Monday, June 21, 2010

Jim Jam: The Return of Swamp Thing

After Wes Craven's quirky film, we needed someone to dispose of all subtlety and just make something ridiculous.  Fortunately for us, the man behind Deathstalker 2 and Chopping Mall was here to answer our prayers.  In 1989, he unleashed his follow-up to the cult-classic and did so with all of his usual bravado.  Ridiculous characters and acting- check.  Over-the-top special effects and make-up work?  Check.  Louis Jordan returning as the villain with no real logical way to explain it?  Big check!  This movie is chock full of B-movie goodness- right or wrong- and proves what Wynorski can do when given full-reign of a franchise.  Fun fact: this same year, DC Comics opposed an Alan Moore issue of Swamp Thing which had the titular creature be revealed as the 'cup bearer' that met Jesus.  Why?  To avoid a 'firestorm' of controversy in the same year that they were releasing Batman.  Apparently, they had no problem with this movie.  Get your automatic weapons and gasoline out for my review of...
Before the credits, we get a sequence where a bunch of hunters are out in the swamp.  One man gets separated and attacked by a leech-faced monster.  Fortunately for him, Swamp Thing shows up and goes all Steven Seagal on the thing's ass, tossing it out of frame.  The man is a bit shocked by his rescuer, naturally, as the title credits appear.  If you wondered what kind of tone this film was going to have, the fact that the titles are played over Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Born on the Bayou.'  Yeah, it's going to be one of those movies!  A young woman arrives at an Antabellum-style mansion which is owned by...Doctor Arcane?  Weren't you both dead and a mutant at the end of the last film?  The film ignores this issue- for the moment- and instead focuses on the cheesy plot to come.  The young woman is Arcane's niece (Heather Locklear) who is visiting from California.  She runs into Arcane's lady, who is played by sequel queen Sarah Douglas.  Who was her agent in the 1980s exactly?  Out in the swamp, a pair of pre-teens meet up to look at Penthouse magazines...only to be interrupted by the arrival of Leech-Face.  They flee outside and are rescued by Swamp Thing.  That guy is always about two minutes behind the plot, isn't he?  He defeats the monster by setting off an explosion that takes out all of the nearby cars.  Hurray?
At the Arcane manor, we are treated to a whole slew of bizarre characters.  I guess that's our substitute for a B-Plot, huh?  The lead scientist is a nerdy man who has a weird fetish for monsters, while the lead mercenary is one step away from being Yosemite Sam.  He is often shadowed by an equally-quirky and violent woman, who is played by Monique Gabrielle, a Penthouse playmate who is a staple of Wynorski's '80s work.  If you don't recognize the face, just picture her with blond hair and holding a doorknob.  Anyhow, Arcane is working on some sort of mysterious project that involves his niece, all the while angered by Swamp Thing's mere existence.  One night, the niece sneaks out of the house, but runs into a group of horny rednecks.  What were you expecting- the bourgeois?  Fortunately, you guessed it, Swamp Thing shows up and saves her.  Seriously, he is just following the camera crew around from just outside of frame?  A bunch of Arcane's men show up and get their asses kicked.  Somehow, I don't think that this is going to go over well.  Sure enough, he sends out more men to get our murky hero.
Finally, Arcane unleashes his master plan and gets around to explaining some things.  His men show up armed to the teeth and blow up Swamp Thing.  Don't worry- he gets better.  He brings the young woman back to the mansion and explains that he needs her DNA to stabilize himself.  Apparently, he was found out in the swamp, returned to life and least, for the time being.  While Swamp Thing restores himself, we get a bizarre scene involving the two mercenaries comparing scars.  Ripping off Jaws and being pointless- that's a win-win!  Mr. Thing restores himself to life and goes to attack the mansion.  This time, he manages to beat up a bunch of them and get inside.  During all of this, he does his experiment, which drains the young woman's life energy into him via a cheap digital effect.  Unfortunately for the villain, Ms. Douglas turns on him and stops the experiment.  He repays her with a bullet.  Swamp Thing gets inside and kicks even more ass, disposing of both mercenaries.  Before he can confront Arcane, we learn that the lead scientist is now a monster and he bursts through a door Kool-Aid Man-style, pinning Arcane under a piece of balsa wood.  The big fight lasts a few minutes before the new monster is killed.  During all of this, Arcane does nothing.  Swamp Thing leaves with the near-dead girl and the house blows up...killing Arcane.  Oh yeah, he brings her back to life.
This movie is...kind of fun, actually.  The whole thing is silly, makes almost no sense and is really over-the-top.  With that said, Jim nearly handles this perfectly.  His none-too-subtle hand guides this ridiculous narrative around for 80 minutes, give you a bunch of explosions and ends.  It doesn't try to be a masterwork of cinema or win any Academy Awards- it's just pulpy fun.  On the up-side, the Swamp Thing suit is great here, looking neat with all of its leaves and branches adorning it.  It's a bit odd that it's changed so much, but let's just go with it.  On the negative end, the redhead kid is one of the most annoying child actors ever to 'grace' our screens.  Seriously, I wish they had just killed him and gotten it over with!  As for the rest of the acting, it's really ridiculous...but mostly works.  This is a typical Jim Wynorski film, so it's really going to rub a lot of people the wrong way.  Me personally, I love it.  This is when Jim knew how to balance the good and bad aspects of his work and entertain.  His later stuff...not so much.  Fans of pulp cinema will have a blast with this goofy film and, unlike the Craven film, this DVD actually has a ton of features.  If you've got $5 to waste, you could do worse.
Up next, I take a look at a pair of films featuring a man named Thor.  Need I really say anymore?  Stay tuned...


  1. Ive never actually seen this one, though I have always wanted to. I still find the first one to be completely silly and ridiculous, so I cant imagine any Swamp Thing fans looking down on this one

  2. If you think that the first one is ridiculous, you may not be able to handle how silly this one is. Craven's film was trying to be pulpy to an ironic degree. This movie is just plain goofy at times.

    It's actually interesting to contrast this to the cartoon show or the live-action show, the latter of which is actually very dark and serious.