It’s All Connected: Swamp Thing (1982)

Last year I did this thing where every horror movie I watched during the scare season (which starts in September for me) would have a connection to the previous film. I fully intended to write about all 60-some films and my path from Return Of The Living Dead 3 to the new Halloween, but life gets in the way of our best intentions. At the moment, I’m feeling a renewed interest in blogging, so here we go with this year’s entries. Let’s see if anything can even come close to the horror show of a year we’re living through (it won’t).

I began this year’s journey on August 30th, the five year anniversary of Wes Craven’s death. At some point in the past few years, I’d picked up a copy of the Scream Factory Blu-ray of Swamp Thing and had yet to watch it, so that seemed like a great jumping-off point not only in honorarium, but also for what I like to call It’s All Connected 2020. Plus, as I wrote about years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the character’s 80s renaissance that encompassed a renowned comic series written by Alan Moore, two films, a live-action TV series, an animated series and one of the better toy lines of the era. And this was all before Tim Burton’s Batman came out!

Okay, so with Swamp Thing we enter a southern bog along with Dr. Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) who is the latest addition to a scientific research squad headed up by Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise). They’re working on a plant-animal hybrid that could grow anywhere. When Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) finds out they’ve made serious progress, he and his goons rush in, steal the formula and set Holland on fire. He rushes out and extinguishes himself in the bayou which turns him into Swamp Thing. Eventually, he befriends Cable and exacts his revenge on Arcane who goes through his own monstrous transformation for all the good it does him.

One of the cool things about Swamp Thing is that it’s a surprisingly bright monster/mad scientist movie. Most of the main action takes place during the day, so you really get to see the glory of the swamp (a dangerous place to begin with) and the increasingly wild creatures who inhabit it, though it’s really the humans we have to worry about, isn’t it? It’s fun to see Craven get to take this murky comic character and put his own spin on it while clearly paying homage to the Universal Monsters as well as the 50s sci-fi creatures and maybe even a little kaiju action thrown in for good measure. I like this in the same way that I like Jack Kirby’s Demon comic which he used as a way to make his own versions of the Universal Monsters.

Along those lines, it’s also interesting to see where this fell in Wes’ filmography. Without looking at the dates, I would have thought this came out before Nightmare On Elm Street, but it actually bowed between Deadly Blessing and both the TV movie Invitation To Hell and the Hills Have Eyes sequel (neither of which I’ve seen). He would unleash Freddy Krueger on an unsuspecting public two years later (though it’s interesting to me that David Hess, who played Krug in Last House On The Left, is in this film). I’m far from fully initiated on Wes’ films, but this feels like a bit of a departure for Craven. Still, Swamp Thing is a fun entry in his oeuvre as well as the beginning of one of the more unexpected comic book multimedia experiments of all time.

I went super-obvious with the follow-up to Swamp Thing because I recently realized that its sequel Return Of Swamp Thing is on Amazon Video!

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