Swamp Thing 3.32: Mostly Armless

Let’s see… Knight Rider, Manimal, The Fall Guy, The A-Team… a mini-series called Ocean, and a horror movie called Nutcracker… and then there’s Fallen Angels, Used, The Steppes, and The House That Wept Blood.

Phew! I’m in the clear. David Hess, who unfortunately plays Ferret in Swamp Thing, has twenty-seven more credits on IMDb, and none of them are superhero movies. So unless I decide to write about terrible horror movies from the 2000s, which obviously I won’t, then this is the last time I ever need to look David Hess in the face again. You have no idea how comforting that is to me.

Because for fuck’s sake, look at this. Personally, I’ve never been an actor pretending that my head is being crushed by a furious one-armed plant elemental, but I’m pretty sure you start with a sense memory called “ouch,” and build from there, rather than jumping straight to Jerry Lewis faces. Indicating motherfucker.

Ferret has been aggravating me with his goony expressions, rapey vibe and inadequate line-readings since he started menacing people back at the lab, and I can’t wait to say goodbye. So this is one of those moments when the interests of the film and the audience are entirely aligned. It’s time to vote this dude off the island.

The sequence begins with an exciting chase, which I can’t take any decent screenshots of because as usual the lighting is not meeting expectations. Cable’s time as an active character in the movie is drawing to a close, but she’s going out with a bang: kneeing Ferret in the crotch and pushing him overboard, which the rest of us have been wishing we could do this whole time.

A minute ago, Ferret thought they were dating, but now the mercurial machete-man is dogging Cable’s steps, all the way across the wet patch and onto what passes for dry land around here, making little whooshing noises with his blade.

Cable’s setting a decent pace, but then there’s another one of those little mishaps that seem to afflict women who run in movies: she barrels straight into an enormous rubber-suit man-monster who is standing directly in front of her, which seems to be the kind of miniature golf course hazard that you would expect a person to notice more than zero centimeters away. It takes her aback a little.

And then three exciting things happen in a row, a new record for the movie. Swamp Thing says his first word: “Cable!”

Then Ferret swings his machete, and all of a sudden there’s daylight where Swamp Thing’s left elbow used to be.

And then Swamp Thing grabs Ferret’s head and squeezes, which, as I said, is a blessing to us all.

It’s a huge moment for the movie, with three big plot points all happening at the same time, and it appears to be a late addition to the script. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the differences between the movie and the third-draft script that I’ve got, which has all the same plot beats in the last half of the movie, but in a slightly different order.

For one thing, Swamp Thing talks way earlier than he does in the movie, and he says a lot more. The script has him in full conversation with Cable ten minutes earlier, back in the burned-out lab, and he talks to Jude like he’s a boy sidekick. In the movie, Swamp Thing’s still just a hulking monster all the way through the boat fight and the child-resurrection, and they save the monster’s first words for a surprise reveal, right here.

Also, in the script, he doesn’t get his arm cut off here; that happens a few minutes from now, when Arcane finally traps him with a net.

So in the film, they take those three separate incidents from different places in the script and bring them together, to make this one big set piece that’s full of surprises. There’s been a lot of dumb stuff in the movie and there’s more dumb stuff coming up, so I want to take a moment to appreciate the good decision that they made right here.

This is also the only moment of real violence in the movie. For a film that’s supposed to be at least partly a horror movie, it’s incredible how squeaky-clean it’s been up until now. Yeah, lots of people got shot and exploded and poisoned with pocket snakes, but we’ve hardly seen any blood the whole time. The only gore that we’ve seen so far was on Jude’s head during the healing scene, and that was after the actual violence had happened off-screen.

Unless I’m forgetting something, this is the first moment where we actually see an act of violence that results in a gory death, so it’s too bad that Ferret’s making stupid faces the whole time. Still, the sound effects make up for that — there’s a nice little riff of crunching sounds to represent bits of Ferret’s skull coming apart, and it’s quite effective.

Sadly, Ferret’s messy death is undercut a bit by the decision to give him a last little dying spasm. Cable falls to the ground unconscious, and we see the skullcrushed Ferret making a big deal about shaking his leg…

Then once he’s finished, in what is clearly two separate movements, he drops his leg and then lets his wrist go limp. Fucking clown.

The slow reveal of the creature at the top of the box office charts
3.33: Meeting the Monster


— Danny Horn

18 thoughts on “Swamp Thing 3.32: Mostly Armless

  1. Wow; to quote Mike over at MST, Edmund Keene didn’t have death scenes like that!

    Also, farewell, Ferret. May you rest in the tannic acid forever, dissolving into anonymity.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Worst death scene or funniest death scene? I had to check the source of that clip– a 1973 Turkish movie that translates to Karate Girl in English–because I was wondering if it was a Rowan Atkinson performance I had missed. The actor is Bùlent Kayabas and the screams were not originally in the movie, alas. Mr. Kayabas appeared in over 100 films. This scene does not seem to have hurt his career.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “…messily murdering a character that we don’t particularly care for is funny and satisfying, especially if it moves the plot forward to a more interesting scene.”
    Venom: Let There Be Carnage

    I think this is the first Superhero movie that shows blood.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow, I would have gone with Soldeed in Doctor Who’s “Horns of the Nimon” or Paul Reuben’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie), but this guy in the last clip beats both of them.

    As for poor Ferret, is it overthinking it to imagine that Swamp Thing killing a guy named after an animal is a symbolic way of depicting the dominance of the plant kingdom over the animal kingdom in the film’s mythology? And to foreshadow Swamp Thing’s victory over a giant pigweasel? Aren’t ferrets and weasels part of the same family?

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Paul Reuben in the Buffy movie eas also my first thought when the topic turned to worst death scene. I guess I will have to amend that to best intentional worst. He did a painfully great job.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. For decades actors who excel at playing villains have been called “The Man You Love to Hate.” No matter how horrible the deeds done by the character, a sufficiently talented performer can communicate some likable quality that will make the scene acceptable to the audience.

    David Hess is a man I hate to hate. His character in THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is completely believable as a rapist, torturer, kidnapper, and murderer, you have to give him that. But that’s it- nothing appealing peeks at us between the cracks. The movie has a lot going for it, I can see why it has the following it does, but for me Hess’ character is so unpleasant to watch that I wish I’d never seen it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I was traumatized when I saw LAST HOUSE. It was the fourth movie in a Halloween showing of Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Schizoid when I was about 13. I didn’t sleep all night afterward, and 40 years later it’s still the scars from LAST HOUSE that I still feel.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. A lot of character actors who specialize in playing villains are actually genuinely nice, good people in real life, the total opposite of the types of terrible people they portray on screen.

      That was apparently NOT the case with David Hess. From everything I’ve heard about him, he was as deeply unpleasant as the characters he played.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That’s what they always say, that the great villains are played by people whose own personality has a sweetness that shows through the character.

        And vice versa. The first time I saw the movie GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. I thought the actor who played Jack Lemmon’s boss ruined it. He’s supposed to be a bad guy, but he came off as so unpleasant that I just wanted the movie to be over so I wouldn’t have to look at him anymore. I’d never heard of the actor before that movie; his name was Kevin Spacey.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. All Ferret needs is a Wilhelm scream, a choked “They got me, Ma,” and a death rattle. And of course a few more contortions and groans while he dies. And his car blows up. And his Confederate granny’s cameo slips out of his hand. And a kid plays “Taps” on a banjo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And the letters confirming his retirement and spots on the world cruise he was taking his wife on fall out of his pocket.


  7. “I’m crushing your head! I’m crushing your head! That’s what I’m doing, flathead!”
    Mr. Tyzik, on ‘The Kids in the Hall’

    Liked by 2 people

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