I have been dreading this moment for a while.
Ever since I decided that, while we are reviewing every episode of Twin Peaks, that every entry in Movie A Day would have a connection with the show, I knew that I would have to eventually review Swamp Thing. I didn’t want to because I hate Swamp Thing but, outside of his work as Leland Palmer, it is also Ray Wise’s most famous role. One of the good things about Twin Peaks is that it saved Ray Wise from being forever known as Swamp Thing.
Of course, Ray Wise does not really play Swamp Thing. He plays Alec Holland, the human scientist who is working on a formula that will allow animals and plants to thrive in extreme environments. When the evil Dr. Arcane (Louis Jourdan) sends his henchmen (including veteran bad guys David Hess and Nicholas Worth) to steal the formula, Alec gets set on fire and runs into the Louisiana bayou. When Alec emerges, he has become Swamp Thing, half-human and half-plant. He is also now played by Dick Durock. Swamp Thing must protect both bodacious Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) and streetwise swamp kid Jude (Reggie Batts) while trying to prevent Arcane from using the formula to turn himself into a werewolf and conquer the world.
Despite the easily mocked name, Swamp Thing has often been one of the best characters in the DC universe. The movie does not being to do the character justice. At the time, Wes Craven was best known for movies like Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. Swamp Thing was an attempt to show that he could direct a big-budget, studio production. Unfortunately, Craven takes a deliberately campy approach to the material, to the extent that, if not for a handful of scenes like Swamp Thing crushing David Hess’s skull, Swamp Thing could have easily been directed by Joel Schumacher during his Batman years. Just the name Swamp Thing is campy enough. There’s no need to toss in Louis Jourdan turning into a werewolf. Fans of Adrienne Barbeau will do better to rewatch Escape from New York than sit through Swamp Thing.
Fortunately, for Ray Wise, Twin Peaks came along and saved him from forever being known as Swamp Thing.