my source choice.)

The film begins in the swamps of South Carolina with a short pre-title text vaguely describing what the story is really about: out of the conflict between two scientists (one of them crazy and evil, of course) an unbelievable monster is born.

After this corny semi-prologue the audience is introduced to Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) as she arrives at the swamps by helicopter, sent by the government as a replacement for her predecessor, who was half-eaten by an aligator. Cable has come to help a certain Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) and his sister, who have been experimenting with swamp chemicals, trying to find a way to enhance vitality and strength.

Not long after Cable first meets the two, they create a glowing, green serum which they discover can renew and grow life in dead matter, such as a plank of wood or supposedly a human body. However, the serum is also extremely flammable and sensitive: if it collides with anything too harshly it explodes violently.

While all this is going on the other scientists and agents working for Holland are being killed off by goons belonging to a mad genius named Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan). It turns out that Arcane wants Holland’s serum for himself and eventually appears in Holland’s lab with his men, demanding the notebooks that detail the creation of the serum and the glowing formula itself.

Arcane shoots Holland’s sister, driving him mad with grief: attempting to escape with the serum in a jar, he is shoved by Arcane’s men and accidently falls on it. One massive explosion later, Holland is a literal figure of fire who sprints away and dives into the swamp. Cable manages to escape the wreckage of a lab with one of the notebooks while Arcane and his men flee for safety. Not long later, Holland emerges from the swamp, transformed into a plantlike behemoth.

That’s essentially the first half of the movie, and I enjoyed quite a lot of it. It was moody and sophisticated and got me hooked to watch the rest of the story. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie sucks. The initially complex and inventive plot becomes silly and repetitive, the special effects lose realism (the Swamp Thing costume worn by Dick Durock is rather laughable), and the quality of the film on a whole gets duller.

The actors are good the entire feature, particularly Louis Jourdan, who delivers a creepy and devilish performance. In the first half of the film, Ray Wise plays an extremely likable and intelligent Dr. Holland, and Adrienne Barbeau is, for the most part, mature and strong as Cable. Unfortunately she strips and bathes in a bog for about thirty seconds in a completely unnecessary nude sequence: it’s because of this brief scene that I would challenge the movie’s original PG rating.

At least in the excellent first half of the film, there seemed to be a subtle running theme of Christianity. Holland’s swamp lab used to be a church, and a few characters reference God. (And not in the disrespectful “Oh my God” taking-the-Lord’s-name-in-vain sort of way.) However, these small details may simply have been coincidental: it would not have been the first time I noticed Christian themes in a movie that don’t actually exist.

Anyway, time to quickly sum up. The first half of the film is great; the second half is a terrible let-down; the acting is good either half. Cine Beast, signing off.

Cine Beast’s Rating: 4/10

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