Those horror fans among us pitiable enough to have spent our teen years during the 1980s had to put up with a lot. If it weren't bad enough that the '80s was the decade that saw Freddy Kruger begin to de-claw mainstream horror with his wisecracks, the early part of that era saw a veritable tidal wave of cheap Canadian Slasher movies utterly destroy the beachheads of our minds. Note the important adjective here is 'cheap', but know full well that Canada is what put the magic in these movies. Brain destroying magic.
An extra sadly lacking from this otherwise OK DVD release is a collection of radio and TV spots for Humongous - you know the ones, boys. They always ended with the gravelly-voiced announcer spelling out the title, "H. U. M. O. N. G. O. U. S. Humongous". I swear if I didn't know how to spell it before, I had learned after the 1500th time. This chant, and the garish poster art, had me thinking this was going to be the most badass movie of all time, although upon its 1982 release I was still a wee-bit shy of being able to get in to the theaters to see for myself. You can bet I rented it the second it hit the video shelves though!
You can also bet I was extremely disappointed, which is why I'm pretty happy we now can all revisit this king of Canadian Cover Art, the movie poster that barely delivered, this talky, dorky blend of high aspirations combined with a general air of cluelessness, I present to you; Humongous. You wouldn't really think Humongous is a slasher movie, though. It's supposed to be about some freaky, cannibalistic, giant mutant baby or something, right? By the end, you'll be amazed at how much director Paul Lynch and writer William Gray's shocker shamelessly cops from Friday The 13th. (I won't spoil those surprises for you, though, as I can no longer remember them. My notes tell me this is an issue, and I believe them.)
At any rate, the movie opens with a trip to the past, on a remote Northern island, during which a woman is repaid for the swanky party she's throwing by getting raped. It's a shocking and tense scene concluded with a vicious dog attack. It bodes nothing for the next 45 minutes though, as much of this time in the 'present' of 1982 is spent with a more-or-less stereotypical group of young adults arguing with each other on and off of a little boat. The brothers hate each other, the girls just want to party in bikinis and dance to music on cassette tapes, and there's some mysterious guy floating around dazed in a dinghy.
If not for the presence of second-string Nancy Drew actress Janet Julian wandering around braless in a halter-top, boredom would mount perilously. Even though there are arguments, and there is peril, it's all of the TV Movie of the Week variety until the final 20-minutes, during which most scumbag punters will find some reward. Bodies start piling up, people are shoved onto meat hooks, and things become preposterous for all the reasons '80s slasher horror is preposterous.
Despite the presence of a really nice spine cracking and some beautifully stylish work with shadows, nothing is terribly gory, while terror and suspense are kept well within safety levels. Good old Humongous makes up for that by being a pretty interesting killer. He might even be a nice guy. Though ugly and a little tall, he's not that bad, seeming to enjoy pretty much just hanging out in the basement, emerging only when hungry, and resorting to cannibalism only after all other food sources have run out. Heck, not to get all SPOILERY or anything, but Humongous even chooses to sort of calmly agonize in the flames that are fated to kill him, rather than running away or something. Nice guy.
Our Screener Copy should not be considered representative of Final Product, which is good. The 1.78:1 ratio transfer, enhanced for 16 X 9 TVs, and from the Uncut Master, appears to suffer from interlacing, some aliasing, and occasionally heavy-handed digital noise reduction. The image is pretty clean and free of damage, with fine, natural-looking colors and OK black levels, but seems only a couple of steps up from a VHS copy. Again, this assessment is based on my viewing of a DVD screener, and doesn't represent Final Product, so proceed at your own risk.
English Mono Audio seems fine for what it is - I could understand all of the dialog perfectly, and there isn't any damage or degradation to speak of. Screener Copy, though, so not representative of Final Product.
Scorpion Releasing is busting out this title under its Katarina's Nightmare Theater moniker, meaning if you wish you can watch the movie either with, or without, a Katarina Leigh Waters Introduction. This former WWE star and British-Accented Actress seems an unlikely choice as a Horror Hostess, since she's neither particularly funny, nor does she seem to care much about the movie. On the other hand, if it takes a little cheesecake to get a movie like Humongous released on DVD, then bring on the babes! (For those of you offended by Katarina ruining the purity of your horror experience, the disc comes with a Reversible Sleeve so you don't have to see any crass, unrelated materials cluttering up your cover, too!)
There's more, of course, not the least of which is a Commentary Track with director Paul Lynch, writer William Gray, and horror journalist Nathaniel Thompson. Thompson does of fine job of eliciting a wealth of information from Lynch in particular, creating a solid commentary experience for dedicated fans. An Alternate Pre-Credits Sequence didn't look much different to me - it may contain a few seconds of additional rapin' or maulin' that don't in the slightest change the tone or impact of the scene. The Original Trailer and some other Previews finish things off.
One in a long line of bandwagon jumping '80s Canadian horror/slasher movies, Humongous is known primarily for its garish poster art and relentless ad campaign. ("H.U.M.O.N.G.O.U.S. Humongous." Sing it, baby!) Though derivative of other Slasher Movies, plagued by the annoying improbabilities of all A-to-B horror efforts, filled with bickering dorks, and pretty slow to get started, Humongous eventually gets to a weird, frenetic payoff, as the title monster is forced to leave the cozy confines of his basement and get down to some serious killin'. For a specialized audience, this is at least a must-see, and for anyone else with a yen to learn the storied history of Great White North Horror, I'll fling you a Rent It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com