REVIEW: SWAMP THING (2019)

Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)

Starring

Crystal Reed (Gotham)
Virginia Madsen (Better Watch Out)
Andy Bean (Transformers: The Last Knight)
Henderson Wade (Riverdale)
Maria Sten (Channel Zero)
Jeryl Prescott (The Skeleton Key)
Jennifer Beals (Lie To Me)
Will Patton (Silkwood)
Kevin Durand (Resident Evil: Retribution)
Derek Mears (Sleepy Hollow)

Kevin Durand and Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Leonardo Nam (Westworld)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Michael Beach (Aquaman)
RJ Cyler (Power Rangers)
Macon Blair (Logan Lucky)
Elle Graham (Mile 22)
Given Sharp (The Gifted)
Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager)
Selena Anduze (Venom)
Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog)
Justice Leak (Supergirl)
Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)

Swamp Thing (2019)Say what you will about DC Universe, but original series-wise the still-young streaming service is on the same trajectory as Superman himself: Up, up, and a-way better than Titans. That first series had its fans and certainly improved as it went along,  Then came Doom Patrol, which started out solid as Brendan Fraser‘s bare backside and gradually became one of the most wonderfully absurd delights on all of television.Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)That put a lot of pressure on the big mossy shoulders of original series #3, Swamp Thing, to keep up the quality, especially in the wake of the backstage wonkiness that cut its originally-ordered 13 episodes to 10. Well, I’m here to report that Swamp Thing, at least in its first two episodes, not only ups the ante, it’s also a triumph on pretty much every level, a nasty, gleefully disturbing bit of body horror on the Louisiana bayou that evokes everything from John Carpenter‘s The Thing to executive-producer James Wan‘s work with the Trench in Aquaman. It’s 2019, man, and it looks like it’s officially time to go green.Derek Mears and Crystal Reed in Swamp Thing (2019)Len Wiseman—the director behind the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and Lucifer—also helmed the pilot here, an extremely on-brand choice considering Swamp Thing follows a similar formula: Straight-laced professional woman partners up with a quirky man who has a supernatural twist. In Sleepy Hollow, it was a sheriff’s lieutenant and the actual Ichabod Crane. In Lucifer, it was a detective and the literal Christian Devil. Here, it’s a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service named Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) and biologist Alec Holland (Andy Bean), the latter who—spoilers—eventually morphs with a sentient swamp to become a giant moss-monster played under heavy prosthetics by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears. Again, it’s a formula, but the formula really does work to charming effect.Swamp Thing (2019)Arcane has been called back to her hometown of Marais, Louisiana to investigate a strange disease that’s seemingly emanating from the nearby swamp, causing locals to collapse, cough up gooey leaves into their hospital beds, and—in much more extreme cases—devolve into mossy, decaying statues straight out of a biologist’s worst fever dreams. (Think the gory artwork of Hannibal meets, like, a fucked-up Ent.) Butting into her investigation is disgraced scientist Holland, who discovered abnormal mutagens in the swamp that may just be the key to finding a cure. But the deeper Arcane and Holland dig, the more it smells like a rotten conspiracy, a conspiracy the swamp itself seems intent on violently stopping.Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)It’s in that violence and rot that this show truly shines as a no-joke horror story, not a surprise given Wan’s involvement and a pilot script co-written by Gary Dauberman (IT, The Nun) and Mark Verheiden (Ash vs. Evil Dead). Wiseman, who also directed episode 2, shoots Marais’ swamp like a dark fairy tale, all twisted trees and moonlit ponds. The effect makes it that much more jarring in the moments that almost primordial darkness invades Abby Arcane’s world of science. There’s a scene set in a morgue that floored me in its creepiness; the swamp disease brings a corpse back to profane “life”, the body standing up off the operating table even as it’s ripped apart by twisting vines and probing branches. It’s gross, it really does have serious The Thing vibes, and most importantly, it appears to be mostly practical.

Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)Those practical set-pieces throughout elevate Swamp Thing a good deal. Maybe it’s the Jaws fanatic in me, but I love seeing a boat actually lifted out of the water by some unseen monstrosity. But Fractured FX—the minds behind the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and every ghoul in The Conjuring franchise, among many other abominations—worked overtime to make sure the monstrosities we do see are equally impressive. I don’t think Swampy fans could ask for a more pitch-perfect live-action take than the one we get here. The suit plastered on Mears oozes and shines in all the right, rotten ways; there’s a moment where he pulls off a piece of his own head and you can see the strands of goo between his fingers. It’s disgusting. It’s great. (And yes, Swamp Thing is ripped af, and I expect certain corners of the internet to react accordingly, as is their right.)Derek Mears in Swamp Thing (2019)But the real miracle here is that Swamp Thing still manages to feel like a human show. Abby Arcane is an effective entry point into the madness; she brings back to her hometown a dark secret from her past that Reed manages to tease out through haunted looks and sentences cut just short. She has an easy chemistry with a pre-monster Bean, whose oddball charisma makes you sad that he has to turn into Swamp Thing on a show literally called Swamp Thing. But of course, it’s Mears pulling the real magic trick here. He doesn’t speak a single word over the first two episodes because he doesn’t need to. Mears injects a potent dose of rage, confusion, and sadness into Swamp Thing with his face, the way he stands, the way he stumbles against a tree.Sadly Swamp Thing got cancelled due to a high budget, so one season is all we get, but it sure as hell is one hell of a season

REVIEW: SWAMP THING: THE SERIES

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CAST

Dick Durock (The Enforcer)
Mark Lindsay Chapman (Lois & CLark)
Jesse Zeigler (Captiva Island)
Carrell Myers (Problem Child 2)
Scott Garrison (Xena)
Kari Wuhrer (Eight Legged Freaks)
Kevin Quigley (Sheena)
Anthony Gaide (Just One of The Guys)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST STARS

Martha Smith (Animal House)
Marc Macaulay (Monster)
Roscoe Lee Browne (Babe)
Jacob Witkin (Hail, Caesar!)
Summer Phoenix (The Faculty)
Sandahl Bergman (Red Sonja)
Patrick Neil Quinn (Days of Our Lives)
David Ackroyd (After Mash)
Kevin Nash (The Punisher)
Christie Lynn Smith (Bones)
Elizabeth Fendrick (Vacation)
Janet Julian (King of New York)
Heather Thomas (The Fall Guy)
Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey)
Ray Wise (Agent Carter)
Cheryl Hines (The Ugly Truth)

I enjoyed the Swamp Thing films but didn’t know what to expect of a weekly show that would have a small budget. Looking back, I feel the series succeeded as often as it failed.

The best episodes were those that focused on Swamp Thing (or ‘Alec’ as he was referred to by the people who knew him). The series started out on shaky footing, and had Swamp Thing act out of character. In the first episode he turns a bad guy into a tree until the writers establish that he would never take a human life. Any episode that had him turn back human was well done.

Most of the episodes made him a Rod Serling of the swamp, taking a back seat to the action. A lot of these weren’t too bad. These boiled down to two plots: bad guys hide out in the swamp, only to have to face their crimes in a nightmareish way, or people with problems wander in the swamp, to become better by facing their fears. The best of these was when Ray Wise (Dr. Holland from the original movie) guest starred as someone who might be an alien and almost kills Swamp Thing.

I enjoyed the show Although it could have been so much more, it was certainly better than many other shows or movies based on comic books.

REVIEW: THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING

 

CAST

Louis Jourdan (Octopussy)
Dick Durock (Stand By Me)
Heather Locklear (Spin City)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)

The Return of Swamp Thing sees evil scientist Dr. Anton Arcane (Louis Jordan) trying to reverse the extreme ageing that he is undergoing as a result of his experiments. Meanwhile in Los Angeles his stepdaughter Abigail (Heather Locklear) decides to visit him to find out more about her late mother & the events surrounding her sudden death. It turns out that Abigail has the exact genetic make-up that Arcane needs to complete his experiments & give himself eternal life. Arcane also needs a sample of Swamp Thing’s (Dick Durock) DNA to complete the process but getting a sample isn’t going to be as easy as Arcane hoped for as Swamp Thing sets out to put an end to Arcane’s evil experiments…Heather Locklear in The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)I have to say that I really liked The Return of Swamp Thing & for my money just about the best thing Wynorski has ever done (which isn’t saying much in itself). A direct sequel to Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing (1982) it is never actually explained how Arcane survived the events during the climax of the original although it turns out he is suffering from the process that saved him which forms the basis of the plot as he sets out to find a cure & doesn’t care how many people he kills to do just that.The-Return-of-Swamp-ThingBased on the dark Gothic DC comic book character the script by Neil Cuthbert & Grant Morris hasn’t got too much to it & is rather simplistic & underdeveloped but is good fun all the same & you suspect that what the production team were aiming for, a good solid entertaining light hearted fun comic book superhero flick which I think it succeeds at being but like most things in life it’s down to personal opinion. At a little over 90 minutes it’s relatively short, it moves along like a rocket & I was never bored with it which is always a good thing to be able to say.Return-of-STThere are one or two half decent action set-pieces but considering the production team had a budget smaller than the Wes Craven original you could say they worked minor miracles. The character’s are fun although not particularly deep, the dialogue is often amusing & packed full of one-liners & doesn’t take itself too seriously either with Locklear’s character referring to the TV show T.J. Hooker (1982 – 1986) in which she starred. All in all much, much better than I expected & a film that I really liked. Keep watching after the end actor credits as the two kids get an extra little scene.return-swamp-thing-displayOne very impressive aspect of The Return of Swamp Thing is the special make-up effects which are of a very high standard. The Leechman in particularly looks great although he disappears about halfway through, there’s a elaborate Cockroachman & an Elephantman. The Swamp Thing suit is also much better than seen in the original, it’s far more leafy & slimy & more representative of a what a half man half Georgia swamp creature may look like. The Dr. Rochelle mutation at the end also looks good but is dispatched too easily by Swamp Thing & doesn’t put up much of a fight. There are some good fight scenes as well along with a couple of impressive explosions.If you’re a fan of B-movies, as I am, you’re likely to enjoy this. There are plenty of laughs, both intentional and unintentional. The acting is what you would expect, and the effects are really quite good for its day. It’s simply a good Comic Book Movie that will past the time.