Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Film Appreciation - Grudge of the Sludge

A young Cody Hamman was excited for The Return of Swamp Thing in 1989, so Cody has Film Appreciation for it today.

Wes Craven's 1982 comic book adaptation Swamp Thing was one of the movies I watched over and over again when I was a child, so when it was announced that the titular hero would be back in action for a sequel in 1989, young Cody was very excited. I was five years old during the build-up to the release of The Return of Swamp Thing and already a devoted fan of cinema, regularly asking my mom to buy movie-related magazines for me. I still remember reading and re-reading an issue of a magazine called Comics Scene that had Swamp Thing on the cover. There were articles on Batman and The Punisher in that magazine as well, but at the time Swamp Thing was my top interest.

Eventually I got the chance to watch The Return of Swamp Thing, and while the movie never worked for me on the same level as the original, I enjoyed it. I was glad to have another Swampy adventure to watch, and watch it I did, again and again.

Directed by the legendary and stunningly prolific Jim Wynorski, Return doesn't explain how the villainous Anton Arcane (Louis Jourdan) is back after transforming into a hideous, hairy beast and getting beaten to death. Instead, it just picks up with Arcane looking the same as he ever did and continuing his unscrupulous experiments deep in the bayou. This time around he is creating horrific hybrid creatures out of humans and animals while on a quest to make a rejuvenation formula that will reverse the aging process. Turning into a monster wasn't a problem for him, but this "getting older" stuff is a pain.

Unfortunately for some locals, one of Arcane's hybrids, a leech man, has escaped from the lab and is out for blood. Good thing Swamp Thing (Dick Durock reprises the role) is still around to fight off the walking leech whenever it appears.

The Return of Swamp Thing was made on a relatively small budget, which is quite obvious during the action sequences. Although the creatures look cool, the scenes of men in bulky costumes smacking each other around and flailing on the ground aren't exactly impressive. Moments in which Swampy takes on human adversaries, which come along often, aren't anything to write home about either, but at least we get the sight of a plant man driving a Jeep with a passenger living up to the term "riding shotgun".

Swamp Thing picks up that helpful passenger when he saves a young woman from being attacked by a pair of yokels. As it turns out, this woman is Arcane's stepdaughter Abby (Heather Locklear), who has come to town to confront stepdaddy dearest about her mother's mysterious death. Abby isn't very fond of Arcane, and ends up befriending - and even falling in love with - his enemy Swamp Thing. That's odd, but she is a plant-lover from the start. She talks to, plays music for, and even keeps the TV on for her houseplants, so it makes sense she would be able to accept Swampy for the good man he is beneath the sludge.

The love story is awkward, the action is bland, but what this sequel does have to offer is the addition of campy, goofball humor. This film does not take itself very seriously, and the most memorable aspects of it for me have always been the inclusion of a couple of silly kids (Daniel Taylor as Darryl and RonReaco Lee as Omar) who are out to look at nudie books and sell pictures of Swampy to the tabloids and Joe Sagal as Arcane's slimy (slimy in a different way than Swamp Thing) henchman Gunn. These characters provide laughs, and that's what I remember The Return of Swamp Thing for.

Overall, this sequel is a significant step down from its predecessor, but I'll always remember being hyped for it back in 1989, and I wasn't let down by it after all that hype. It entertained a five year old fan of the first movie, so it did its job.

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