Color, 1982, 94m.
Available from Diabolik DVD
Directed by Paul Lynch
Starring Janet Julian, David Wallace, John Wildman, Janit Baldwin, Joy Boushel, Layne Coleman, Page Fletcher
Scorpion (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Color, 1982, 94m.
Available from Diabolik DVD
The slasher wave of the early ‘80s produced some really odd hybrids, and chief among them was the “crazy/malformed kid hiding out killing people in an isolated location” template that fused the body count formula with the gothic, locked-attic thrills of earlier decades. The examples of these run the gamut from Hell Night to The Unseen, but another often derided example is the Canadian teens-in-peril offering, Humongous. Despite a fairly robust theatrical release in ’82, the film’s reputation took a nosedive when it hit home video thanks to one of the darkest, muddiest transfers in VHS history, which earned it a reputation as one of the most visually incompetent entries in the slasher sweepstakes. Now that the film has hit DVD, does it fare any better? Let’s see…
Our story begins, as such things must, with a prologue setting up the monster’s traumatic origin story. At a fancy ‘40s shindig, a young woman is viciously raped (by Page Fletcher, the blue jeans-clad host of the horror anthology show The Hitchhiker) only to be saved with the aid of some especially bloodthirsty dogs. Flash forward a few decades over some creepy photograph-filled opening credits, and some teenagers out sailing the blue Canadian waters pick up a seabound old man who warns them about a nearby dog-populated island with a sinister history. (No bonus points if you figure out why that island’s important.) When one of the passengers gets drunk and causes the boat to ship after being reckless with a shotgun, everyone winds up on the shores of said island where they make out, find lots of dog bones, get killed off one by one, and find a creepy old house where the survivors discover the horrible truth about the island’s remaining inhabitant.
Brought to you by many of the folks responsible for the surprise slice-and-dice hit Prom Night, this modest but sometimes effective chiller will never be placed in the top tier of slasher classics. However, when you can actually tell what the heck’s going on, it’s an efficient model of ‘80s economical horror filmmaking with a solid final half hour and some reasonable (albeit not overly gory) kill scenes. Think of it as the more commercial Canadian cousin to Joe D’Amato’s The Grim Reaper, and you’ll be on the right track. The cast also includes a few unexpected faces including the beautiful Janet Julian (who went on to a couple of Abel Ferrara films), Janit Baldwin (star of Curtis Harrington’s Ruby), and Joy Boushel, who had just appeared in another Canuxploitation slasher, Terror Train.
Evaluating Humongous on DVD is a little tricky given the fact that no previous version has been even remotely watchable, and decent source elements have been ridiculously hard to come by. To make matters worse, the American version (in theaters and on tape) was censored, removing much of the pretty shocking opening assault scene (and adding in one extra head crack by rock for some reason). Part of the “Katarina’s Nightmare Theater” line from Scorpion, the DVD represents the complete Canadian cut of the film and looks much brighter and more watchable than previous video masters. It’s still obviously very imperfect, with some chroma noise, graininess, shimmering, and other assorted deficiencies that appear to originate from the licensor’s tape master, but at least you can see what the heck’s going on even if it ain't too pretty. Wrestling star and Caroline Munro lookalike Katarina Leigh Waters bookends the film with tongue-in-cheek sequences, kicking off with a dramatic recitation of the film’s memorable poster tagline. Director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Gray appear with her on the audio commentary, which is moderated by yours truly (so it’s impossible to really critique it, but hopefully everyone will enjoy it). Also included is the alternate R-rated opening scene transferred from VHS, the original theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers for Final Exam, Nothing but the Night, The Devil within Her, The House on Sorority Row, The Incubus, and The Pyx.
EDIT: To avoids some possible confusion, please note that the reference to a tape master above simply means the original source delivered by the film's owner, which is standard practice for DVDs. This has nothing to do with being mastered from a videotape or a version created for a videotape, which this version definitely was not.
Reviewed on 11/17/11.