First Watch: Swamp Thing (1982)

This “First Watch” review covers the 1982 horror film Swamp Thing starring Ray Wise, Adrienne Barbeau, and Louis Jourdan. This was the fifth film written and directed by horror icon Wes Craven. Critics were divided on the film, some praising the film’s atmosphere, special effects, and performances, while others criticized the script, pacing, and violence.

I had remembered bits and pieces of Swamp Thing, probably from watching on cable decades ago. However, this was the first time I’ve ever purposely sat down to watch the entire film. I streamed it on Tubi.

The Plot

Swamp Thing tells the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a brilliant botanist who is working on a top-secret project to create a new species of plant that can adapt to any environment. Holland’s research is funded by the government, but he is also being secretly monitored by the evil Anton Arcane, a mad scientist who wants to steal Holland’s research for his own nefarious purposes.

Arcane and his henchmen put their plan into action and attack Holland’s lab. After being accidentally dowsed by his own serum, Holland’s lab catches ablaze and he is seemingly killed after entering the swamp. However, he has actually been transformed into Swamp Thing.

Alice Cable, a government agent who is now caught in the middle, also survives the attack but is eventually captured by Arcane. Cable is initially afraid upon meeting Swamp Thing, but she eventually learns his true identity and begins to trust the powerful being. The two of them eventually team up to stop Arcane, who has stolen Holland’s research to re-create the super-powered Swamp Thing being. Arcane eventually uses Holland’s formula on himself which leads to a final battle between the creatures.

The Trailer

What I Liked

I’ve got no knowledge of the DC comic stories for Swamp Thing so I don’t know how accurate the film portrays the original story. I did enjoy the concept and origin of Swamp Thing portrayed in the movie. There is a great dichotomy in his character traits, possessing super-human strength along with a gentle healing abilities. I liked the way the movie shows his aggressive and violent side while also his kindness and love towards Cable.

Speaking of Cable, Barbeau was a great leading lady. I haven’t watched much of her horror work, but did enjoy her small roles in movies like Back to School and Cannonball Run. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she is very attractive and shows off her figure in the film (which I had not remembered.) But outside of her physical attributes, I felt like she played her role well as the one constant throughout the film.

I had not remembered that Louis Jourdan was in the film. I really enjoyed him opposite James Bond in Octopussy so I was glad to see him again and enjoyed his performance. You can tell he’s a very confident actor and his character makes for a worthy adversary to Swamp Thing. I also liked his initial reveal to Dr. Holland.

What I Didn’t Like

At the beginning of the movie, it was a little confusing tp determine who the mercenaries were and what they were doing in the swamp. I initially thought they were hired by the government to protect the project, but it wasn’t until later in the film they were better shown as trying to infiltrate the project. I wasn’t really a fan of the actors in the posse either.

So let’s talk about the makeup and effects. I know this was produce at a time with limitations (both technologically and budgetary) but Arcane’s creature suit was pretty laughable. The transformation effects of him and his henchman at the party I thought held up pretty well. Swamp Thing’s costume design, while dated, also held up better by the time I got used to it at the end of the movie.

The final battle with Arcane and Swamp Thing had it’s moments but mainly felt like two guys in Sumo suits during a hockey game intermission.

Final Thoughts

I like PG-rated horror films that feature more jump scares and creature terror than all the blood and guts that comes with R-rated horror. Swamp Thing definitely checked alot of boxes in what I look for in spooky old movies. I will definitely watch this again, mainly during the Halloween season.

I am also motivated to continue the journey and watch the 1989 sequel The Return of Swamp Thing. I may go as far as seeking out the Swamp Thing television series from 1990. Stay tuned.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Find me on Letterboxd. Read more First Watch reviews on The Retro Network.

About Jason Gross 557 Articles
'80s Kid, '90s Grad, and '00s Dad. I've been writing and podcasting about 1980s pop culture since 2011 at my website. I collect vinyl, cassingles, '80s comics, Batman memorabilia, and all things Mobile Armored Strike Kommand.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply