Dr. Alec Holland (Ray Wise) is a genius scientist conducting experiments in a dense and dark swamp. Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) arrives to get an overview of his work and to check on his progress. She arrives just in time for rival scientist Arcane (Louis Jourdan) to strike, attacking the compound with hired soldiers and killing everyone in sight. In the melee, Holland gets doused with this new, experimental serum he’s developed, and set on fire. He flees into the swamp, throwing his burning body into the water. He disappears and later rises again as the Swamp Thing! He spends his time roaring, roaming about the mucky wilderness, and saving Alice’s ass over and over again. Finally, there is a final confrontation between a mutated Arcane (werewolf in a mummy suit wielding a sword, somehow) and the Swamp Thing himself.
I decided since I was on a streak of Wes Craven films, I would finish the week by watching some of his movies that I don’t find to be very good, giving them a second chance. I remember when this came out and how excited I was as a thirteen year old boy, a fan of the comics and comics in general. I can still remember climbing into the car with my dad, who dropped me off to see the movie, with a brown paper bag of homemade popcorn hidden inside my jacket, heart filled with pure excitement. That enthusiasm turned into a puzzled “What’s this nonsense?” and I left the theater mostly mad but also a bit happy, because thirteen year old Kelly had just seen a pair of bare boobs in a movie in a theater for the first time. So there was that, at least. I watched it again on cable and besides the aforementioned great scene, I still disliked it. Now, all these years later, I’m an old man with brittle memories. Would the movie get any better? Nah, not really. It’s okay, I suppose, and the ending is so bizarre and wild I have to give it deep credit for simply saying “I don’t give a fuck anymore.” I loved seeing David Hess as one of the villains, Louis Jourdan was an interesting bad guy, and of course, there was still That Scene. The rubber Swamp Thing suit looks kind of bad but also kind of awesome. Mostly, I was (and still am) disappointed that Swamp Thing was basically turned into a feckless Hulk, stomping around mad all the time.
In the end, this is the kind of movie that, if you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the sheer delirious nature of it, you’ll have a good time. It’s biggest detriment is the mid-section of the movie, where it feels like the story is treading water, repeating the same things over and over again: bad soldiers chase down Alice, Swamp Thing saves her, rinse, repeat. This movie is a total mess and I don’t get how Craven botched it, but it still remains entertaining.