NOVEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HUMONGOUS (1982)
Humongous may be much more obscure than Paul Lynch's earlier classic Prom Night, but it rises above the cookie-cutter slasher tale Lynch had previously churned outand thankfully lacked a seven-minute disco song. Humongous is an easily identified Canadian horror film that has similarities with films like Black Christmas.
In the 1950s, a woman is raped at a party on an island in Northern Ontario and her attacker is subsequently killed by dogs. Flash forward 30 years, with our group of teen heroes: the natural leader Eric and his girlfriend Sandy are partying up in cottage country. Along for the ride are Eric's nerdy sister Carla, his younger, mulletted brother Nick and Nick's slutty girlfriend Donna. They are cruising around on a boat one night when they see an older man struggling in the water beside his capsized craft. They rescue him, and he tells them about a nearby island where a strange old lady lives with lots of viscous dogs. Since it's late, the group decides to anchor the boat, and sleep until morning.
This doesn't happen quite as planned-- Nick gets drunk and, holding off the others with a shotgun, tries to drive the boat back to the cottage. After a struggle, Nick accidently explodes the boat (well, an obvious miniature of the boat), causing everybody to swim to the shore of the aforementioned spooky island.
When they reach land, they are distraught to find Carla is missing, and Burt has a broken leg. Nick goes off to find the old lady, hoping he doesn't run into any dogs. He needn't worry, because the vicious dogs have been severely reduced in numbers in fact there is only one. And despite this, the dog still manages to find Nick and chase him through the woods for a couple scenes. The dog gives up pursuit when it gets caught in a hunting trap. Nick escapes to the safety of the boathouse where he is subsequently killed by a, well, humongous creature.
The next morning, while Donna keeps Burt warm with her blueberry-stained breasts (don't ask), Eric and Sandy go off to see if they can find Nick or Carla. They make it to the main house, where they find a dog cage with only skeletal remains of the dogs left. In the adjoining boathouse they discover the rotting remains of... more animals. And Carla, who is not rotting, just happily sleeping in one of the boats. Together they go into the house to try and get some help. But the eerie mansion is as dead as the rest of the island.
Speaking of dead, back at the campsite on the beach, the monster kills the unprotected Donna and Burt after some point of view stalking scenes. By know, you should know what's going on. The rape at the beginning of the film resulted in the birth of some brain-damaged, deformed, humongous creature who is killing everything on the island for food.
Not to be left behind, our three heroes at the house figure this out when they find an abandon nursery, an old photo book, an old diary and an old lady skeleton. Sandy is piecing it all together when they hear strange noises coming from the basement. Eric goes down to find out what is going on, and they discover the creature's lair underneath the house-- a stinky basement with picture frames and a few half-eaten teenagers lying around.
They retreat back to the beach, where Eric and Sandy construct a makeshift spear and go back to get revenge for their friends. But when the shadowy creature emerges it is Eric who winds up as a human shish-kabob. Sandy escapes by pretending to admonish the creature like his mother apparently used to. Then it's up to Sandy and Carla to stop the madness and have some chance at escaping off the island.
For me, one of the weakest elements of Canadian B-films are the scores, especially in horror and action films. But not in this case although I tend to dislike synthesizer scores for being sterile, this one is actually pretty well done, creating suspense with a sparse, jangly sound. Plus it manages to avoid the requisite heavy metal (or disco) song at the end.
The biggest complaint I have read about this film is that you don't really see the creature at all in the movie. Sure you may have to strain to see some of the more dimly lit scenes, but Humongous purposely doesn't let you get a good look at the creature simply because this is not an American film! This creature is not a mass murderer like Freddy Kruger, nor is this film an alien invasion film where you have to wait 87 minutes to see the whole monster in the last few seconds. This creature has little to separate itself from the animals, and thus represents the unpredictable, beastly side of humans. We catch a bit of the deformed body and face now and again, but the creature is less important than is the survival of the teens. These dissensions from mainstream American genre films are what make movies like Humongous canuxploitation.
Humongous does not resort to a heavy-handed morality play, nor does it contain a sexual predator theme. Like Black Christmas, the promiscuous characters die, but so do the chaste ones. Having already eaten every living thing on the island, the creature is searching out the teens for food and does not discriminate between them. This makes Humongous much more surprising than typical American slasher fare as well as the one-by-one revenge motivated killings in Prom Night. And did I mention that there were no disco songs in this one?
NOVEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HUMONGOUS (1982)
In 1946, a woman is raped during a Labor Day party. 36 years later, a group of teens become stranded on Dog Island after their yacht hits some rocks. The group quickly discovers there is something worse than wild dogs living on the island.
While watching Humongous, slasher fans should look for the many Scooby-Doo references. The teens are a blonde guy (David Wallace), his model girlfriend (Janet Julian), a brainy girl with glasses (Janet Julian), a stoner (John Wildman), and everyman’s best friend (Joy Boushel). The smart chick loses her glasses just like Velma. The gang even splits up to look for clues.
The most sympathetic characters are Donna the slut and the killer. Poor Donna never fits in with the rich kids and most of the characters are mean to her. She has trouble communicating with others and relies on her breasts in most situations, even when gathering food. The killer, a giant mongoloid, only kills because he is hungry. His cruel mother forces him to live in a rat infested cellar. There are a few hints that his mother tortured him because of his deformities.
The biggest flaw in Humongous is the terrible lighting. Most of the action scenes are waaay to dark to see what’s happening. Even the killer’s face is blotted out, so the viewer never knows just how monstrous he looks. Some suspense is killed because the viewer knows more than the characters. We know a brute is stalking the kids, so the big revelation concerning the killer’s identity lacks impact.
Director Paul Lynch and writer William Gray, the tag team that created Prom Night, filled Humongous with many slasher staples; including killer POV shots, a woman surviving by dressing like the killer’s dead mother, and the line “I killed him. It’s all over.” If you like the hulking, deformed slasher subgenre (Hell Night, The House on Sorority Row, The Prey), then you should enjoy Humongous.
NOVEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HUMONGOUS (1982)
A Canadian slasher from the team behind Prom Night (1980), Humongous opens in 1946 at a cocktail party where young Ida Parsons (Mary Sullivan) is raped by the drunken Tom Rice (Page Fletcher) who is then savaged to death by her family’s dogs. Thirty-six years later, Eric (David Wallace) and Nick (John Wildman) borrow their father’s yacht for a weekend jaunt with girlfriends Sandy (Janet Julian) and Donna (Joy Boushel), alongside their geeky sister Carla (Janit Baldwin). Along the way they rescue shipwrecked fisherman Bert (Layne Coleman), but Nick’s drunken, would-be alpha-male antics result in them being stranded on a deserted island and losing Carla. While Donna tends Bert’s wounds, the others search the island but are soon stalked by a big hairy murderous monster (Garry Robbins) who is indeed Ida’s malformed offspring.
Beneath its silly title and mechanical slasher movie structure the discerning horror fan may glimpse the faintest trace of a better movie trying to get out. It would be interesting to learn whether the script written by William Gray - who wrote the superb ghost story The Changeling (1980) and worked several times with director Paul Lynch - was always this generic or else extensively reworked. The opening credits weave an effectively haunting tone playing over sepia-tinted photographs of Ida’s happy childhood on her remote island and concluding on an image of her, post-rape, dead-eyed and lifeless. Lynch’s cockeyed angles, the fetid production detail and an eerie electronic score by John Mills Cockell combine to create a palpable sense of unease.
Sadly the elaborate setup lapses into sub-Scooby-Doo territory (Eric is a dead ringer for Fred, albeit minus the orange cravat). Lynch dawdles through dull scenes where characters poke around abandoned shacks and piece together a mystery whose answer we already know. The photography by Brian R.R. Hebb is artful at times but often so murky the actors seem to be stood in front of a black screen. Characterization is paper thin yet atypically for this genre the young victims are a largely likeable, caring bunch. The obvious exception being Nick - a world class obnoxious jackass. Watching him go out screaming like a girl is somewhat amusing. Lynch and Gray make little of the sibling rivalry while of the rest: Donna is obviously doomed for being buxom and cute, while nice guy Bert and bespectacled wallflower Carla seem wholly superfluous.
Best known of the actors would be Janet Julian, who took over from Pamela Sue Martin as TV’s Nancy Drew. A regular in Seventies TV trash from Battlestar Galactica to B.J. and the Bear, she went on to substantial roles in Abel Ferrara’s Fear City (1984) and The King of New York (1990). Humongous mounts a twist on the usual showdown between monster and “final girl” with the outrageous contrivance of Sandy resembling the young Ida. The monster himself, an acromegaly sufferer rather like Forties horror icon Rondo Hatton, is largely confined to the shadows, glimpsed grinding up corpses or poking his bloodshot eyeballs through keyholes. Though it relies on him moving very… very… slowly, the finale is suspenseful and creepy with a closing shot that mimics our last glimpse of Ida.
NOVEMBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HUMONGOUS (1982)
In the early 80's it seemed like every week their were several new and exciting dead-teenager flicks. You know, a group of oversexed kids find themselves at the mercy of whatever mad slasher is in the vicinity. Very few, if any, were any good. Just watch "Graduation Day", "My Bloody Valentine", "Fatal Games", "Midnight", "Happy Birthday to Me", "The Burning", "Madman", "New Year's Evil", "Silent Night, Deadly Night" or any other "Friday the 13th" clone if you don't believe me.
The absurdly titled "Humongous" is more of the same, except this time, the kids get stranded on an island and are dispatched by a giant man-beast.
Anyway, our story begins many years in the past. While on her island resort home, a rich woman is raped by one of her party guests. Strangely, the director chooses to film the rape from the point-of-view of the victim, so we as an audience get the lovely opportunity of watching the guy give it to us good.
Flash-forward to present day (circa 1982) a group of teens are packing up the family yacht to take a nice spring-break excursion. The teens are pretty much your basic generic "movie teen", their personalities can be summed up into one high-concept description like, the stud-hero Eric (David Wallace), the nice-girl Janet (Sandy Ralston), the nerd Carla (Janit Baldwin), the sexbomb Donna (Joy Boushel) and the insufferable clod Nick (John Wildman).
And now a word about the stereotype of the insufferable clod. Why is it that in every group of teens in these movies, one guy is always so mean-spirited, cruel, foolish and intolerable? Why is anyone friends with guys like that? Why do they put up with it, even when he endangers their lives and threatens them with bodily harm? People like that can only get along with people who are the same. Recently Ryan Philippe took this stereotype and throttled it for all it was worth in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" to the point that if I were Jennifer Love Hewitt, he would be a dead man before the hook-man came.
Anyway, while the kids are yachting they come across a stranded boatman and pick him up. To finally get the plot going, Nick gets pissed off at something and decides to shanghai the yacht. So know we get about three hours worth of film where the other passengers say every variation of "Watch out Nick!" known to man. "Look out!", "Nick, watch out!", "Stop Nick!", "Watch out Nick, Look out!". So, naturally he wrecks the yacht on an island, and naturally this would be the same island from earlier in the movie, only several decades later, and naturally the deformed son of the raped woman is running loose. And boy, is he Humongous!
Humongous-man spends the rest of the flick, chasing the teens, and slaughtering them. In another twist, instead of the various sharp weapons that are popular with slasher films, Humongous uses his brute strength snapping necks and breaking spines with gleeful abandon.
By the end, good-girl Janet is the only one left alive (couldn't guess she would be the sole survivor now, could we?) and goes mano-a-mano with the beast, eventually torching him and saving the day.
"Humongous" is not the worst of its kind by far, but there are the usual pitfalls that it can't avoid. One, the cast is virtually talent-free, no one can act, even Donna can't seem to express much emotion, even when she conveniently peels off her blouse and presses her bare boobies onto the boatman's body after his legs are broken and he is suffering from hypothermia.
Secondly, almost the entire movie takes place in darkness. Not just shade and shadow, but complete darkness, long stretches of action are completely enveloped in black. So it's needless to say, it's hard to tell what's going on most of the time. I'm surprised that Brain R.R. Hebb took credit for the cinematography, boy it must have been hard to find the right shade of blackness for each scene.
If you are looking for quality entertainment, or even a good scarefest, "Humongous" won't deliver the goods. But you might want to check it out, if only for a thankfully needed diversion from the usual Killer-in-the-Summer-Camp swill.