Color, 1982, 93 mins. 42 secs. / 92 mins. 33 secs.
Directed by Paul Lynch
Starring Janet Julian, David Wallace, John Wildman, Janit Baldwin, Joy Boushel, Layne Coleman, Page Fletcher
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

HumongousHumongousThe 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. Fortunately it has been treated better in recent years, with its fan base rising now that its creepier qualities can now be better appreciated.

Our story begins, as such slashers must, with a prologue setting up the maniac’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 sea-bound old man who warns them about a nearby dog-populated island with a sinister history. (No bonus Humongouspoints if you figure out why that island’s important.) HumongousWhen one of the passengers gets drunk and causes the boat to sink 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 area’s remaining human inhabitant.

Brought to you by many of the folks responsible for the surprise slice-and-dice hit Prom Night, this modest but sometimes very effective chiller will never be placed in the top tier of slasher classics. Still 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 Canadian slasher, Terror Train.

Evaluating Humongous on DVD when it was first released in 2011 from Scorpion Releasing was 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 Humongousmatters 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 forHumongous 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 outdated master, but at least you can see what the heck’s going on even if it isn'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.   

In 2017, Scorpion brought the film to Blu-ray, and of course the immediate question was how the heck this film might possibly look in HD. Well, thankfully a new transfer has indeed been commissioned, and it's a Humongoustremendous upgrade all around. Black levels deepen considerably without sacrificing image readibility, colors are more accurate and vivid, textures look much more rich and tactile, and Humongousthe framing has been adjusted to center the compositions with a significant amount of additional info on the right and especially the bottom with less extraneous headroom on the top. It's still not a "pretty" film by any means, but the improvement is very obvious. The default option is the R-rated cut in pure HD, while a choice for the unrated cut slips SD inserts from the older transfer into that opening scene to create a best of both worlds type of option. The DTS-HD MA English options for both sound fine for what remains a very undemanding mono mix. The commentary, trailer, and Katarina's Nightmare Theater hosting bits have been ported over here, and a new addition is a video interview with actor David Wallace (21m37s), a.k.a. David Wysocki, who plays the unassuming Eric and would go on to a busy '80s TV career. He has lots of memories about the shoot including the challenges of having to cop a feel on camera, the most intimidating member of the cast, and the fun of filming on a boat; he also mentions some of his other work, particularly Mortuary and his thoughts on working with the late Bill Paxton. Ed. note: some players are having audio issues with a portion of the film around the 24-minute mark on both cuts with echoed phasing and volume shifting between the two channels; stay tuned for details as it develops.

DVD Frame Grabs

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Updated review on June 18, 2017.