Swamp Thing (1982)

Swamp Thing (1982)
  • Time: 91 min
  • Genre: Horror | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Wes Craven
  • Cast: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise


Dr. Alec Holland, hidden away in the depths of a murky swamp, is trying to create a new species – a combination of animal and plant capable of adapting and thriving in the harshest conditions. Unfortunately he becomes subject of his own creation and is transformed… Arcane, desperate for the formula attempts to capture the Swamp Thing. An explosive chase ensues that ultimately ends with a confrontation between Holland and a changed Arcane…

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  • There’s something about lesser-known comic book characters when it comes to being adapted to film. For odd reasons they don’t receive as much critical or financial success. Yet it has been proven that these characters can become popular if done right. An example of this is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). Heck nobody even knew they were a Marvel property until the studio announced they were being put to the big screen. This only shows that the right people have to be involved with how the production is conceived and executed. The antithesis of that example is Man-Thing (2005), also produced by Marvel but in no way taken care of in the same manner. Like the character of Man-Thing, DC also had their version called Swamp Thing, which received its rendition way before Man-Thing’s film was even thought of. But being that it was the second DC character to be portrayed on the big screen, one would think it would have done as well as Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) for being new and different.

    Instead, the film went underground and gained a cult following. It’s not that it was bad but it certainly was not written anywhere near the same depth as Superman (1978) and its sequel. The story follows Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) who meets Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) in a new discovery where plant cells can be fused with animal cells in a solution. To Holland’s dismay greedy man Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) wants his findings for himself and destroys his lab. Attempting to escape, Dr. Holland accidentally collides with his experimental solution and mixes in with his swampy surroundings. This leads to him becoming Swamp Thing, a creature with super strength, regeneration and healing powers. Written and directed by indie horror fanatic Wes Craven, thankfully this feature does entertain on some level. It is surprising though that Wes Craven works with such a toned down picture. The violence is nothing compared to his works before like the dreaded The Last House on the Left (1972) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

    The cast of characters isn’t extremely unique but they do portray the proper emotion and do have their own personality. Ray Wise makes Dr. Holland sound very intelligent yet not bookworm-ish enough to be a total geek. Adrienne Barbeau as Cable is charismatic and even demonstrates some tough behavior, which is always encouraged for most female lead characters. Cable also meets a funny kid named Jude (Reggie Batts – which is his only film credit). It’s weird how this actor didn’t continue because he had some comical lines throughout the film. Playing the Swamp Thing character was Dick Durock and for the 1980s, his look is close to that of the comic. The only actor who isn’t the most interesting is Louis Jourdan as Dr. Arcane. Besides being a jerk for his selfish reasons there really isn’t much of a personality behind the character. I’ll admit his voice is a bit captivating though.

    Aside from acting, the writing does miss in one particular area. This belongs to Swamp Thing’s powers. The strength boost is explained, but how he knew what makes him regenerate and healing others is left unchecked. All Craven needed to do was add in one scene that shows how Swamp Thing discovered these abilities and that would at least cover half the problem. Sadly, the powers are just thrown in for the scenes that needed it. The ability is different but there’s no development to how it came about. Also the middle section to the movie does drag because of a long-winded chase scene. Unfortunately adding to that are some standard action sequences. Most of the events that happen are very 80s era type tropes. That’s not to say all of it is, but most and because of the rather underwhelming action, the pace of it slows. No reason to be too concerned though, that’s it for the big issues. The visual style of the film is something to behold though.

    One of the most interesting visual techniques used is the transition editing by Richard Bracken. Not every change between scenes is different or the greatest looking but a number of scene changes involve comic book like transitions, which really help solidify the feeling like the viewer is watching a comic book movie. As stated for Dick Durock’s Swamp Thing portrayal, the practical and special effects are dated in some areas but are also something to admire for at least having the ambition. One note being that the solution Dr. Holland develops has the same color and glow to that of the serum Dr. West would use in Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator (1985). Robbie Greenberg’s cinematography looks great too with wide shots of the swamp with plenty of sunlight and color. Lastly is composer Harry Manfredini’s score. Unfortunately, due to him working consistently on the Friday the 13th (1980) franchise years prior, much of his music sounds reminiscent to that of those scores. That means tinkering keys and blaring horns for the tense moments. However, there is one musical cue that makes it worth while and that is the love theme for Cable and Alec. The theme uses a clarinet and harp and the tune is completely memorable. If it weren’t for that, Manfredini’s score would be considered unoriginal.

    DC’s second original comic book movie isn’t as smartly written and doesn’t have the massive action spectacle to that of Richard Donner’s Superman (1978) but it is still highly watchable. The leads can act, the music works, the effects are decent and Swamp Thing as a character is unique all by itself.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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