Posts Tagged ‘SciFi Channel’

"Swamp Devil" DVD Cover Art

If you’re like me (in which case you have my deepest and most heartfelt sympathy), sometimes nothing but cheap ‘n cheesy will do. And when you’re in one of those moods, you could do a lot worse than check out any of the made-for-SciFi (now SyFy) Channel movies now being pumped out on DVD by RHI in conjunction with Genius Entertainment under the “Maneater Series” label.

Don;t get me wrong, I’d never actually buy any of these flicks, but they do make for a fun and brainless rental, and they invariably hue so closely to the formula that has been established over the years for these things that watching them play out is oftentimes an almost amazing thing to watch. I swear, it’s like they have a fucking checklist that they almost never stray from, and when they do, it’s sort of amazing — I mean, it’s almost even enough to take you aback for a minute. Don’t worry, though — any deviations from the norm are sticttly momentary in nature and soon enough things will get back on track. For that matter, they’ll get back exactly on track.

Case in point : 2008’s made-in-Quebec cheapie Swamp Devil.

Let’s have a quick look at that just-referenced checklist, shall we?

1. Rehashed idea either stolen from another film (currently-playing blockbusters are often a favorite), a popular horror or science fiction novel, or a comic book?

Yup, got that here — this idea is swiped directly from DC Comics’ Swamp Thing and Marvel’s less-successful rip-off titleĀ  Man-Thing. There’s a twist on it, to be sure, in that this is a conjured-up creature rather than a guy who falls in the bog and gets turned into a monster due to a combination of swamp gunk and chemicals, but the basic idea’s pretty damn similar, and the powers that this “Swamp Devil” possesses are remarkably similar to those introduced to the Swamp Thing during Alan Moore’s legendary run on his book (controlling surrounding vegetation, rising out of organic matter, long tendrils growing everywhere, etc.)

2. Cast “headlined” by either a supporting player from a TV series or an established “name” from Hollywood films whose “star” has fallen considerably (if it ever rose that high to begin with)?

Oh yeah, the “star” of this movie is none other than Bruce Dern.

3. Cheap, poorly-realized CGI effects, and lot of ’em?

Good gosh yes, this flick has more horseshit CGI than you can shake a stick at.

4. Trite, overwrought “morality play” -style “message” underpinning things?

We’ve got that too — this movie, to the extent that it’s actually “about” anything, is about the dangers of letting an all-consuming desire for revenge consume your life.

5. Obvious — and let’s be honest, shameless — referencing of other, far more successful, films?

No doubt about it. Look for the wanton “appropriation” oh Ah-nuld’s famous “You’re one ugly motherfucker” line from Predator, only sanitized somewhat for television.

6. No real blood, guts, or gore?

That’s covered as well. Despite the villain of the piece being a monster with supernatural powers and an insatiable need to kill, this is essentially a bloodless affair.

As for the “meat” of the story itself, it’s (as you’d expect) fairly simple — a New York City gal is lured back to her (supposed — at least they got the license plates right) Vermont hometown when a guy she doesn’t remember from her youth calls her up and informs her that her father has passed away. When she comes home, she finds the truth is miles away from what the mystery man from her past has told her, but actually far worse. Her old man (that would be Dern) is alive and well, but he’s wanted for murder!

Soon she’s shacked up in her dad’s swamp-side cabin, she’s falling in love with the guy that she still doesn’t remember, they’re both trying to find her old man before the local sheriff does, and there’s a horrible swamp creature on the loose that’s killing everyone!

Things begin to take a twist for the stranger when it’s revealed that nobody else can remember the mystery man, either — or, for that matter, even knew him in the first place. If you’re officially intrigued at this point, I genuinely feel sorry for you, but I’ll say no more just on the off chance that’s indeed the case.

About the only appreciable way in which this movie breaks the well-established mold of all these other SciFi (excuse me, SyFy) flicks is in its reveal of the creature. Most of these made-for-cable cheapies don’t play their CGI-produced hand until about the 2/3 mark, but this one shows you the monster pretty early and pretty often. It’s safe to say that the computer-generated special effects expenditures on Swamp Devil ate up more than half the film’s total budget, and that those effects, crummy as they are, really are the “star” of the film (sorry, Bruce Dern).

The DVD features an anamorphic widescreen presentation of what was no doubt a full-screen movie on original broadcast, but it looks good and may have even both shot with this aspect ratio in mind for all I know. The sound is preented in a solid, though admittedly unremarkable, Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that isn;t anything special by any means, but does the job just fine. There are no extras to speak of apart from a few previews for other RHI titles that look even less inspiring than this one.

I don’t know — I guess a commentary or something on some of these “Maneater series” titles might be interesting, but probably not too interesting unless you aspire to a career as a low-budget, made-for-TV moviemaker yourself. Laugh all you want, but there are worse ways to make a living.

Look, I don’t want to slag off Swamp Devil too badly — it’s absolutely fine for what it is. It’s a bit slow and talky for the first half, but when all (or as much as they can afford) hell breaks loose in the second half of the film, it become fast-paced, sorta-frenzied fun. There’s no pretense here and it doesn’t aspire to be anything other than what it is — cheap, cheesy fun, like I said at the outset. If you’re looking for anything more than that you’re seriously looking in the wrong place — but if you’re in that sort of mood, it does the job just fine.

And if you never get in that sort of mood — and don’t even really understand what the hell it is I’m talking about — you’re probably reading the wrong blog, anyway.