It didn’t take much thought on where to go after watching Swamp Thing for my first film of Halloween Scene 2020: It’s All Connected! Just a few weeks ago, I noticed that the sequel, The Return Of Swamp Thing had landed on Amazon Video and it made a perfect next viewing experience, though some might argue that another Wes Craven film (or several) would be more appropriate than a Jim Wynorski joint. But we all make the choices we make in life.
In addition to a carry-over of the character, you also have Dick Durock returning as the title muck monster and Louis Jourdan back as Anton Arcane! In this one, Arcane has been returned a normal human man thanks to the efforts Dr. Lana Zurrell (Sarah Douglas, a.k.a. Ursa from the Superman movies) and Dr. Rochelle (Ace Mask who has a cool name and will show up in other flicks). His life is flip-turned upside down when his step-daughter, Abby Arcane (Heather Locklear) shows up and eventually befriends Swamp Thing. Anton winds up being okay with her visit because she has unique genes the villain wants to exploit. Oh, his crew has also been experimenting on anyone they can get their hands on to create monstrous Un-Men.
Going into this one, I was wary. There are some very bad comic book movies from this era, plus Wynorski certainly has a reputation so I did not know what to expect, but I was actually impressed with this effort. First off, it does carry over the story of the first film. That’s a pretty basic move, but I wasn’t sure if they’d go with it. Second, I think the monster effects and costumes actually look better in this film, than the original. I liked the previous Swamp Thing costume, but it was too clean. This one feels more wet and verdant. And then you have the various Un-Men. While the elephant man is probably my favorite, the fly guy looks great as does the squid thing that gets the most screen time.
There is a pretty big elephant (man) in the room and that is the tone of the movie, which is a little all over the place. Wynorski loves including jokes and a lighter feel to the proceedings which were definitely not in Craven’s original. Some of the moments are actually funny, but others are just way too much, like the scene that introduced Locklear’s character where she appears to be auditioning for a role in a screwball sitcom. For a while, it felt like an okay balance, even with the inclusion of a pair of rambunctious kids, but it I’m sure it can be too much for some.
While the film is filled with monsters, I’m not sure how many folks would qualify Return Of Swamp Thing as a horror movie. Though there are some very cool special effects, there aren’t any gore scenes. They take more advantage of Swamp Thing’s powers in this movie — he reincorporates himself in Arcane’s tub after being blown up and does the fruit-sex thing with Abby as seen in Alan Moore’s run — but most of the battles involve a lot of monsters wrestling and throwing each other through things. Really, the end of the film had more of an 80s action film vibe to it. Having said all that, I still had a lot of fun with this movie and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fun monster-action romp (I might have to do some digging to find other examples of this subgenre I may have just made up).
Oh, one more thing I want to call out: the opening credits! The film starts with the squid monster attacking some federal agents looking for moonshiners. With the fodder finished off, the movie crashes right into Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born On The Bayou” and a montage of comic book art from Swamp Thing’s nearly 20 year history at that point, some of which comes from the iconic and revered Alan Moore run (which I still haven’t fully read yet). I’m always a fan of the source material getting some love and can’t remember seeing anything quite like that before.
For my next film, I’m keeping it simple again and doing another Wynorski joint, one of my favorite, wild 80s sci-fi horror flicks! Also, here’s a visual timeline I’ll be adding to as I go!