Swamp Thing Blu-ray Review
Swamp Thing Film Review
Much beauty in the swamp, if you only lookBetween two titans of the horror genre, The Hills Have Eyes and Nightmare on Elm Street, horror auteur, Wes Craven, helmed two films. The decidedly off and uncomfortable meld of ‘home invasion’ and 'supernatural’ elements, Deadly Blessing, and tonight’s feature, a superhero movie, Swamp Thing. Both could be considered transitional movies, as Craven moved away from his realistic horror towards the more supernatural elements, but also transitioning towards something more mainstream, something he would achieve for Nightmare.
Swamp Thing was a DC comic book character, something of a minor character, but in the early 80’s a decision was made to bring him to the big screen. The story is pure origin: good hearted scientist is betrayed and transformed into a plant/animal hybrid by his own formula, then goes on a rampage to protect those he loves – nothing new in that. But by setting the whole film in a swamp there is a certain naivety and innocence about the film, even if it has the trappings of horror tropes and a couple of scenes added in for pure notoriety (Barbeau washing in the swamp, followed by a nonsensical party at the mansion - whose flesh baring antics are so obvious).
Clearly filmed on a budget there is a reasonable production value, sets are good, the acting is ok (David Hess is still as unlikeable as ever), though the monster costumes are plainly men in rubber suits. The pacing is good, the story narrative being well delivered, with time enough to empathise with the characters, both good and bad. This makes the film entertaining, it clearly has some charm, even if, ultimately, it is nothing more than cheap and nasty. At least it takes itself seriously enough to deliver a convincing story, but not so serious as to be laughable.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 1.85:1 1080p image, using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.
Clearly made on a budget the film stock used means that there are inherent issues such as softness, flairs and gaudy colouring – these have been faithfully reproduced by this transfer. Detail is pretty good, there is reasonable skin texture and clothing has discernible weaves, while the tress and other vegetation of the swamp have reasonably keen edges. The lab and mansion interiors hold decent enough edges, while the few establishing shots are quite well seen. As stated, there is a reasonable amount of softness to this image, both from the stock and the lenses, but it is not distracting, rather gives the film a dated ‘look’.
Colouring is really quite bold; greens especially fair very well, being rich and lush. Skin tones are fairly natural, if a wee bit pink, but the rest of the primaries are well seen; reds (see the blood and lighting in the lab) are nice and vibrant, while the cool of the blues are equally as well realised.
Brightness and contrast are set to give a decent black level holding a good amount of shadow detail; the night attack on the lab shows good examples and there is a decent amount of frame depth. Unfortunately, during the scene in the dungeon under the mansion, the blacks do grey a tad, this shortens the frame considerably, but it soon darkens again during the escape. On the whole, the black level is pretty stable. The white end is also pretty good, showing no signs of clipping that are not inherent in the source.
Digitally there are no compression issues and the original source is in quite good shape, there are a few instances of nicks with white specks popping up, and the grain structure is reasonably well maintained.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray Sound QualityJust the one track to choose from, DTS HD MA 2.0 stereo. For what is a basic track, there is actually a reasonable amount of separation and dynamic range that gives quite a lively experience. Dialogue is clean and clear and sounds good and natural. Effects are somewhat limited, but gun shots, explosions, ambient ‘swamp’ noises and the Thing’s mournful cries are well layered and have a strength and urgency. Bass is rather limited, used mainly to fill out the low end, the climactic stand-off has some wonderful percussion beats in the score, that really liven things up, but gunshots and explosions are somewhat feeble by comparison. The score is well layered and dialogue is never lost. A basic track, yes, but given a little bit more life by fact that it remains quite lively.
Swamp Thing Blu-ray ExtrasAudio Commentary – Wes Craven is joined by Sean Clark, as he discusses every aspect of the film making process; acutely aware of the trashy nature of the film, Craven nevertheless gives an informed and engaging talk.
Swamp Screen – 20 minute interview with Robb Wilson King, the film’s production designer who talks about his time on set, the designs he come up with, the cast on set and the good time had by all.
From Krug to Comics – 20 minute interview with critic Kim Newman who discusses Craven’s early career and how this is a ‘transitional’ film for him before looking into comic lore and the director's legacy.
A3 poster – Limited Edition
Booklet – Limited Edition
Slip Case – Limited Edition
Swamp Thing Blu-ray VerdictSwamp Thing is horror auteur Was Caven’s first and only foray into the superhero genre, and was made as he was transitioning from home invasion brutality to supernatural elements. He delivers a entertaining, if not, remarkable film about the origins of a monster with a good heart, protecting the one he loves against the evil machinations of corrupt scientists. With good pacing, set design, sprinklings of violence, nudity and acting, the film is not without its charm, even if ultimately it is pretty cheap and nasty.
As a Blu-ray set, the package from 88films is pretty good; the image is pretty good, the transfer is reasonably well detailed with good colouring and a decent black level, the few specks and grain not really taking anything away. The DTS-HD MA stereo track is serviceable and a good dynamic range but plays without and frills. The extras package is small, but worthwhile.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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