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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Humongous (1982) review


Janet Julian (Sandy Ralston), David Wallace (Eric Simmons), John Wildman (Nick Simmons), Janit Baldwin (Carla Simmons), Joy Boushel (Donna Blake), Lane Coleman (Bert Defoe), Shay Garner (Ida Parsons), Page Fletcher (Tom Rice),  Garry Robbins (Monster)

Directed by Paul Lynch

The Short Version: Much better than Lynch's petite PROM NIGHT (1979), his HUMONGOUS horror film feels like an unacknowledged remake of Joe D'Amato's ANTHROPOPHAGOUS (1980); and with a similar sounding title to boot. If you've seen FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 (1981) and the excellent proto-slasher, TOWER OF EVIL (1972), you may experience some deja vu there, too. An immense portion of this Canadian small fry slasher's running time is gobbled up with lengthy scenes of people walking around while the prodigious psychopath makes infrequent appearances. The presentation on the Scorpion Releasing DVD allows you to finally see what's actually going on; and, in its uncut version, yields some surprisingly potent moments. Still, in the annals of the genre, HUMONGOUS remains little more than half-pint horror.

In 1946 Ida Parsons is raped by her boyfriend while attending her father's party at their island lodge. One of her dogs gets out of its cage and mortally wounds the attacker. Ida finishes him off, but she is left both emotionally scarred and pregnant. Decades later, a group of friends set sail aboard a yacht for a weekend getaway. After a careless accident destroys the vessel, the passengers end up stranded on the fog-enshrouded Dog Island. It's sole inhabitant rumored to be the reclusive Ida Parsons, the young adults attempt to find help but ultimately stumble upon a horrific secret in the form of a 7ft disfigured maniac.

After PROM NIGHT (1980), Paul Lynch wanted to direct another horror movie; the result was HUMONGOUS, a less than impressive sophomore outing to a film that was even less remarkable save for the participation of Jaime Lee Curtis. According to Lynch, while waiting for HUMONGOUS to begin filming, he came close to helming a thriller with Charlton Heston and his son. Preferring to wait it out for his own horror project to begin shooting, Lynch passed on the Heston offer, claiming it had no story and reminded him--of all things--ALIEN (1979). That film, MOTHER LODE (1982), ended up being directed by Charlton Heston himself, and was the closest the iconic Tough Guy came to producing a horror picture.

Beginning on a powerfully bleak note, the HUMONGOUS pacing quickly becomes sluggish, taking a long time to get to the island where the cast are given quite the workout; walking from one location to the next. More walking ensues as the cast takes what seems like forever to find the clues that piece together the backstory of who was, and is, on this God-forsaken atoll. Meanwhile, the monster infrequently stalks, but never slashes, these island intruders; this seven-foot freakshow prefers to use his hands--killing dogs and humans alike.

Garry Robbins, who plays the colossal killer, would act in a similar capacity in 2003s excellent backwoods slasher throwback, WRONG TURN (2003). We never get a clear look at him; and the one time we do, it's after he's been consumed by fire, leaving his face resembling a burnt grilled cheese sandwich. Some of his scenes are greatly enhanced by Brian R.R. Hebb's often moody cinematography... especially since you can now see what's going on during the night-time sequences. The photography is arguably the film's greatest asset.

The young adults in this one are all fairly resourceful with only one of them being massively obnoxious. Nowadays, virtually the entire cast in these movies are insufferable. The final girl (played by American actress Janet Julian), like a handful of others at the time, breaks tradition by having sex. Unfortunately, her character isn't all that interesting. Joy Boushel, who buys the farm a little past the halfway mark, delivers a perkier performance. Still, genre fans don't watch these types of movies for character development, they watch them for the horror and gore; and HUMONGOUS is lukewarm in those departments as well.

Paige Fletcher, who plays the rapist in the opening sequence, went on to become THE HITCHHIKER, the popular 80s adult thriller series that ran for six seasons between 1983-1991.

One other thing the film does well is it's history of Ida Parsons via a series of photographs over the opening credits; and again in a scrapbook found in her house on Dog Island. What is lacking is a flashback, or some dialog linking Ida's love for her dogs to her deformed, enraged son who has killed and eaten them all. It's there, if ambiguous. The overall presentation of the killer offspring is little more than your average backwoods slasher.

One film that HUMONGOUS seems to channel--whether intentional or not--is Joe D'Amato's ANTHROPOPHAGUS (1980). In that one, vacationers are stranded on a Greek Isle and run afoul of a giant cannibal played by George Eastman; who has killed and devoured everyone save for an old woman. D'Amato's movie is superior in building tension, but both films have pacing problems;the one's in HUMONGOUS are particularly enormous.

Lynch's obscure entry in the slasher canon hasn't had a great reputation with either fans or critics due mainly to the aforementioned, painfully dark photography as presented on its videocassette release in the 1980s. When it played on HBO the version aired was much clearer. This current release from Kino/Scorpion is a vast improvement on the film's previous home video releases (as you can see from the screencaps). Combined with the easier-on-the-eyes picture quality and a complete version (from a tape master), the experience of viewing HUMONGOUS is far more satisfying for the few attributes it maintains.

This review is representative of the Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing DVD. Specs and Extras: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; Katarina's Nightmare Theater Mode; audio commentary with director Lynch, writer William Gray, horror historian Nathaniel Thompson, moderated by Katarina Waters; R-rated opening scene; original trailer; additional trailers; running time: 01:33:55


Kaijinu said...

(reads "petite PROM NIGHT (1979)" and does a spit take) How dare you! Prom Night was okay!

(reads "he result was HUMONGOUS, a less than impressive sophomore outing to a film that was even less remarkable save for the participation of Jaime Lee Curtis" and does another spit take) How dare you! Again!

(reads "leaving his face resembling a burnt grilled cheese sandwich" and NOT do a spit take) ...yeah, that was kinda weird. I was pretty sure we'll get to see him in the light at some point. I still disagree with you in this one, though: he looks more like a burnt potato.

venoms5 said...

Yes, I'm not a fan of PROM NIGHT; nor the remake, ha. I think the best scene is the head rolling out onto the dance floor.

Lawrence EdwardLay said...

Wish we could get a clear at the giant's face before he got burned. The giant vs Andrew Garth from Hellraiser Night is a match I would like to see.

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