Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Swamp Thing

Score Technician: Joe Hemmerling

As one of the premier horror directors of all time, Wes Craven has given us some of the most memorable films of the past four decades, films that have shaped our nightmares; called our complacent, middle-class values into question; and challenged the boundaries of what is acceptable to show on film.

This is not one of those films.

At the time when Craven was sinking his tendrils into DC's answer to Man-Thing, he had established himself as the hot up-and-comer of horror cinema thanks to Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but had not yet conquered the world with Nightmare on Elm Street. Swamp Thing was intended as resume padding, a demonstration that he was ready to handle more mainstream, action-oriented fare.

The result was...successful? Sort of? We'll let the nanobots fill you in.
  • Adrienne Barbeau as Abby...errr... Alice Cable. = +3pts 
  • Showing up to your first day of work in the middle of a Louisiana swamp wearing a beige skirt-suit. = -4pts 
  • Offering painstaking introductions to a bunch of characters who will soon be dead. = -8pts 
  • When Adrienne Barbeau enthusiastically greets Linda Holland as "Dr. Holland," Linda corrects her by saying that she's only "a Dr. Holland," and that the real genius is Alec. Close call, you guys. This movie just came dangerously near to passing the Bechdel Test. = -12pts 
  • Ray Wise as bio-engineer savant Dr. Alec Holland, which is appropriate because he can't seem to take his eyes off of Adrienne Barbeau's twin peaks. = +10pts 
  • Alec invites Adrienne Barbeau out into the swamp to fix a sensor/act out the negative examples in an HR-mandated sexual harassment video. = -9pts 
  • The Microsoft PowerPoint transitions between scenes are going to get real old, real fast. = -5pts 
  • When Alec and Adrienne Barbeau get back to the lab, Linda is eager to show Alec what happens when you soak a highlighter in a beaker of water. = +7pts 
"Bet you wish we'd put in that requisition for a black light for the lab now!"
  • The miracle highlighter solution causes explosions, and also makes stuff grow fast. We couldn't begin to imagine where all this is going. = +2pts 
  • So, literally the only thing preventing Adrienne Barbeau from immediately jumping Alec's bones was the fact that she thought Linda was his wife, rather than his sister. I guess with Ray Wise's good looks and the sexually aggressive attitude of an accounts man on Mad Men, Alec represents the complete package. = +4pts 
  • Anton Arcane infiltrates Holland's lab using the same techniques that Bugs Bunny would. = +15pts
"What's up, Doc?"
  • The scene of Alec's burning form fleeing into the swamp and plunging to the bottom of the lagoon is pretty much a spot-on recreation of the comic. = +13pts 
  • In a rare display of competence, Adrienne Barbeau manages to sneak away from the encampment with one of Alec's journals. = +9pts 
  • It's short-lived, though, as she's captured pretty quickly by Arcane's goons come morning. = -9pts 
  • The exposure to his formula causes Dr. Alec Holland not only to transform into a giant plant monster, but into a completely different actor. = -8pts 
  • By the way, the camera is not kind to this film's Swamp Thing costume. = -18pts 
He needs some help with the zipper in the back.
  • Swamp Thing's attempt to conceal an unconscious Adrienne Barbeau with a single sprig of vegetation. = +7pts 
  • Why does Anton Arcane seem intent on delivering all of his lines at a frequency that only dogs can hear? = -13pts 
  • Adrienne Barbeau befriended by adorable black teen, Jude, who, hopefully because of his youth, is immune to the black-people-not-surviving-to-the-end-of-the-film rule that all '80s movies were obligated to follow. = +6pts 
  • For the second time in ten minutes, Swamp Thing saves Adrienne Barbeau from Arcane's men. It's like she's competing with Barbarella for title of worst female adventurer. = -4pts 
  • Telling a giant plant monster who just ripped the top off a car and tossed grown men around like couch cushions to "shoo." = +11pts 
  • Adrienne Barbeau walks in on Swamp Thing Tebowing in his old lab. = +3pts 
  • If a film's quality can be determined based on the number of pontoon boats that are flipped over in the course of its run-time, then Swamp Thing might just be the greatest movie ever made. = +15pts 
  • Swamp Thing's strategy of picking people up and hurling them into the water doesn't seem to be particularly effective, but he's staunchly committed to it. = -8pts 
  • Apparently, not even being a kid was enough to prevent a black character from dying at the hands of an '80s movie. '80s movies were a lot like cops in that regard. = -6pts 
  • Hey, here's a surprise, Adrienne Barbeau just got captured again. = -12pts 
  • In addition to flipping over boats and expressing mild irritation at being shot, Swamp Thing also has the power to raise the dead. = +10pts
He's basically Swamp Jesus
  • After getting an arm lopped off, Swampy straight up crushes a dude's head. = +6pts 
  • You know, the whole Beauty and the Beast, true-love-conquers-all thing is great, but just once we'd like to see Ryan Gosling or some shit cuddling with a lady Swamp Thing, with wet, saggy swamp tits and no discernible human genitalia, just to even things out. = -14pts 
  • In addition to stealing his humanity, the accident seems to have robbed Dr. Holland of his sense of propriety or personal space, as he's not even pretending to look away while Adrienne Barbeau takes a bath in a lagoon. = -17pts 
  • Swamp Thing decides he's tired of letting Adrienne Barbeau get captured all by her lonesome and gets in on the action himself. = -3pts 
  • Who are all these people at Arcane's dinner party, and why are they so nonchalant about the trussed up woman sitting in the corner of the room? = -5pts 
  • You guys, Holland's serum reveals the true self of the person who consumes it! So if you're a cowardly bootlicker, it turns you into a rat-faced dwarf, but if you're a brilliant, kind-hearted scientist, then it turns you into a lumbering swamp monster. See? It all makes sense! = -9pts 
  • ...Or if you're Anton Arcane, it turns you into this wolf-pig-fish-thing. = -25pts
  • Swamp Thing regrows his arm by absorbing direct sunlight because, sure, why not. = -8pts 
  • All this fight is missing is a city made out of cardboard and this could be a scene out of Power Rangers. = -13pts
Go go, Power Swamp Thing!
  • Swamp Thing uses his healing touch to raise Adrienne Barbeau from the dead...then lets his hand rest just a little too long on her chest. = -6pts
Total Score = -79pts
Available on: Hulu Plus

Before we judge Swamp Thing too harshly, let's keep in mind that, given the state of the source material at the time, it was actually fairly faithful to the character's pulpy (*ahem*) roots. The special effects are nearly nonexistent, the fight scenes are clunky, and Adrienne Barbeau spends the entire movie getting rescued, but Swamp Thing still has a pretty important legacy.

Hoping to capitalize on the push that the film's release would give to the character's profile, DC relaunched the long-dormant Swamp Thing title in 1982. One year later, after what we could only assume to be the Beatle-mania-level of popularity surrounding the Swamp Thing movie had died down, DC recruited a little-known funny-book writer from across the pond to take over the title and basically do whatever he wanted with it. That's right, folks, without this rubber-suited monster movie, we might never have discovered Alan Moore.

Thanks a bunch, Wes! We'll miss ya.

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