HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SWAMP THING season 1 (2019)

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SWAMP THING season 1 (2019)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Swamp Thing was sadly canceled after it’s first episode aired and before it was even given a chance…and it’s a shame. The ten episode first season nailed so many aspects of the comics and also managed to be one of the better horror shows currently on TV. Was that the problem? Was it too edgy? Right now there are few answers to the questions of why a great first season was also it’s last.

The story takes place in Marais, Louisiana, where an outbreak of some strange illness has occurred. CDC doctor Abby Arcane (Crystal Reed) arrives on the scene to try to find some answers and a cure. She meets eccentric scientist Alec Holland (Andy Bean) who tells her the answer is in the swamps. There they find that someone has been dumping a chemical growth accelerator in the swamp that has had a bizarre effect on the plant life. Alec is murdered in the swamp one night for what he knows and his body is regenerated by the plants into a massive human/plant hybrid..The Swamp Thing (Derek Mears)! Now Holland must not only come to terms with what he’s become, but protect Abby from those who would harm her and protect himself for those who find him a curious object of study.

Written and directed by a number of talents (see list below) Swamp Thing is a fun, atmospheric and delightfully gory show, that takes itself seriously despite it’s comic book roots. The show uses the North Carolina locations very well and the production and set design is perfectly spooky and fitting of the overall tone. There is a lot of action and intrigue as Abby and Holland uncover a conspiracy led by local businessman Avery Sunderland (Will Patton), his chief scientist Jason Woodrue (Kevin Durand) and crooked sheriff Lucilia Cable (Jennifer Beals), who are trying to exploit the swamp for profit. This puts Abby in danger and makes Holland/Swamp Thing a hunted man/thing. The episodes are each slightly under an hour and with the variety of directors and writers, the show maintains a consistent look and tone. The FX are good, especially the prosthetics and the CGI ranges from good to passable with some weak spots here and there. This show had a lot of potential and whatever the reasons for it’s canceling, unfortunately there will be some loose ends that will never get tightened unless, somehow, there is a continuation either by revival or a feature film. Sad, this show had a lot of potential and a strong first season start that was thrilling and enjoyable for comic and horror fans especially.

The cast really click here. Crystal Reed makes a solid heroine in the determined and resilient Abby Arcane. The actress presents a strong, intelligent and caring young woman that makes her very likable and endearing. Andy Dean is good as Holland, thought we only see him in the first episode and a few other spots. He builds a likable character in limited time. Derek Mears shines as the plant hero. He does a very good job giving Swamp Thing some complex emotions as he tries to figure out who and what he has become. He can be fierce and dangerous and yet kind, gentle and very sympathetic. Too bad we can’t see where he could take the character. Mears and Reed also had some nice on-screen chemistry, too. Patton makes a nice villain as the scheming and greedy Avery Sunderland, He’s a man that will kill for what he wants and does. Kevin Durand’s Woodrue is a scientist blinded and made cruel by his work. The post credits scene at the end of the last episode signals a side of him we would liked to have seen more of. The rest of the supporting cast, including Jennifer Beals and Ian Ziering, all play their parts well, A very solid cast for a really well done production.

In conclusion, This is a sad example of studio chaos ending a good show before it had a chance. This had some great atmosphere, a cool horror movie tone, yet didn’t ignore it’s comic book roots. There was some great production design, some spooky visuals and settings and a healthy amount of blood, gore and creatures. One of DC’s best representations of their properties as of late and it’s canceling is as mysterious as it’s swamp setting!

-MonsterZero NJ

Photo Credit: Fred Norris / 2019 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

EPISODE LIST

  1. Pilot – directed by Len Wiseman and written by Gary Dauberman and Mark Verheiden
  2. Worlds Apart – directed by Len Wiseman and written by Mark Verheiden and Doris Egan
  3. He Speaks – directed by Deran Sarafian and written by Rob Fresco
  4. Darkness on the Edge of Town – directed by Carol Banker and written by Erin Maher and Kay Reindl
  5. Drive All Night – directed by Greg Beeman and written by Franklin Rho
  6. The Price You Pay – directed by Toa Fraser and written by Tania Lotia
  7. Brilliant Disguise – directed by Alexis Ostrander and written by Andrew Preston and Rob Fresco
  8. Long Walk Home – directed by E. L. Katz and written by Doris Egan
  9. The Anatomy Lesson – directed by Michael Goi and written by Mark Verheiden, Noah Griffith and Daniel Stewart
  10. Loose Ends – directed by Deran Sarafian and written by Erin Maher, Kay Reindl and Rob Fresco

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-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4 ) swamp things.

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 HORROR THEMED COMIC BOOK MOVIES!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 15 HORROR THEMED COMIC BOOK MOVIES!

The comic book based Blade trilogy brought the horror…and Guillermo del Toro!

Catching up with DC ‘s delightfully gory, yet sadly canceled, Swamp Thing series gets one nostalgic for other horror themed comic book movies. So, here are 15 of them that brought the horror while delivering comic book movie entertainment!

Keanu Reeves battled supernatural forces in the comic book based Constantine!

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(To get to the reviews of the titles listed that were covered here at the Movie Madhouse, just type the title in the search engine to find the corresponding critique!)

-MonsterZero NJ

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AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

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AVCO EMBASSY PICTURES: UNSUNG HEROES OF THE B-MOVIE!

(Just click on the movie titles to go to our full length reviews!)

Some film fans may remember Avco Embassy Pictures, though there also may be some of you out there who have never heard of them…but if you love movies, you certainly know some of their titles! When talking about Avco Embassy Pictures, it would also be remiss not to mention the name of Robert Rehme…and as a B-Movie fan, you might want to know who this man is, too…

Originally a distributor of foreign films, such as Godzilla: King Of The Monsters and Fellini’s 8 1/2, Avco Embassy was founded by legendary producer Joseph E. Levine in 1942. It wasn’t until the 60s when the studio began to produce it’s own films, including such classic’s as The Graduate, Mad Monster Party and The Producers, to name just a few.

Some classic genre flicks released/produced by Avco Embassy in their early years!

The era that should resonate most with horror, action and sci-fi fans, are the years between 1978 and 1982. During most of this time, a man named Robert Rehme ran the studio. After having been sold and then experiencing some financial trouble that brought production to a halt, Rehme was hired to get the studio producing and profitable again and that he did! Rehme, who got his start working for Roger Corman at New World Pictures, used some of his former employer’s methods and turned to lower budgeted, yet popular B-movies to get the studio back in the black. Avco Embassy started churning out such flicks prolifically for the next few years, producing many inexpensive but successful films. Under his watch, the studio produced and released such classics and cult classics as Phantasm, The Fog, Scanners, The Howling and Escape From New York among many others! This strategy was a success, as studio earnings quadrupled during Rehme’s time at the helm!

Some of the classics and cult favorites the studio churned out under Rehme between 78 and 82!

All good things do, however, come to an end. Robert Rehme moved on to work for Universal in 1981 and Avco Embassy was subsequently sold in 1982. The name was changed to simply Embassy Pictures and the new owners gradually moved away from such B-Movie fair focusing on turning out more mainstream movies such as Eddie And The Cruisers and the classic comedy This Is Spinal Tap. Their last theatrical feature saw it’s release in 1986 and laid to rest the legacy of a studio whose early 80s flourish produced numerous classics and cult favorites. While Avco is now long gone, and Rehme apparently retired after a lengthy career, the movies they turned out, especially during their golden age between 1978 and 1982, will immortalize Avco Embassy Pictures and Robert Rehme with movie buffs for all time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Unsung hero of many a horror and B-Movie classic and cult classic, Robert Rehme!

sources: Wikipedia/IMDB/internet

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: SWAMP THING and THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING

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This week’s double feature puts together two films based on DC Comics Swamp Thing character that were made during the 80s. One directed by horror legend Wes Craven and the other by prolific B-Movie director Jim Wynorski. So, head into the bayou for some comic book-style fun and action!…

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SWAMP THING (1982)

As a big fan of Wes Craven it is rare to hear me say the legendary director may not have been right for a project, but this might be one of the few cases. I saw this flick with friends at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and wasn’t all that impressed with his take on one of the more bizarre comic book heroes. It’s not a bad film, but it seemed to take itself a bit too seriously and didn’t have the fun it needed to really win me over.

The movie written and directed by Craven tells the comic-based story of government agent Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) who is sent into the Louisiana swamps to work with brilliant scientist Alec Holland (Ray Wise). Holland is doing genetic research to find a way to combine plant and animal DNA to make hardier plants to grow food in harsher environments (Monsanto anyone?). His resulting formula is a volatile one, but appears to allow plants to grow wherever it touches. When his lab is attacked by the evil Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) and his mercenary thugs, Holland is covered in his serum by accident and sent running into the swamp ablaze. Cable is the only one who escapes alive and is now being pursued by Arcane and his men for the notebook she has recovered. Unknown to her and Arcane, Holland has undergone a transformation, merging him with the fauna of the swamp, and now he seeks to rescue Cable and exact revenge against Arcane as the powerful but noble Swamp Thing (stuntman Dick Durock)!

There are two big issues with this flick that stand in it’s way of being a far more entertaining movie. First off is that Craven had yet to really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street and directs this with the heavy hand of one of his early horror flicks. True, the comic has a serious atmosphere, but his script and tone take things far too seriously and the film is humorless and has the very moderate pace of this era’s horror movies. Adding comic book-style wipes between scenes doesn’t a comic book-style film make and this is simply too morose to really be fun and the action scenes too by-the-numbers. The other problem is that the make-up/creature FX are terrible. I understand that the Swamp Thing costume was originally made for stuntman Bob Minor, who, for some reason, couldn’t do the film and there was no time or money to build a new suit, so it was ‘altered’ to fit Durock*. But even so, the costume is flat and rubbery and just looks awful. The creature costume for the transformed Arcane for the climactic fight is equally bad and when your main character is a man in a rubber suit, that suit needs to look good as he is on screen quite a lot. It kills the illusion that the costume is so bad looking. Also not helping is Harry Manfredini’s Friday The 13th-ish score witch adds to the horror film atmosphere instead of lightening things up a bit and adding a little energy to the proceedings. I get that this comic character certainly has horror film elements, but the film just takes itself far too seriously to be really fun. It looks good and has a good enough cast, but is too slow paced and just doesn’t have enough fun for even a horror-themed superhero like Swamp Thing.

As for that cast, Ray Wise is fine as Holland though he has little screen time to really solidify the character. Durock actually does a nice job emoting with his eyes behind all the rubber and does make a noble hero as the transformed Swamp Thing. Barbeau does her tough chick thing from Escape From New York again here, but it works OK and this was the legendary actress in her prime, so she does provide some eye-candy along with her hard-nosed heroine…who also has her damsel moments, too. Louis Jourdan seems to be the only one who realizes this flick needs a little over-the-top and chews up the scenery just right as the evil genius Anton Arcane. He makes a good villain surrounded by bland characters. Rounding out is Last House On The Left villain David Hess and Don’t Answer The Phone psycho Nicholas Worth as Arcane’s lead henchmen and they are adequate though unremarkable. Some livelier performances or more larger than life characters would have really perked this film up.

In conclusion, Swamp Thing is an OK flick, but one that would have been a lot better with a bit lighter touch and a far less down-to-earth approach. The flick needed a bit more over-the-top and some of the fun and energy that Wes Craven gave Scream many years later. It’s watchable, but takes itself far too seriously to really entertain and perhaps Craven was still too early in his career to stray from his dire horror film style and tone to really give this comic book-based flick the color and life of the swamps it was set in.

* I read this account of the Bob Minor/Dick Durock costume issue in either Fangoria or Starlog back in the 80s when the film was released.-MZNJ

2 and 1/2 Swamp Things

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THE RETURN OF SWAMP THING (1989)

Seven years after Craven’s film, the guardian of the swamps returned in a film that was a lot more fun and over-the-top…maybe a bit too much so, in comparison with the more serious tone of the comic, but it is silly good fun and B-Movie director Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall) cranked up the camp and gave us a flick that is giddily comic book with a touch of James Bond…and we got a far more convincing suit for returning Dick Durock to wear.

Sequel has the villainous Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) back in action and trying to hunt down Holland/Swamp Thing in order to use his genetics to help Arcane and his beautiful assistant Lana (Sarah Douglas) defeat the aging process. At the same time Arcane’s ditzy valley girl step-daughter Abigail (Heather Locklear) comes to visit to ask questions about her mother’s death and one of Arcane’s mutant experiments has escaped and is chowing-down on anyone who gets too close to the swamp. But, Abby’s DNA could also be a help to Arcane’s work and the young girl has captured Swamp Thing’s heart, guaranteeing a showdown between these two mortal enemies once more!

While, overall, Wynorski and writers Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris may have taken this goofy, fun flick a little too far in the opposite direction of Craven’s dour version, but it is a unapologetic good time with it’s bombastic creature battles and explosion filled action scenes. Gone are the bland henchman and stiff scientists, now Arcane is surrounding by a bevy of armed beauties, including exploitation film fixture/Penthouse model Monique Gabrielle and campy mad scientists like Ace Mask’s Dr. Rochelle. The tone of the film is a mix of the 60s Batman TV show and a Roger Moore James Bond movie, complete with underground lair and  dozens of uniformed soldiers more than anxious to use their machine guns. Wynorski gives it a fast pace and a candy-colored production design aided by Zoran Hochstatter’s cinematography and the film’s cartoonish atmosphere is enhanced by Chuck Cirino’s lively electronic score. The film may be silly, but far more resembles the panels of a comic book than Craven’s far too grounded flick. The creature FX are far better than the first flick and Durock really looks like the embodiment of the comic character with the much improved suit. He has a couple of amusing monsters to battle, though, he could have used a far more lethal opponent at the climax than the transformed, but still asthmatic, Dr. Rochelle. Wynorski is a B-Movie director through and through and he films this flick with enough explosions, carnage and cleavage as the PG rating would hold and brings it in at a tight 88 minutes. The movie never overstays it’s welcome.

Acting-wise, the movie has little to brag about. Louis Jourdan is once again a fun villain who understands just how serious to play it and how much scenery to chew on. Durock again emotes very well under the rubber and, while I’m not sure if it was his voice used, overall creates a very noble and likable plant man/hero. Douglas is sexy and sinister as Arcane’s assistant Dr. Lana Zurrell and these three help keep things somewhat respectable in the performance dept. Not fairing so well are Loclkear who just mugs for the camera, though is a good sport considering her dialogue and having to romp in the swamp with a 7 foot plant man. The rest of the acting is shamelessly over-the-top such as Ace Mask’s Dr. Rochelle, Joey Sagal as security head Gunn and the lovely buxom Ms. Gabrielle…who was hired because she is lovely and buxom and not to perform Hamlet. Thanks to the giddy over-the-top tone, some of the bad acting fits right in.

I like this flick. It’s certainly an 80s guilty pleasure action flick and a fun movie if you cut it some slack and go with it’s outrageously cartoonish style. Sure some of the acting is pretty bad, but as it does resemble the 60s Batman series but with more of an 80s slant, it fits right in with the unabashedly goofy tone. It’s a lot of fun and best enjoyed with a few of your favorite brews.

This movie was followed in 1990 by a TV series that lasted for 3 seasons and not only saw Durock return to the role once more, but found a happy medium for it’s tone which was more serious than Wynorski’s flick, but not quite as droll as Craven’s movie. It also stared Kari Wurher as Abigail and Mark Lindsay Chapman taking over as Arcane.

3 Swamp Things!

swamp thing return rating

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