I’ve read the comic books, collected the action figures, watched the animated series, seen the television show, and even watched the horrible sequel a thousand times. But up until now the original “Swamp Thing” has eluded me. Even when I had the world wide web at my disposal, the original Wes Craven directed “Swamp Thing” has been an oddity that has escaped the clutches from my grasp. Watching it finally after so many years of sitting through the sequel, I learned a lot. Mainly: Sometimes the most elusive movies can be just as awful as you think. All these years seeking out “Swamp Thing” admittedly set me up for failure, especially considering I’ve never heard anything but a lukewarm response from anyone when discussing “Swamp Thing.”
Like all of Wes Craven’s films, “Swamp Thing” simply has not aged well and that’s mainly due to the horribly disjointed story that can never decide if it wants to be a stern horror film or an action picture. It spends most of the movie going through the motions depicting Swamp Thing as a character of varying degrees of personalities. When he’s alone, he takes it upon himself to growl and screech in to the sky for reasons never explained. Is he mad? Is he suffering? Is he in pain? Or is he trying to stay in touch with his humanity? When he finally does find time to settle down and interact with heroine Alice, he is intent on convincing her that he is still human, just a giant plant. And once he is confronted with other beings of his ilk, he reverts back to a primal form that is never quite sure if it wants to make us fear the monster or wait for the man to emerge.
Dick Durock as Swampy is tolerable, especially when donning the dark blue rubber costume and fake shrubbery, but the creature as well as the man simply aren’t interesting enough to warrant enough screen time that would compel the audience. He’s rarely given enough of a moment on-screen to display for the audience what he can do, and when we finally do see what powers he holds, it’s fuzzily explained and confusing. The rubber costume doesn’t affect my overall view of Swamp Thing, but the simple fact that Swamp Thing is considerably under-developed and under whelming as an individual anti-hero weighs the film down and prevents it from being fully realized as a horror film with action or an action film with a horror element. By the time the climax rolls around, Craven completely gives up on trying to find the proper genre and just relies on schlocky monster mashing that fails to entertain on every level.
If that’s not enough, Adrienne Barbeau as heroine Alice is painfully miscast and misused within the confines of the story where she’s reduced to doing nothing but hiding and falling to the ground every minute. The romance between Swampy and Alice is nothing short of paper thin, and by the time he’s walked off in to the sunset, all hope for sympathy has been lost. A muddled genre confused mess of a film, “Swamp Thing” is a typical Wes Craven film. Made on very little and aged about as well as a gallon of milk. With a schlocky atmosphere, under developed characters, and a clear lack of focus on any one genre, Craven’s film is best left unseen by those who have yet to. For all intents and purposes, you’re better off reading the Alan Moore comic books.