Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Swamp Thing

 This is me still doing catch up - any references to October Gaming Weekend actually refer to the 10th/11th!

Swamp Thing
 So, this is my annual October Gaming weekend, which often sees a sharp decline in the quality of the movies AND writeups. So far, this year is no exception - despite the majority of actual gaming going on this Sunday instead of both days. My brother Jeff showed up last night and felt in the mood for some silly horror action, which is what led us to watching Swamp Thing.

It's not that Swamp Thing is bad, really - I mean, it's not GOOD, but it's better than a lot of films - it's just that it's not really a horror film. Yes, it's a film about a scientist who catches on fire, runs into the swamp and rises as a muck-encrusted monstrosity. Yes, the climactic scene involves two monsters battling each other (with a sword!) in the depths of a swamp. But... but there's no scare there. There's too many guys in camo shooting automatic weapons, too many goofy sidekicks (well, one, but that's still too many for a horror film), too many alternating kick-ass/helpless damsels. It's too, well, comic-booky. Which would be fine, but it's way more comic-booky than even the comic book was!

I do have a soft spot for this film, based in part on my enjoyment of the comic (from the original Len Wein/Berni Wrightson run on). Wes Craven gamely tries to give us the visuals that Wrightson set forth - moody swamps, twisted creatures, a hulking, green swamp beast with roots running through his body - but it never manages to rise above the fact that the titular character is a guy in an (obvious) rubber suit.

The thing is, it's a fun movie. Craven shows a decent enough hand at action sequences, stunts and special effects here. There's humor, character and some pathos. Louis Jordan hams up a storm. It's just hard to take too seriously - especially if you're hanging out with my brother, who insists on giving Swamp Thing the voice of Yoda. "Judge me by my size, do you?"

The action sequences are very 80's in their staging and tendency for things to blow up when hit. In fact, if you replaced the Swamp Thing with Hannibal, Face, Murdock and B. A., you'd have a fairly good two-parter of the A-Team, missing only the inevitable sequence where they built some cockamamie contraption to attack Arcane with.

I'm hard on this film, because it's shortcomings in both budget, production and execution are so obvious, but I still like it a lot more than The Hills Have Eyes. There's a sense of fun and heart to it - though it's a heart clogged with cheese. The suit in the sequel was better made - though that movie stunk. The TV show was actually fairly decent, though, and worth a look - though still not horror.

It's too bad, because I'd love to see someone take a shot at a film or series based on the Alan Moore run of the comic. There was some dark stuff in that series.

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