Saturday, October 31, 2009
Review: Swamp Thing
Synopsis: A scientist is transformed into a creature of muck and mire, after his experiment is stolen from him by a man bent on world domination. Now, the Swamp Thing stalks the swamps!
Review: "Swamp Thing" isn't what one might call a standard horror picture. It tries to play it a bit lighter than what you would expect, given the mechanics of the story. What you end up with is a fun and campy film, that sometimes lessens it's darker edge by trying too hard for a bit of humor.
Based from the comic series from DC Comics, the tale is about a scientist, Dr. Alec Holland (played by Ray Wise), who is transformed into a marsh-layered creature of immense power, after his experiment to create a way to make a more abundant food supply, causes him to run afoul of a man bent to use it for his own ends... a man named Arcane (played by Louis Jourdan).
I've noted before I am a big time comic reader, so I'm quite well versed with the history of the title character. Wes Craven, who both wrote and directed this film, takes quite a few liberties with the characters and their source material, but still manages to keep it true enough, so that they are easy to relate to and familiar. I liked Ray Wise's approach to the character, as he brought a great deal of altruistic idealism to him, which rang true to the character from the comics. Also well cast is Louis Jourdan as Arcane, as he gave him just the right amount of arrogant egotism and flamboyant self-aggrandizement, like the typical madman who thinks they know how to rule the world would have. Of course, Adrienne Barbeau is the real standout here, not just for the obvious physical attributes (which were obviously one of the reasons she was cast in the role of Holland's/Swamp Thing's love interest), but she manages to elevate herself from being more than just the usual damsel in distress, as watching her fight off attackers and shoot a gun, shows she's no weak-willed school girl. But it was her ability to make you believe that the chemistry she shared with Holland, was strong enough for her to accept him after his change into the Swamp Thing (which was played wonderfully by Dick Durock), that really cinched her performance with me. And let's face it, she don't look bad in soaking wet clothes, either. In fact, almost all of the cast do very good jobs with material that, at times, comes off a bit overly cheesy.
If there were any negatives to the film, I'd have to say that it was in the pacing and dialog. Granted, this isn't Shakespere, but the script sometimes seems to just strive too hard to stay closer to humor than horror. It results in some scenes losing some of the dramatic punch they might have had, if they would have allowed things to go just a touch darker. The pacing of the film is quite quick, though a bit too quick, in some cases. We never really got to see Holland actually transform into Swamp Thing, nor did we get much time spent on him trying to adjust to his new situation. I would have liked to see more of a struggle for him in dealing with what he had become and his loss of his physical humanity, as he just seems to accept it too quickly. The special effects aren't very special here, although the Swamp Thing outfit does pretty closely resemble the character in the comics, so long as you don't focus on the close-ups, when the rubbery look is very obvious. Of course, this is just a limitation of the times and can't really be counted as detriment to the film.
"Swamp Thing" is like a film that bridges the gap between the old 50's-60's horror films, with their poor special effects and unintentional cheesiness, and the more modern horror films that were to come. It does feel a bit like a throwback in a lot of ways, but the film has got a lot of heart and I think its charm ultimately won me over. It's not a very scary horror film, but it is an enjoyably fun film, nonetheless.
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)