The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

This was originally posted on Strange Kids Club as part of the So Bad, It’s Good series of articles I contributed to to for a few years.

-Scott

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For pretty much as long as I can remember, most of my heroes have been monsters: Dracula, Frankenstien’s monster, Freddy, the Xenomorphs from Alien and, of course, Swamp Thing. Swamp Thing isn’t just your run-of-the-mill, here to terrorize the public-type of monster like the rest of his companions (except for maybe Frankie of course, he just wanted a friend *sniffle*). No, he combines both “heroic do-gooder” and “misshapen monster” into one misunderstood being.

The victim of a lab accident that fused him with the flora of the swamp he worked so closely with (or as we would find out thanks to Alan Moore, the sentience of Alec Holland possessing and animating a man shaped portion of swamp matter) Swampie fights for the good guys despite the fact that most folks want to run and hide at the mere sight of him shambling out of the Florida everglades. That takes a lot. Being such a conflicted character has always led swamp thing to be taken down the more serious route, like in Wes Cravens take on everyones favorite Everglades avenger in the first movie or Alan Moore’s fantastic comic book run, just a few years prior to the movie I’m here to talk about today: Return of the Swamp Thing.
Right from the get-go you know this filmic adaptation of Swamp thing has turned over a new leaf when CCRs’ always appropriate “Born on the Bayou” comes blasting out of your speakers over a montage of classic Swamp Thing comic book pages. My not-so-inner comic book geek just loves this opening credits sequence; it sets the tone perfectly for the fusion of comic book cheese and monster mayhem you’re about to feast your eyes on.

In this installment of Swamp Things’ movie adventures, Dr. Arcane (who was thought dead at the end of the original) turns out to be alive and sort of well, living rather lavishly on a plantation while trying to perfect the formula that saved his life. The last step in the formula is incomplete though and requires, of course, some of Swamp Things blood to stabilize it. Arcane’s mansion is every mad scientists dream, replete with a sexy lady scientist, an army of mercenaries at his disposal and an zoo full of half-man/half-beast creatures with which to loose havoc upon your enemies.
Arcane’s step-daughter (played by the always welcome Heather Locklear) comes down to visit him from California hoping to learn more about her mothers’ mysterious death and gets swept up into the swampy madness, becoming essential to Arcane’s plan to finalize his formula. One of my favorite parts of her inclusion in the movie is her immediate attraction to Swamp Thing and how ridiculous it is she falls in love with a shambling pile of moss and roots. The movies skirts around the obvious cucumber/zucchini joke that could be made here with it’s dreamy “love making” scene where she eats a fruit Swamp Thing produces (yum!) and hallucinates that he is a human because, honestly, even for this movie a blonde bombshell getting down with a fern man is almost too much.

One thing the movies of my childhood taught me is that grenade launchers are appropriate in almost ANY situation. Return of Swamp Thing teaches a master class in grenade launcher use; I’d like to think that they were included in the hiring package for Arcane’s goons. Whatever black market weapons dealer who stocks his armory from must just see dollar signs when he gets the monthly order, not to mention contractors needed to repair all the damage to his mansion.
The costume in this iteration of Swamp Thing is such a vast improvement over the rubber suit mess that was presented in the first movie it’s hard to believe that Return of is the movie with the lower budget. The fact that he looks like he just stepped straight off the pages of his comic and into this movie makes it leaps and bounds more enjoyable for me that the first one. I was never really able to get down with the first movie because he didn’t really look like Swamp Thing to me; he looked to me like they didn’t have enough time to finish the costume before Wes yelled action and the actor had to run to set, leaving the costumer with a hot glue gun and a handful of moss yet to be applied.
I think it’s hilarious that with all of DC’s troubles bringing their characters to the big screen that one of the most off-beat and strange heroes has had the most success, next to – of course – Batman and Superman with two movies, a television series and a (albeit short-lived) cartoon series all based off Swamp Thing. Oh and one final note… how bad-ass is Swamp Thing rocking out in that jeep at the end of the movie?!

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