And then the island is overrun by malefactors and nogoodniks, emerging from the mud flats. Dr. Alec Holland has just made his amazing scientific breakthrough — like, literally in the last sixty seconds, he made it — and suddenly, this is a base under siege.
I don’t know if you remember all those guards with guns who were scattered around the landscape outside the lab, but every single one of them has either been shot, run away or turned out to be just a cardboard cutout with “guard” written on the front. As far as the main characters are concerned, they are alone on the moon with no outside assistance, surrounded by a tribe of terrible people who are dead set on ruining everybody’s day.
So the main thing that I object to about this twist in the tale is how ugly all of Arcane’s assistants are. As you know, the two most important questions about a superhero movie are how much money did it make and how hot are the people, and for Swamp Thing, they spent all their hotness money on Adrienne Barbeau, and then filled out the rest of the cast with the least visually appealing people they could find.
I mean, I’m not saying that every single person in a movie needs to be attractive, although now that I say that, I can’t really think of a downside. But filmmakers are supposed to give the audience interesting and appealing things to look at during the runtime of the movie; that is the responsibility that they took on, when they decided to make a film.
And Swamp Thing obviously understands that, because they have Cable with her clothes off, and Arcane has two beautiful female assistants. But when it comes to the guys, it feels like they intentionally hired the most repellent people that they possibly could, and there are long stretches of the film where that’s the thing that we have to look at, and I resent it.
The worst one, of course, is Ferret, the leader of Arcane’s band of merry mercenaries, as he and his friends bust into the lab on the say-so of somebody else’s fingerprints.
“Very interesting, Doctor Holland!” he proclaims, strutting around with an unwarranted smirk.
Alec is swarmed by goons. “Who are you?” he asks.
Ferret takes in the room and says “Interesting,” which is pretentious, and not an answer to the question.
He walks up to the formula-enhanced orchid, which has burst its beaker and grown thick roots all over its corner of the lab table.
“Now, I know I haven’t seen anything like this before,” he says, and lifts the table up, just by grasping the oversized stem.
Then he looks at Alex, cocks his head, furrows his brow and says, “Have you?” in what I guess is supposed to be a sarcastic and threatening tone.
Now, in the script, Ferret says, “Interesting specimen, Dr. Holland. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.” Then he picks the table up by the orchid roots, and moves on with the scene. “Have you?” appears to be a David Hess special.
So there you have it, our first candidate for the worst moment in the movie. We’re currently 22 minutes and 48 seconds into the film, and if there’s anything coming up that’s worse than that line of dialogue delivered in that particular way, then there is rough sailing ahead.
“I represent a certain party,” Ferret explains, toying idly with an empty beaker, “that’s interested in your — formula? Give an arm and a leg for it.”
He poses with his head cocked, staring at Alec, open-mouthed. “Your arm and leg, if necessary.” And then he lets the beaker slip from his grasp, and it shatters on the floor. He continues to hold this pose. He thinks this is how you menace people.
Now, I want to be clear that I’m not upset because a villain is doing villainous things, in a villainous way. That is obviously what he should be spending his time on. The problem is the completely unearned smugness, delivered by an unappealing guy making moronic facial expressions.
Plus, as I noted last week, Adrienne Barbeau said that David Hess was unnecessarily rough with her during the shoot. So in the moment that leads up to this scene — when Ferret karate-chops Cable and pushes her to the ground, and then grabs her arm so that he can use her fingerprints to get through the door — we know that the dude was actually hurting Barbeau, and leaving bruises.
I would imagine that an actor couldn’t get away with damaging the merchandise like that, especially with the actress that they planned on shooting a nude scene with later. You’d think the director would have noticed, and told him to cut it out.
Except Wes Craven already knew what an asshole Hess was, because they’d worked together before. Hess played the lead villain, Krug Stillo, in Craven’s first movie, the 1972 exploitation horror film The Last House on the Left.
That film was David Hess’ first time in front of the camera, and apparently he decided on the spot that he was a Method actor, so if he’s playing a sadistic rapist and serial killer in the film, then he should act like that during the shooting. At one point, he threatened to actually attack the female lead so that he could get a more genuine reaction in the scene, so he sounds like kind of a psychopath to me, and not somebody that I’d want manhandling Adrienne Barbeau.
The weird thing about David Hess is that his other career was as a songwriter, where he was not unsuccessful. As David Hill, he recorded the first version of “All Shook Up” in 1956, a year before it was a hit for Elvis Presley. Hess wrote several songs for Elvis — “I Got Stung”, “Come Along” and “Sand Castles” — as well as songs for Andy Williams and Sal Mineo. In 1961, he co-wrote and recorded “Speedy Gonzales”, a song about the fastest mouse in Mexico, which became a minor hit for Pat Boone in 1962.
The songwriting was kind of the non-depressing phase of his career. After he shot The Last House on the Left in 1972, he moved to Munich and did English translations for German movies for a while, and in 1980, he directed a slasher film called To All a Goodnight which was not well-received.
Also in 1980, he starred in a loose remake of The Last House on the Left called The House on the Edge of the Park, where he played another psychopathic rapist, and probably did his “Method acting” routine with the female cast on that one, as well.
So that’s the dude that we’re dealing with, and for the moment, there’s nothing we can do about it. Like Adrienne Barbeau, we’ll just have to put up with him. The best thing I can say is that he dies two-thirds of the way through the movie, and sometimes the bad lighting means that you can’t really see him that well. There’s always a silver lining, if you look for it.
The logic of Arcane’s Ritter cosplay
3.13: The Birth of Tragedy
The names for Arcane’s main henchmen, Ferret and Bruno, come from the first issue of the Swamp Thing comic, although in the comic the guy’s name is “Ferrett”, and it’s his last name.
The logic of Arcane’s Ritter cosplay
3.13: The Birth of Tragedy
— Danny Horn