The new iteration of DC's Swamp Thing has arrived on the company's streaming service and should please fans of the swamp monster with its R rated full on horror approach.
SPOILER LEVEL: Mild
Swamp Thing made his big screen debut in 1982 with Ray Wise playing altruistic botanist Alec Holland on a quest to wipe out world hunger. Adrienne Barbeau played a special government agent sent to protect the good doctor and his secrets which the villainous Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) would like to get his hands on. The PG rated film was less of a horror movie and more of a campy monster flick focusing on a “beauty and the beast” plot between Swamp Thing (Dick Durock) and Barbeau.
Seven years later a sequel Return of the Swamp Thing was released which was a little campier and had the same villain (Arcane) but a new “beauty” in Heather Locklear. 1991 saw the debut of of a 30 minute Swamp Thing TV series on the USA Channel. Dick Durock reprised his role as the monster and Mark Lindsey Chapman took on the role of nemesis Arcane. At the time it was the USA Channel’s highest rated program though critics tore into it mercilessly for its bad cliches, disjointed plot and bad acting. Still, the show managed to rack up 72 episodes over 3 seasons.
The new Swamp Thing series focuses on Dr. Abby Arcane who is part of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Services. She is first seen working in the Congo before returning to her home in Marais, Louisiana where people are getting a strange sickness possibly related to the swamp. The show opens with three men dropping some mysterious boxes into the swamp before they are attacked…seemingly by the swamp itself!
Abby keeps crossing paths with Alec Holland, a disheveled scientist/botanist looking to make a name for himself through his work but isn’t particularly popular with the locals. Eventually, Abby and Alec team up to investigate some bizarre deaths. Crystal Reed and Andy Bean as the leads have some chemistry in the pilot which could have been built upon if the pilot didn’t seem so rushed. We don’t get a lot of meat with Andy Bean’s Alec Holland, the frumpy, swearing scientist we’ve seen done before and he comes off as a secondary character who only gets dropped into the story after Abby’s introduction and the establishment that something weird is happening in the swamp.
Swamp Thing gets a TV-MA warning…a solid R rating for its graphic scenes of gore and violence and also for its heavy profanity which seems to be a trademark now for DC’s comic book shows. As with Titans and Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing is for adults and definitely not for kids. The special effects for the show, though derivative, are very well done and bring a level of creepiness and horror that we haven’t seen much of in previous incarnations of the character. The effects, which take front stage over story and characters, are very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing remake especially in one scene where Abby is performing an autopsy. All in all it’s a good fit for the series. I’ve been fascinated with plant based horror since the original Day of The Triffids and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There’s something very menacing in seeing vines grabbing people and ripping them apart. The Earth is covered in vegetation and were it to rebel against us where would we hide?
The Swamp Thing has had a very complicated history in the comics since he first appeared in 1972 in a comic written by Len Wein and illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. Notably absent in this new series is Alec Holland’s wife who was murdered and served as impetus for the Swamp Thing to seek revenge. Also Abby Arcane is different than her comic counterpart insofar as here she seems to be a dedicated doctor and research scientist who has a traumatic past experience which still haunts her. An Interpol agent in the comics, Matt Cable appears here as a sheriff and childhood friend of Abby and is played by Henderson Wade. Another comic character Avery Sutherland, a generic money grubbing CEO out to exploit anything for money, is played by Will Patton. Virginia Madsen is cast as his wife. Other characters appearing on Swamp Thing this season include Madame Xanadu, Dr. Jason Woodrue (aka “Plant Master” and “The Floronic Man”) whose comic appearance actually predates Swamp Thing, and Dan Cassidy the Blue Devil who is given life by Ian Ziering of Sharknado and Beverly Hills 90210 fame. It’s not known whether Ziering will actually appear in the Blue Devil guise but we can hope.
As a pilot, Swamp Thing is very pilot-ish and focuses more on atmosphere over characters and story. But I’m intrigued by this first episode and look forward to the next. I was also very interested when the Doom Patrol appeared on Titans and looked forward to their show but I quickly became very disappointed with it and by the halfway mark it became a slow burn for me getting through to the finale. Swamp Thing stirred up some noise when they were told during production 3 episodes would be cut and they needed to wrap it all up by the tenth episode. So there’s that. There have been rumors that the DCU streaming service may be cancelled or swallowed up into a larger Warner streaming service in development. What that might do to all the remaining comic based shows remains to be seen. Star Girl has already been pushed to 2020. We’re just going to have to take a wait and see attitude and hope for the best.
Executive Producer James Wan is no stranger to horror or DC (Aquaman movie) and this new interpretation of Swamp Thing seems to follow the darker path we've seen in many DC films and series of late only here the darkness seems more appropriate. Swamp Thing could open a whole new chapter for DC's horror characters.
Swamp Thing S1E01: DC Comics' Muck Monster Returns
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 10/1010/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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