Humongous (1982) Review by RevTerry

For the majority of my life, my attitude towards procreation has been less than enthusiastic. Obviously, I have some kind of reverence/respect for parents--I have a couple of my own, and they are pretty cool. Nevertheless, I just have never been keen on becoming one. Even located in the desert, most places I visit seem overcrowded, extremely so. I go to Walmart at three AM to avoid the mass of six-kid families that fill the place during regular hours. That way it's only the Wally-World night crew and me, as too many human spawn making noise at once tend to make me nervous (and when I'm nervous I make shitty shopping decisions). I don't want to increase or be partly responsible for the roving groups of free-range monsters in stores around the country. It's much easier for me to judge those who are responsible from afar and say things like “Where the fuck are these kids’ parents?” when the Nerf aisle is crowded.  More than that, while it's questionable whether or not there are enough resources in the world to go around, it is definite that not everyone receives what they need to survive. From my humble perspective, adding one more human to the mix seems like a fucked up gamble with life for most of us. There also appears to be a few overtly disgusting phases and speed bumps in developing a person that I don't know if I'm up to dealing with. Those saplings at Walmart smell strong and look like they might carry the next big plague. How can I sit down for my yearly Re-Animator marathon if I have to clean up real-life splatter and fluids? I could go on--really, the list seems endless. Kids are the not-fun kind of scary, gross shit, and those that take that charge deserve both admiration and pity.  Still, even with plenty of logical, visible negatives, a small part of me is pretty sure that it has baby making to do. Who knows, maybe it's nature, or I just need a captive audience for my seven-part presentation on the cultural value of Hackers (1995), but the call is there.  When that voice gets loud, it then takes a more extreme example of parenting gone wrong to scare it off--something like Humongous (1982).
Labour Day Weekend 1946, some rich guy is having a party on his private Lake Michigan island. The young lady of the house, Ida Parsons (Shay Garner), seemingly bored with the bourgeois festivities, spends the time chilling with the mass of family dogs who are caged outside. One of Mr. Parsons esteemed associates comes out to join Ida, and within a few seconds begins demanding sex. Ida isn't with it, repetitively telling him to fuck off, but the man becomes increasingly belligerent and eventually rapes her.  As a morsel of instant karma, Ida’s dog-homies break free soon after and tear the wealthy predator apart. Thirty-six years and some Cheers-esque credits later, a group of bickering overindulged youngsters makes plans to spend the weekend on St. Martin Island. Borrowing their parent's yacht, brothers Eric (David Wysocki) and Nick (John Wildman) bring their odd love triangle/lady friends Donna (Joy Boushel) and Sandy (Janet Julian) along with their sister, the nerdy third wheel Carla (Janit Baldwin). Not long after they have hit the water and everyone has cemented their cliche slot in the film, the night sets in with a thick fog. While nervously navigating through the darkness, the crew comes upon a stranded fisherman named Burt (Layne Coleman). Once rescued and aggressively introduced to the gang, Burt imparts to them the history of the nearby “Dog Island”. According to Burt, the island is home to Ida Parsons who has isolated herself there for the last thirty-something years, protected by a pack of savage dogs. Soon after the tale and some light necking, one of the brothers gets excited enough (for some reason) to angrily crash the boat right on the infamous island. When the group washes up on the beach, they are missing Carla, and poor Burt is only more damaged. There is some arguing, and Nick heads into the woods alone for a tantrum where he is killed by a grunting shadow. The next morning the survivors split up. Sandy and Eric head up to the Parsons mansion hoping to ask for help while Donna takes off her shirt and lays on top of Burt (because he's in shock). Team Sandy and Eric are unable to find a person to ask for assistance, but they do find a room full of oversized, grotesque toys and some chewed up canine bones. Soon, it is discerned that Ida wasn't alone on that island. In fact, she had given birth to a son thirty-six years ago, only to hide him from the world (because he is ugly and rich people are crazy). Ida had died some time ago leaving her mutated, uneducated man-child to fend for himself. After the food diminished, the extremely unfortunate and hungry offspring had taken to eating the many dogs, but eventually ran out of those too. However, his luck just might be turning around, because suddenly these opulent kids have shown up on the island and started splitting into easily manageable groups.
It's hard to tell if Humongous is an inherently silly tale that wants be serious or a dark story that wants to be irreverent. Regardless of its intentions, it is an awkward but entertaining confusion of near-effective suspense and cartoon details. With a dry cornball spin, it mashes backwoods slashers, creature features, and some Gilligan's Island into a relatively unique 80s VHS flavored paste. It's almost always predictable, as far as the story goes, but puts some of its own special weirdness on the borrowed tropes. The film's pacing is a little slow, and it takes some time with its lead-up events. Much of that time is spent with some very unlikable, spoiled youth while they make a series of bad decisions in emergency situations, complete with a few fruitless power moves from the alpha males. Between the intro and the boat ride, it becomes pretty apparent that everyone in the film’s universe is extra rapey for some reason and, aside from the confused, hungry mutant, pretty well off. Long before the cannibal shows up, the film makes a good case for letting most of the characters get eaten. The boat ride and mini Lord of the spoon fed Flies thing could easily be the start of a film with a less human antagonist or even an angry animal. These early moments come accompanied by POV spy-shots from the brush that could go either way, as far as what could turn out to be watching the unlucky shipwreck survivors. Even after the very human (but definitely fucked up looking) killer starts making exposed appearances, it holds on to an almost man versus nature mood until the point where the surviving party has dwindled substantially. Once it gets down to its cliche final girl, it might as well take place at Camp Crystal Lake, but the road there is a different one. There is quite a bit of obvious influence in the film from the big name slashers that came before it. It owes a lot to Friday the 13th, even lifting a mama's boy stumping tactic outright (from Part 2, 1981), but it's all played more as a light-hearted Texas Chainsaw Massacre type misadventure, sans most of the Avant-garde qualities (and few family members). The deformed killer hermit's face remains inexplicably hidden until near the film's climax, while everything else about his character is made clear early on, forming a less functional pseudo-Jaws meets Leatherface style restraint (aided by the horrible lighting). Other than the mysterious facial features, he serves as a fairly run of the mill slasher, although closer to a state most would reach further-on in a film series ( a la Friday the 13th part III, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, etc.). He has full-fledged superhuman strength, seemingly phases from place to place and has to be killed several times to be truly dead, like a dog fed Jason Voorhees with the vocal range (and hairdresser) of Wayne Doba’s poor deformed character from The Funhouse (1981).  The film works as an outrageous younger sibling to the underrated backwoods horror classic Rituals (1977) and shares some elements, but doesn't come close to driving home its brutal subject matter as effectively.  It does read equally as Canadian somehow, which I always associate with great trashy action television shows. There's something adventurous to the plot initially, although it thins out as it moves along and lacks a good “nature guide” character.  Even being an early 80s entry into the slasher game the familiar pieces, celebratory nods, and fan service make it feel like a precursor to the more authentic modern homages like Hatchet (2006). It is entirely derivative but feels more like a tribute to its precursors than a complete rip-off.
 For brief moments at a time, the direction is pretty fucking inspired and without giving it too much credit, reaches passed its direct predecessors to their roots in Italian horror. Mostly though, it reminds me of Tobe Hooper’s highly motivated but inconsistent work post-Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Unfortunately, any true finesse is hindered by the incredibly poor lighting which makes daytime seem like bad TV and night shots indiscernible. In the world of high definition mediums, it's hard not to think the darkness may have saved an effect or two from unforgiving clear pictures of today, but it is just too shitty (most of the time) to think of as a happy accident or functioning stylization. Beyond the terrible lighting, the technical aspects are flawed but mostly passing, making respectable use of what seems to be a moderate budget. It utilizes the island location well enough, giving the wildlife some screen time to invoke the survival horror subgenre and left field Italian exploitation flicks like Antropophagus (1980). The fog machine boat ride to the island that the kids take is another story completely and looks as if it could have been cut from a Godzilla film twenty years earlier. The monster effects are restrained both intentionally and by the dim recording. When Jr. does make appearances, he meets most of his mutant slasher requisites, but the less is more strategy doesn't quite hit its mark in this case and feels indecisive. The gore effects are uniformly covered in dark shadowing, but when some red pokes through, it's more than adequate. I especially got a kick out of the drawn-out head squishing. Everything is laced with an out of time soundtrack which wavers between dirty synth magic, overcooked TV show risers, and spaceship noises. I don't know what was going on with the music (provided by John Mills-Cockell), but I was digging it.
Humongous was directed by Paul Lynch and written by William Gray. It was the third collaborative effort from the duo after Blood & Guts in 1978 and Prom Night in 1980. Like Humongous, Prom Night lifted generously from popular slashers that came before it, specifically Halloween, and even borrowed its star, scream queen/mainstream celebrity / Hollywood-rulebook-burner, Jamie Lee Curtis. Both films were released to mostly negative reviews while Prom Night would eventually spawn three (mostly unrelated) sequels and a reboot.  Lynch and Gray continued to work together up into the 90s on Canadian produced televisions show like Robocop The Series (1994) and one of the ill-received Dark Shadows remakes (1991). Garry Robbins portrays the film’s abandoned mutant man-child. Robbins would play a few more monsters before his death in 2013 including “Saw Tooth” in the first Wrong Turn (2003). With performances ranging from perfectly exaggerated to passing, the majority of the cast is made up of Canadian TV regulars. I can't say I ever gave much of a shit as to who lived or died, but the group of yuppie sight seekers is well picked. Janet Julian, the film’s de facto lead, is a little lackluster here but two years later will put in a much more memorable performance as a self-appointed Samaria interpreter in the Empire flick Ghost Warrior (1984).
Humongous (1982) is a grimy but motivated collage of the popular horror films from its era with half their budget and a quarter of their lighting. Not a masterwork of cinema by any means, instead, it is a fun, somewhat sleazy flick with a lot of spirit. Ida's violent, pooch eating, confused bastard child probably isn't going to reorganize your top killer list, but the film is a few rungs above most slasher rip offs in any era. Plus, it's another great reason to make sure you are ready to be a parent if you do decide to be one. What if you accidentally raised a sheltered, unlovable progeny, like those waspy, spoiled assholes that crashed the boat?
1h 37min | 1982
 Director: Paul Lynch
Writer: William Gray

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Review by:
RevTerry

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