Born on the Bayou (Swamp Thing, 1982)

swamp_thing_posterDuring 1972 and 1981, beloved horror director had made five films.  His sixth was the coic book movie “Swamp Thing”.  Based on the iconic character initially brought to life by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson.  It was more horror than super-hero and even though it had ended in 1976, producer Michael Uslan had purchased the rights to Swamp Thing and Batman (which would not see the screen for seven more years) out of love for those characters.  Craven was more of an upstart, rather than cherished genre director.

The film tells the story of Alec Holland, a scientist, working on a powerful botanical formula with the help of his sister.  Alice Cable arrives, on assignment from the government to check in on Holland.  It turns out there is a rather bad guy named Arcane who is out to secure the formula for it’s properties.  His henchmen try and steal it, which results in a fire that engulfs Alec after he is dowsed in his chemical.  Holland runs into the swamp and dies.

Or appears to.  He is resurrected as a large stuntman covered in a rubber suit meant to look like muck and plants the swamp.  Eventually Arcane pursues Alice and the Swamp Thing and they acquire a sidekick (a little kid named Jude).  eventually  there is a big rubber suit climactic battle, as Arcane has turned himself into a monster using the formula.

The film was made on a low, low budget.   Did I say low?  I think it is somewhere beneath the swamp they filmed in.  Using a real swamp is one of the best things in the film.  Rather than looking like a cheap set, you get some downright beautiful swamp shots.

But Swamp Thing looks like a  big rubber suit.  Arcane’s monster is rather goofy looking.  And the film makes the most of Adrienne Barbeau’s cleavage.  The casting in the film is actually quite good.  Barbeau’s Alice is tough and yet unsure of the world she is thrown into of monsters and henchmen.  Ray  Wise, known for his tough guy roles is thoughtful and kind here, giving a real soul to the character.  Louis Jourdan is both suave and menacing (two things the film loses when he becomes a monster).  Unfortunately the cast is not enough to save this from being a pretty bland adventure full of lifeless special effects.

It has a great poster though.

Scientists Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (Lazarus Effect, 2015)

lazarus-effectIf there is one story line that horror authors love to tell it is the one about the dangers of Scientific Hubris.  Part of this is that the stories pretty much write themselves.

In the case of the Lazarus Effect, the scientists in question are trying to conquer death.  After they succeed in resurrecting a dog, they lose their research to Big Pharma.  So they break in to attempt to recreate the success and one of the scientists (Olivia Wilde) is accidentally killed.  We can all see where this is going.

Upon being returned to life, her behavior becomes creepier and creepier and then progressively more violent.  The turn is quite quick, it happens overnight.

The film is visually interesting, but the philosophical questions are treated in a way that feels pretty pedestrian.  There is the scientist who has remnants of her religious upbringing causing her to wonder if what they are doing is very wrong (Wilde) and the scientist who thinks there is no spiritual afterlife, so only sees the potential (Mark Duplass).

The film never really asks big questions, and it never really addresses what it is that Zoe (Wilde) has become, or what her goal or purpose is, other than to be mean and cause mayhem.  The Lazarus Effect is an interesting idea that seems lazily executed.

Dig Deep (Digging Up the Marrow, 2015)

Ahhhh…the mock documentary.  A branch of the horror found footage genre that seems to have an endless supply.  On rare occasion, more familiar names from the industry get the itch to make them.

digging-up-the-marrow_altAnd so, Adam Green (Frozen, the Hatchet franchise) assembled Digging Up the Marrow.

The film follows Green as he and his cameraman Will Barratt prepare to make a documentary on real monsters hiding in our world.  They are inspired on the journey by a letter from a fan named William Dekker (Ray Wise) who claims to know that monsters are real and how to see them.

The film opens with a montage of convention footage and people Tony Todd, Mick Garris, Don Coscarelli and a whose who of horror talking about monsters.  Adam’s wife Rileah (playing herself, as everyone except Ray Wise is doing in the film) is concerned that Dekker is a crazed fan.

Upon finally sitting down for an interview, Green wonders if he is not dealing with a guy who has lost touch with reality.  And their early forays of sitting out overnight results in rather bland footage, in spite of Dekker claiming to see things.

Then one night, as they are watching claims the monster is directly in front of their hiding spot, when Will turns on his camera light, they are startles (and startle) a creature.  Dekker is upset about turning on the light, worried that the creatures will seal up and leave the area.

The deeper they go into exploring the Marrow (this is what Dekker calls the home of the monsters) the more confused Adam and Will become about what they have seen.  Adams other endeavors (such as his show Holliston) start to suffer as he becomes more obsessed with the stories of Dekker (and who Dekker really is).

Adam becomes disillusioned a bit when Mick Garris and Tom Holland inform him that he is not the only horror director Dekker approached.  He was under the impression he was unique, only to discover he was one of the last, and the first to bite.

When they dig deeper into who Dekker is, it becomes truly dangerous.  There is something creepy about him, and Adam and Will decide to check out the Marrow without Dekker.

Ray Wise is very good in the film, and Adam Green plays Adam Green convincingly.  The film is pretty effective and uses the fake documentary to entertaining effect.  When it comes down to it, I really did enjoy this one.  Green walks the fine line of showing just enough, but effectively using darkness obscure what we are seeing.  The mystery of Dekker is intriguing.

The only real criticism I have is that the very end sequence is kind of confusing.  It is unclear if it is to imply Green just got a terrifying wake up to a reality he should not have toyed with or if it is meant to imply he disappeared.  I had to listen to the audio commentary on the Blu-Ray to be sure.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑