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Swamp Devil (DVD)

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Swamp Devil DVD (click for larger image)Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Bruce Dern, Cindy Sampson, Nicolas Wright, Allison Graham, James Kindie

Directed by David Winning

Distributed by Genius Home Entertainment


Swamp Devil is the type of movie I really hate having to write a review of because I don’t really have a strong opinion about it one way or another. It’s not good enough to praise or bad enough to rip apart. It’s not even cheesy enough to laugh at. It’s strictly middle of the road from start to finish; watchable yet flat, brisk yet uninspired. It’s a movie that benefits from a solid cast, good production values and an agreeable pace. It still suffers from a pedestrian script, a stuffy tone, and a general lack of chills or fun given the nature of the beast.

The title beast of this RHI/Muse Entertainment creature feature looks like an NBA-sized version of Swamp Thing with feet that look like mossy bellbottoms of all things. It can elongate its arm up to several yards to nab people and even make arm-like appendages pop out of the ground to attack victims. In many ways it’s just Swamp Thing’s evil, taller, mute cousin. I kept wondering why nobody ever thought to just light a match since the monster appeared to be composed primarily of kindling. I might have preferred that over the awfully convenient means by which they do dispatch with this rampaging pile of plant life at the end.

Howard Blaime (Bruce Dern) is the ex-sheriff of the small community of Gibbington, Vermont. Now he’s a hermit living out in the swamp and considered by many to be the town kook. His trouble all began with a mysterious incident 17 years earlier that led to the death of his wife and him sending his daughter away. Now something in the swamp has killed a teenage girl and Howard is getting blamed for the murder. He goes on the run in the woods seemingly for days on end yet somehow never looks especially dirty or even in dire need of a hot shower.

This didn’t appear to be much of a swamp to me, a denizen of the Deep South. A boggy pool of water in the middle of the Vermont woods hardly constitutes a swamp in my book. Does Vermont even have swampland? I know I’ve never seen, heard, or read anything about swamps in Vermont. No matter.

I also don’t know a police department on the planet in the year 2008 that would think it a good idea to give the grieving father of a murdered teenager a shotgun and have him join the posse hunting for the alleged killer in the woods. Any other police department except for Gibbington, Vermont, that is.

A young local guy named Jimmy calls Howard’s estranged daughter Melanie and tells him her father is dying. Only when she gets there does he tell her that her dad is not dying but is actually wanted for murder. It’s up to Melanie to begin piecing together the truth about what’s really going on in Gibbington and what actually happened nearly twenty years earlier in order to prove that her father is no killer but that swamp monster is. The local authorities don’t believe in swamp monsters – at first.

The movie is not exactly subtle about letting us know certain characters are clearly not what they appear to be. Melanie has no recollection of ever knowing a Jimmy when she lived in Gibbington even though he insists they knew each other as kids, he strangely won’t cross the city limits out of town, and she even asks him at one point why his hands are covered in dirt for no particular reason. Gee, you don’t suppose he’s got some ties to the swamp devil or maybe even is the swamp devil?

Immediately upon arriving in town Jimmy will take Melanie to meet this kindly old lady with almost mystical healing abilities yet on the way out Melanie catches the old lady giving her a less-than-friendly glare. Gee, I wonder if there’s something ominous about her as well…?

You don’t need me sounding like a smarty pants to tell you just how predictable the plot to this is.

All will eventually be revealed; or rather, I should say, explained. Swamp Devil is very much a tell, not show, kind of movie; the kind where too much of the plot and characterizations has to be spelled out in the form of conversations between various characters. Bruce Dern barely shows his face for the first half and the moment he does make his presence known he immediately launches into a lengthy soliloquy explaining almost all of the backstory.

Swamp Devil should have been a moodier movie with a spookier atmosphere, one that ratcheted up the creep factor. Instead it plays like a less brooding follow-up to that awful Man-Thing movie from a few years back that kills it own mood by being set almost entirely in broad daylight. Could you imagine if Pumpkinhead had its title monster running around in broad daylight? Why am I willing to bet it was a Sci-Fi Channel exec who made the call to set what should have been a murky atmospheric chiller in the bright light of day?

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    2 1/2 out of 5

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    IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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    Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

    On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

    The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

    While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

    What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

    While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

    • Alive in New Light
    5.0

    Summary

    IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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    The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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    Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

    Directed by John Law


    I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

    The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

    The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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    Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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    Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

    Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


    During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

    Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

    What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

    While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

    Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

    While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

    With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

    • Before We Vanish
    4.0

    Summary

    Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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