This Canadian slasher is definitely one of the better slashers of the 1980s and is unjustifiably panned by everyone. When HUMONGOUS was released the biggest criticism against it was how predictable or derivative it was and it was dismissed as being just another slasher. Yes, there’s a very familiar feel to the story-line but most slashers are basically the same movie done over and over again so I don’t see this necessarily as a bad thing. But the fact is HUMONGOUS actually tries to be different and in some ways, it succeeds in being different. HUMONGOUS is more the unofficial companion and has more in common to that other Canadian horror film, RITUALS, than to HALLOWEEN or Friday THE 13Th. Both HUMONGOUS and RITUALS have almost the same kind of deformed killer who lives in the backwoods. The killer remains unseen until the very end. And there’s an obvious Canadian feel to both films.
The beginning of HUMONGOUS is brutal and sets up the familiar story-line of a gruesome incident which happened in the past that will affect a subsequent generation. In this case, the film starts in the 1940s. After a woman from a rich family is raped, she decides to live in seclusion on an isolated island where she gives birth to a deformed kid. Flash forward 40 years and we see a bunch of horny young adults who were vacationing on another island and as they’re heading back to the mainland on their boat they crash on the island where the woman lived after one of the passengers, Nick the hotheaded brother, takes control of the boat and rams it into rocky shore. Everyone leaves the burning boat and they all have to go to the island and the rest of the story is basically about the group surviving on the spooky island where there’s a monster killing them one by one.
The atmosphere is very good and the cinematography is actually good too. Some interesting camera positions. But like many have mentioned already, many scenes during the night are EXTREMELY dark and it’s difficult at times to know exactly what’s going on. I set up my TV’s brightness level to the max and the image was improved greatly but there were still some moments were I didn’t see anything at all. As annoying as the dark scenes were, I believe this was done deliberately, not because the film is a low budget movie and they couldn’t afford lighting but because that’s what the director wanted. The darkness was at times carried to an extreme which can only be attributed to a director’s decision and not some low production value. With that said, I personally find it fascinating that so much happens in the dark. The darkness is stylised. Notice when the monster crashes through the door or when the boathouse catches fire, how the brightness of those scenes create a shock. I think the director wanted to shock people with light by having most of the action happen in so much darkness. In a movie theater, after watching scenes that happen mostly in the dark, a quick shot of a bright image creates tension and actually hurts the eyes. It’s like when you wake up in the morning and how the bright lights outside the windows hurt your eyes. Well, that’s what Paul Lynch tried to recreate here by having so much of the action take place in near total darkness. The monster’s appearances during those brief scenes of brightness must have been startling in a dark theater.
The acting is mostly serviceable but the last three survivors, Janit Baldwin (the girl with the glasses), David Wallace (the blond guy) and Janet Julian (the last girl) are much better than your average slasher actor. The gore is limited and in a way it’s unfortunate. I’m not a gorehound but I thought the film needed a bit more blood to be that much more creepy. The biggest weakness of HUMONGOUS (aside from the extreme darkness) is the score. There’s almost no music. When the film starts getting scary it’s no coincidence that it coincides with the moment when the score finally makes its presence felt. The jazzy music during the opening and closing credits didn’t belong in this kind of film though. And the story itself is actually interesting and there’s an underlying lurid aspect about it that’s fascinating. Dogs are a major part of the underlying story and something tells me they have more to do than meets the eye.
Anyway, I personally like HUMONGOUS. The poster is cool and I really like the title. As a real horror film, it’s definitely more successful than Lynch’s other horror opus, PROM NIGHT, and a good portion of other slashers made in the same period and those made today, like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, which was obviously inspired by this film.