Swamp Devil (2008)

Swamp Devil (2008)

Evil Lies Beneath The Surface

Melanie Blaine returns to her small, country hometown of Gibbington to check on her estranged father, Howard, who is the primary suspect in a series of grisly murders. As the manhunt intensifies, it becomes clear that the killer is something other than human that resides in the swamp.

 

The Maneater series of ‘creature features’ made for The Sci-Fi Channel must have quickly run out of deadly animals to use to be delving into fantasy territory this early. We’ve had sharks, grizzly bears, crocodiles, spiders, bees, monkeys, snakes and giant squid all feature in their own film and at least these are all credible creatures to turn into man eaters (credible in the sense that they all physically exist in the world). But the latest few releases of this film series have taken a silly turn for the worst with werewolves, yeti and now swamp monsters all taking their turn as the killing machine of the moment. The writers obviously couldn’t think of another real animal to use here and have simply borrowed the idea from both Swamp Thing and Man-Thing about a swamp-dwelling monster. So if you’ve seen either of those (particularly Man-Thing as that is more recent and looks to have been the prototype for this one), then you’re in familiar territory.

Swamp Devil is the sort of film that I’m beginning to loathe. Not just in straight-to-DVD/straight-to-Sci-Fi Channel terms but also in mainstream cinema. I remember a time when I could go to the cinema and be blown away every time by the new blockbusters. They were always outdoing the previous one either with better stories, better characters, more action, more special effects, etc. But over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a steady decline in quality. Films just aren’t what they used to be. Nowadays the market is saturated with films that are pretty watchable for their duration but are just so unremarkable and bland that they are instantly forgettable. This rot has also set into the home cinema market with scores of mediocre films being released onto DVD to make a quick buck. Swamp Devil is that type of film. It’s not boring and there’s enough action and intrigue to keep it going steady for as long as possible but nothing will surprise you, twists will be forewarned in advance and it’s just nothing you haven’t seen before. Where did all of the imagination and creativity go?

If you have seen Man-Thing then you’ll know that it wasn’t great. But it’s head and shoulders above this one. And if you haven’t seen it then you’re better off with it too. The problem is that this swamp creature just isn’t mysterious or menacing enough. Only a complete idiot wouldn’t be able to spot who is the creature from the first scene that they are in. Its back story is pretty feeble and way too ‘token’ for my liking. The whole “I’ll kill the men who wronged me” story just an easy plot set-up device which has been over-used way too many times. The whole piece is shot during the day time too which adds little atmosphere to the film. Man-Thing had a sinister green glow and was shot at the night in what actually looked like a swamp. This one is filmed during the day in a small wooded area with what look like a little fish pond. That doesn’t exactly constitute a swamp in my eyes.

The actual ‘Swamp Devil’ looks exactly like the giant Ents from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. This looks like some sort of puny offspring. The monster isn’t consistent enough too with its killing. Some people it kills from a distance, using its long vine-like arms to puncture their bodies without getting too close for comfort. But when any of the main characters are involved, it’s quite happy to stand there in front of them, flail around rapidly and get blown to pieces. I guess there wouldn’t be a story if it killed off the main characters though.

About the only two things that Swamp Devil gets right is its casting. Bruce Dern is Howard, the hobo-looking father who hides in the swamps and is generally not around for most of the film. Dern has been there, done that and got the t-shirt in Hollywood so there’s no need for him to be doing this sort of flick unless he’s really hard up for the cash (and if he is, then he should just persuade the studio to release a special edition of Silent Running or something to get the royalties rolling back in). Cindy Sampson can’t act to save her life and spends most of the film moping around. She’s pretty hot however and this goes some way to making the film more watchable, although she really needed to get into the swamp wearing a white tank top or something to liven things up.

Apart from that, there’s not a lot else on show here. The pedestrian pace of the film makes it easy to sit through but there isn’t a lot of action and nowhere near enough swamp monster action to keep things as lively as it should be. One final note is that the swamp monster doesn’t actually eat people either and so it’s technically not a ‘maneater’ as this film series would have you believe.

 

Swamp Devil is as routine as they come. With poorly-rendered CGI, a script that seems to have consisted of a blank page and about as much creativity as someone releasing another Beatles cover song, this is one smelly mess of swamp mud that needs washing off.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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