Swamp Thing (1981)

Rating: **
Review Date: 1/22/18
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Louis Jourdan, Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise, Reggie Batts, David Hess, Nicholas Worth, Dick Durock

Alec Holland (Ray Wise) is a brilliant, eccentric, and uncontrollably horny scientist who is working at a top secret government laboratory in a secluded swamp. He is trying to combine animal and plant DNA to address global hunger issues, but another scientist named Arcane (Louis Jourdan) wants to use his research for more nefarious purposes. Government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) shows up to oversee the project, just in time for Holland's lab to be raided by Arcane's goons. A lab accident mutates Holland into a super strong plant creature known as Swamp Thing, and he spends the rest of the film coming to terms with his new body and rescuing Cable from the bad guys.

Dismissing the sexist vibe that was prevalent at the time, the story is good and Wes Craven gives it an appropriately serious treatment. This was extremely unusual in those days, and it's refreshing to see a brooding and self-loathing super hero whose brilliant mind is trapped in a freakish body that's too strong for its own good. Adrienne Barbeau is wonderful as Lt. Cable, and even though she's repeatedly captured by Arcane's soldiers, she's a skilled agent who isn't afraid to throw a punch. Reggie Batts is delightful as a local boy named Jude who befriends Cable, and their interactions are fun. Unfortunately, as soon as shooting started, Craven's budget was cut, so the film suffers from cheap effects and low production values. The monster suits are especially embarrassing, so you have to force yourself to ignore them and focus on the actors instead. It's not a great film, but it's fun, campy, poignant, and consistently entertaining.