FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Aug 30, 2008

VHS Week, Day 4: Humongous

I don't think I'm supposed to like Humongous quite as much as I do.

The main arguments against this 1982 film, director Paul Lynch's follow-up to Prom Night, are that it's boring, derivative, and devoid of scares. I can see how those would be valid criticisms or how one might end up with that opinion of Humongous, and yet- that's not how I view the film at all. Does that make any sense? It's a bit like seeing Fabio and thinking "Yes, I understand how people might find him attractive, but I myself do not."

In related news, I wonder whether or not anyone's been able to convince Fabio that the delicious, cholesterol-free, buttery spread he so enjoys is not, in fact, butter.

Back on topic! Humongous. It opens in that most predictable way: with a rape. It's Labor Day Weekend in 1946 and a drunken reveler forces himself on a young woman whose family is hosting the party. Her trusty German Shepherds come to her rescue and attack the attacker; she finishes him off with a rock.

I was checking out some reviews of the film earlier, and virtually every one railed against Lynch for shooting the rape scene from the victim's POV. Apparently this technique makes viewers uneasy. Uncomfortable during a rape scene? Good. Why is that a problem?

36 years after that night, a small group of...err, teens, I guess, are leaving a house where I...uh, guess they were staying all summer and they're boating to...uh...well, it's all a little vague. Listen, picky, all you need to know is that this is a horror movie and all the major food groups are represented: the nice guy, the final girl, the slut, the nerd, and the jerk. The nice guy (Eric), the nerd (Carla), and the jerk (Nick) are siblings; the nice guy and the final girl (Sandy) are dating, as are the slut (Donna) and the jerk. Carla, meanwhile, is considerate enough to sport glasses in keeping with the film's title. I do so love a theme!

Whilst slowly navigating through heavy fog at night, our gang comes across Bert, whose motorboat has given up the ghost. They take him on board and when dogs begin to howl in the distance, he tells them the tale of The Weirdo Old Lady of Dog Island. It seems there's a mysterious woman who's secluded herself on an island and lives with a gazillion dogs. The locals don't know much about her- she only heads to the mainland twice a year for supplies, and no one dares set foot on the island for fear of her dogs.

Hmm...I wonder who she could be? Though we, the audience, know that The Weirdo Old Lady of Dog Island is the rape victim from 36 years back, the telling of the tale is spooky. It's creepy. What can I say? I get sucked in easily.

A few plot contrivances later and our gang's boat goes boom- man, the jerk is such a jerk- and everyone swims for...wait for it...the shores of Dog Island! It's all so very unpredictable...and as such, you probably know where all this is headed, right? The rape victim had a baby, the baby grew up to be humongous, Mr Humongous is deformed and hasn't been socialized, Mr Humongous kills teenagers for food- you know the drill.

As I said earlier, I'm not going to argue that Humongous isn't terribly derivative (one crucial scene apes Friday the 13th Part 2 like nobody's business); somehow, though, I find it effectively derivative. Lynch utilizes odd camera angles to disquiet the viewer and- for better or for worse- keeps Mr Humongous almost completely hidden throughout the film. This has the curious effect of making the film one about survival rather than one about killing. The focus is on the teens, who are trying to find a way off the island. While exploring the ol' Humongous Homestead, they come across photo albums, diaries, and dessicated corpses and they get their Scooby Gang on, piecing together the puzzle to figure out what they're up against. They even develop a grudging sympathy for the lurking monster, and so do we. The characters are, unfortunately (yet expectedly) drawn too thin to really care about, but it helps that the performances, while not spectacular, are rather understated for a slasher-style film. They're essentially stereotypes, but they're not broad caricatures.

The biggest shame about Humongous is that it's so damn dark...I mean really, really dark. So much so that you can't figure what's going on for...oh, I'd say at least 1/4 of the movie. It's definitely a problem, and some viewers may not have the patience to endure it. As for me, I plan to buy up all the Our Lady of Guadalupe candles in the Spanish food section at my local Ralph's, light 'em, and create a shrine with the hopes that this will bring about a DVD release of Humongous- a nice, cleaned-up-n-brightened version so I can see what I've been missing.

I like this movie. I honestly enjoy it, and not in an ironic way- although there are plenty of early '80s chunks of cheese (headbands, dancing, cassettes, and...uh, using one's bare boobs to keep someone warm) sprinkled throughout. I like the exploring of the run-down house, I like the stalking sequences, I like the atmosphere...I just like Humongous. Your results, however, may vary, as the 2.3/10 rating on imdb suggests.

7 comments:

Bill Walsh said...

Dammit, Carla, give Corpsella her glasses back.

Vince Liaguno said...

Love this movie! One of my favorite bad movies of the day. Gave the film the Slasher Speak treatment last month. Funny how we picked out some of the same things!

http://vinceliaguno.blogspot.com/2008/07/classic-slasher-commentary-humongous.html

Chadzilla said...

If you have the Embassy Home Video VHS (Avco Embassy, one of the truly awesome early 80s indie horror studios) that would explain the dark, murky print. All of Embassy's video releases were really, really dark. Awesome clamshell packaging, though.

Momel said...

I so love you. Hi my name's Momel, and I have this blog where I bring the gays and the horror movie lovers together. And we don't have much hard core horror movie lovers here in Manila, let alone female hard core horror movie lovers, so you'd imagine my undying love as I have finally found Final Girl.

I want to be able to watch one of your Film Club picks so I can do a review about it, whatever it takes to get a link back. Can I do one of your earlier picks, or do I need to be current? Oh and hey, how do you do your reviews? Do you follow a schedule of sorts? Do you follow a format? Do you review all horror flicks you've seen?

Thanks!

Ray said...

Sounds kind of interesting. If this movie ever gets brought into the 21st century with a DVD release, it may be worth checking out. And when/if that happens, they need to use that poster.

Old Dark Housekeeper said...

I love Humongous. There was something about it that (for me) set it apart from the other early '80s dead teenager flicks.

And not just the redhead.

The prologue was some really good work, and the cinematography (darkness aside) was pretty interesting.

Don't think it was derivative, just that it was solidly aware of the tropes. And there's a weird Italian vibe to it... did it come before or after The Grim Reaper?

Sigh... this is one I wish that Synapse would feel like adopting.

waxartist72 said...

Also love "Humongous". Was big on HBO around '83 or so. Caught it late one night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Would very much like to see it again. Does anyone remember "The Baby-Sitter"? I remember it also being very creepy.