Swamp Thing (1982) - Wes Craven

GOOD MAD SCIENTIST ACTION THRILLER
★★

 

Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Wes Craven
Stars: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise
Genres: Horror | Sci-Fi
Certificate: PG
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 19 February 1982
Studios: Swampfilms and Embassy Pictures
Did ya know: When initially released on DVD in the United States, the international version of the movie containing scenes of nudity not seen in US theaters was accidentally transferred instead of the US version. After complaints from viewers, the DVD was recalled.

Swamp Thing is a horror action film released in 1982 and directed by Wes Craven. It’s based on the DC Comic series of the same name, that was made famous with the Alan Moore run in the early seventies. The film stars Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise and David Hess. Hess being a holdover from Craven’s early horror film, Last House on the Left. This was a movie that I had seen for years on cable channels like USA and TNT. I vividly remember watching this on MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs and falling in love with his show. It’s full of cheesy action, special-effects and lines, but damn if it isn’t entertaining.

The film focuses on Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise), a brilliant bio-chemist that has a laboratory deep in the Florida swamps. His rival, Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) want’s to get his hands on Alec’s research. However, in an attempt to get the information, Holland’s lab is destroyed. He is caught in a blast that douses him in experimental chemicals, transforming him into Swamp Thing (Dick Durock). Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is a government agent that is sent to protect Dr. Holland and ends up falling in love with the creature.

It’s a campy, novelty picture that surprisingly, or not, depending on you’re familiarity with the source material. Has a core that is filled with deep story, lore and heart. Alan Moore was the writer for the comic series in 1972. His run of books that ranged from Swamp Thing #20-58, 60-61, 63-64 and Annual #2. Those works had given the Swamp Thing character an edgy appeal that is fully present in this picture. He’s an invulnerable anti-hero that has no mercy for his victims, but carries a heart of gold. This is one of the best comic-book adaptations of the eighties.

The terror lies in the violence and minor body horror. The soundtrack from Friday the 13th’s Harry Manfredini helps quite a bit. Parts the soundtrack seem epic and others are subtle and minimalistic. Manfredini sets the tone perfectly. The gore and body horror are corny, but in some aspects, it adds to the picture. The showdown between Swamp Thing and the Wolf Creature, wouldn’t have been as epic, without the obvious flaws. It’s a great example of eighties schlock film-making.

Adrienne Barbeau does a really good job as Alice Cable. She is the main focus of the picture, and does more than just take her top off. Her relationship with Alec Holland is weird, but it comes off pretty naturally. Dick Durock did an alright job as the Creature, but it’s nothing amazing. I was actually disappointed that Ray Wise wasn’t Swamp Thing. I guess he didn’t have the stature. Durock just appeared stiff and uncomfortable most of the time. I don’t know how much of that is due to the costume, which kinda sucked. But, it wasn’t bad enough to drag my enjoyment of the picture down.

Swamp Thing is a fantastic eighties comic-book movie that explores horror movie territory, while keeping you glued to your seat with explosions and people being grotesquely murdered. There are tons of flaws and snags, but again, it’s nothing that derails the movie. But it’s safe to say that Wes Craven still had a long way to go. Not long after this, he would direct and release A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1983, cementing himself in the upper echelon of horror creators.