Sunday, November 15, 2015

Swamp Thing (1982)

Directed by: Wes Craven
Runtime: 88 minutes

This movie is weird fiction, comic book super heroes, light touch of horror, and stupid fun all mashed into one strange and fun movie. The movie is based on the DC comics written by Len Wein. His comic run deals Doctor Alec Holland, a scientist who is making a formula to get plants to grow anywhere but agents of evil want this formula and Dr Holland ends up covered in burning chemicals and jumping into the swamp. This accident turns the doctor into the Swamp Thing, a human plant elemental being. Enough with the background and on to the movie.

Deep in the swamps of South Carolina, the U.S. department of Agriculture is running a secret black operation. So secret that they required to id badges at all times so that no one knows that there is a secret government black operation being carried out in the swamp. The reason for all this security is that Arcane may or may not be alive and after the research they are doing there. Who is Arcane? Why does Arcane want the research data?  These questions will never be answered.

Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is brought in to replace another security tech who just can't stand being in the swamp. She will be one of three people who can open the lab that is home to brother and sister Doctors Linda and Alec Holland. Cable meets the doctors and Alec immediately realizes that Cable is meant to be his love interest. So Alec and Cable have a romantic trip in the swamp to check a security pod sensor thing.

Back at the lab, Linda has created the formula and shares the good news with her brother when he and Cable return. However, Arcane's men attacked the compound and are hiding the bodies when Cable leaves the lab to tell her boss that the doctors had succeeded in making the formula.  But Arcane's men find her, make her open the door to the lab, and knock her out. In a surprise twist Arcane reveals himself to the doctors. He had been masquerading as the head of security to keep an eye on the progress of the formula. This leads to all hell breaking loose as Linda tries to run of with the lab notes and gets killed, Alec pours the formula on himself and sets himself on fire, and Cable wakes up in time to steal the notes with how the formula is made.

The majority of the second act of this movie is the same thing happening over and over again with the plot sort of advancing after every cycle. It happens like this, Cable wanders around and finds a plot point, Arcane's men show up, Cable is forced to run, and the Swamp Thing shows up to save the day. To make it more entertaining you could speed up most of the second act footage, replaced the audio with Yakety Sax (that song from Benny Hill), and it would be much more watchable. Arcane read ahead in the script and finds a way to capture Cable, Swamp Thing, and the missing formula notes.

This leads to Arcane holding a formal dinner victory party with strippers in the background. Apparently Arcane wants this formula because it can be used  to transform people into a creature based on the character of the person of question. In Arcane's case he turn into the picture below.

While Arcane is turning into a crime against nature, the Swamp Thing has gotten over being caught by Arcane and has freed himself and Cable. Which means that the third act final fight is about to happen. To sum up quickly, Swamp Thing wins the battle and kills Arcane. Then leaves Cable because she is safe and it is time for him to wander the swamp until someone needs him.

The tone of this movie is all over the place. It tries for a horror feel for the first ten minutes or so and then the movie gives up, grabs a bottle of whiskey, and goes all over the place. The best example of this is at the start of the film Arcane's men use a poisonous to kill one of the government agents and laugh as he staggers away dying. These same men later on behave like Keystone cops with military weapons and force the audience to marvel at the fact that they haven't shot each other yet. Despite all that, it is a fun film and if it shows up on cable or a streaming service it is worth a watch that way.

MVT: A tie between the actor who played Jude and the cinematography. Reggie Batts was hired as a local actor and is one of the best characters in the movie but is a minor character which is why I am talking about him now. There are a lot of beautiful shots of the swamp in this film.

Make or Break: The Cable character goes from being able to look out for herself to tripping every chance she can get in the hope that a six foot tall swamp human hybrid thing will be there to save her. I know this is a thirty plus year old film but it is kind of jarring.

Score: 5.25 out of 10

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