Caught Between Hills and Nightmares: A Look Back at Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing


D. S. Thorndike

Monster movies are one of my all-time favorite horror genres. Movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Gremlins 2: A New Batch (1990), The Lake (2022), and everything, well most things in between. These movies have become a weighted blanket of comfort for me. A romantic mix of horror and sci-fi. A journey that you crave. Something to boggle the mind, and yet satisfy us with glimpses of what it would be like to have sex with an extraterrestrial. Perfect for a midnight movie, wouldn’t you say? You might be asking yourself, “Where is this guy going?” Well, here it is. What if I told you there is a comic book movie that was directed by a horror legend, and you probably are unfamiliar with it? The film I am speaking of is the hidden gem, Swamp Thing (1982).

Yes, the same Swamp Thing from Vertigo/DC Comics. Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Wes Craven was the man to direct such an atmospheric film. One that has stood the test of time. 41 years later, Craven’s oft-overlooked gem still competes with comic book movies of today, especially compared to some of DC’s more recent live-action films. One so unique in his repertoire, he never copied it again (in my opinion). Shall we set the mood? Let’s….

Unearthing a Hidden Gem

So, it is 1 AM on Wednesday. The sound of rain colliding with the window pane, and the occasional gust of wind that causes the house to creak, set the perfect ambiance. I turn on the best streaming service around – Tubi. I knew they would have any movie I am looking for. There. It. Was. All 93 minutes of it. Wait, does this mean I am in for a special surprise?! The short answer, yes. In 1982 the MPAA gave this movie a PG rating. This movie will show you the stark differences between today and yesteryear. We will get a little into that, later.

Usually when you think of Wes Craven, the horror legend is immediately associated with Freddy Kruger. I would say there are four films that you have to experience to see into his mind; The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and for the millennials, Scream (1996) just for you Ghostface lovers out there, but Freddy is still King. These movies were quintessential for the Craven experience. I think we can go ahead and add one more film to that list, Swamp Thing.  

Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing (1982)….

“Not long ago, in the unexplored reaches of an unmapped swamp, the creative genius of one man collided with another’s evil dream, and a monster was born. Too powerful to be destroyed, too intelligent to be captured, this being still pursues its savage dream.” – Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing (1982)

The story follows a scientist that goes by Dr. Alec Holland. As a scientist would, he wants to create a hybrid of plant and animal. A creature capable of adapting and thriving in harsh environments. What some would call mistakes, others would call improvement. The experiment Dr. Holland started did not finish but had only just begun.

“Everything’s a dream when you’re alone” – Swamp Thing

Throughout the film, these four points stood out to me. One, the amazing way the swamps of South Carolina were captured. Two, these are dudes in suits, which I do not mind. I grew up with the Godzilla franchise. I dig it. Three, Alice Cable (Adrienne Barbeau) is a total badass, until she was not. I would have preferred her to stay the Ridley (Sigourney Weaver) character from Alien (1979). Instead, they took a familiar route that is not popular today. Damsel in distress.

She went from the very brave xenomorph killer type to Kay Lawrence who unfortunately came across the Gillman type. The last thing that was floating in my noggin, was the rating. Adrienne went topless, and a couple of other actresses did as well. So much for a PG rating. Could you imagine that happening in a film today and getting a PG rating? I was, well, pleasantly surprised. If you are a fan of Alan Moore’s work with Swamp Thing, then this is a must-see comic book film. Alan Moore was the author of the Swamp Thing collection I got into, so maybe I am biased. Swamp Thing truly was beauty and beast. Perfect combination.

The Future of Swamp Thing

The movie was successful enough to get a sequel and a television series. It even supplied financial support for Wes Craven to make a couple of movies after. One being Nightmare on Elm Street, that made him part of an exclusive group. DC comics have brought life to Swamp Thing in many more recent adaptations in television and comic books. We hope to see the horror character in many more projects to come. Hopefully more like Wes Craven’s vision.  James Gunn has mentioned his first part of the new DC Universe will introduce Swamp Thing, very exciting.  


MVD Entertainment Group has a series of 4k Blu-Rays referred to as MVD Rewind Collection. They thought it would be a good idea to upscale Swamp Thing into 4k! July 25, 2023, is your lucky day! That is when it will be available, and you can be hypnotized by the incredible depths of green in the swamp. I suggest you pre-order yours today, just about anywhere you can buy movies online. Much beauty in the swamp if you only look.

You can catch me over at Y2k Movies – A podcast about the films of the 21st Century

1 thought on “Caught Between Hills and Nightmares: A Look Back at Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *