"A party of privileged teenagers are enjoying a day's boating on a beautiful lake when a sudden pall of dense fog immerses them into a nightmare of unspeakable horror ... They run aground on Dog Island, which owes its name to the pack of vicious hounds kept by the only inhabitants, an old woman and her son, whom no one has ever seen.
Searching for shelter, they keep seeing the grisly remains of all kinds of furry animals. But worse sights are in store for them. For they have yet to meet the woman's son, and discover for themselves the reason she has kept him there ..."
Now, this is another one that I've been after seeing for - God - eighteen years, or so. Back when I was an impressionable teenager, back when all the stronger titles had been cleared from the shelves by public outrage, there were a few 'treasures' left to be coveted, or even, if the video store worker was either down with the kids, or couldn't give sweet FA, we'd get to see them. SUPERSTITION, FRIDAY THE 13TH, ROSEMARY'S KILLER - a procession of golden trash on those stolen afternoons, but somehow HUMONGOUS remained elusive. That video cover - the one with the misshapen eye staring through the peephole - made an impression, as I looked up at the top shelf, it was tempting but there always seemed to be something I wanted to see more - so, it's not until now that I've had a chance to see just how big 'humongous' really is ...
Just like the same year's ROSEMARY'S KILLER (aka THE PROWLER) there's a prologue set in the 40's. Labour Day, 1946 - to be exact. ... At a party - held at a big house on a night enshrouded island - a woman leans towards a cage where guard dogs stare heads cocked and doe-eyed at her. She is interrupted by a young man - clearly the worse for drink - whose advances she spurns; escaping off into the nearby woods. He follows her; tracking her down, and then pushing her to the ground, despite her pleas for him to stop, and - despite its lack of explicitness, a pretty sleazy scene - rapes her. As soon as he stops the dogs that she had been cooing over break free and attack him, rendering him bloody and weak; the woman, gathering herself, leans over and finishes him off with a rock to the face ...
The opening credits roll over a montage of photographs from the Forties, accompanied by suitably dreamy sax, which show the woman from the prologue turn from a happy young girl in a hard faced woman clutching a baby in swaddling ...
So, it's almost reassuring to see the future teen victims-to-be burst onto the screen with snarls, pouts, and disco headbands; using dialogue like: "Just because she's tall and gorgeous - and has the World's biggest wardrobe - doesn't mean life isn't tough" - it is, afterall, a teen slasher and what better vintage than this (shot in '81 and released in '82 by a director who, er, cut his teeth on the Jamie Lee Curtis disco/slasher crossover - the perennial favourite (at least in my house) - PROM NIGHT ("..everything's alright!"). ... Nick (headstrong, mullet), his brother Eric (blonde, slightly gormless looking - who also starred in the same year's MORTUARY), Teddy (teen fashion model, disco headband), Donna (teen fashion model wannabe, puts her cleavage to good use later on in the film) - and the dorky kid sister, Sarah (enthusiastic, chunky glasses). After a bit of sibling rivalry they take to a palatial pleasure cruiser to soak up the rays, as they cruise around a massive inland lake and partake in time honoured teen pursuits - shimmying to disco beats in barely adequate bikinis.
Everything is A-OK, until, after night fall, the fog - in true SCOOBY DOO fashion - closes in. ... Going at dead slow they hear the cries of a stranded sailor. Bert, who they pick up, warns them of the treacherous rocks that surround 'dog island' - which gives rise to the classic exchange: "Is there anything on it?" - "Dogs" - "Dogs?!" ... well, like, duh. He also tells of a crazy old lady - tending her even crazier son on the island, which is, naturally, not where you'd want to end up on a night like this. Naturally, though, that's where they do end up, when (for no better reason than they need a suitable plot device) Nick decides to go postal and take the boat full steam ahead despite the admonishment of his sister - "Nick, don't be crazy!". Nick and Eric tussle; the boat is scuppered and, in jaw dropping bit of poor special fx (think wonky camera angle and someone frantically waving a lit cigarette lighter just out of frame) the boat supposedly goes down in a veritable inferno.
Everyone gathers on the beach of dog island - all bar Sarah, who it is presumed has gone down with the ship. Bert lies badly injured and the others decide they must venture up to the house and summon help. Nick, with typical bravado, decides to venture alone into the woods with a hop and a skip, despite the derision of the others, "Don't play hero, Nick - we're not impressed." ... Thing is, there's something growling in them there woods - and it ain't no dog!
HUMONGOUS is a prime slice of early 80's cheese, but let's get it straight, it's bad; in fact it's actually worse even than PROM NIGHT - yes, really! Having said that it's a whole lot of bad fun - sure, there are some scenes that drag on like a wet Sunday afternoon, and several of the cast have the charisma of oak - but if you like your vintage teen slashers, well, there's plenty to get your teeth into here.
I won't insult your intelligence by saying what happens next - HUMONGOUS holds few surprises. There are, however, a few choice moments of uber-cheese to make you sit up and take notice when the pacing flags. Donna, who stays with the ailing Bert on the beach does a spot of bizarre hunter-gathering, where she ventures out into the woods and picks a crop of blueberries which she stores in her heaving cleavage, for safekeeping. Not content with merely finding one novelty use for her bristols she, after splashing them clean at the water's edge, realises that Bert is getting increasingly cold so pulls open her top and smothers him with her ample bosom in a supposed effort to keep him warm. It doesn't end well, as you may well imagine.
Ultimately, HUMONGOUS seems to desperately want to be a hefty helping of true American Gothic, but in reality it's far too cheesy to be very macabre or even generate many true thrills. To be fair there's some suspense to be had - all this despite the final girl fleeing the barking killer through the woods with all the seeming urgency of a pensioner in a flea market (necessitating the actor playing the killer to practically moonwalk on the spot in an effort not to catch her) - there's a modicum of vintage slasher movie thrills when the she eventually does her finest Amy Steel impression and impersonates the none-too-bright killer's dead Mother (ala the climax of the same year's FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2), in an effort to escape his evil clutches. The climax is suitably fiery, too - although, when we finally do get a good look at the camera shy killer's face you can kinda see why they kept it hidden for so long - there's nowt scary about a mug that looks like a giant baked potato with a boiled egg balanced carefully on top.
So, after all that, was it really - HUMONGOUS? Well, put it this way, I've seen bigger.
female:2 / male:5
1) Male savaged by dogs and hit over the head with a rock
2) Male killed (method unseen)
3) Female thrown onto rocks
4) Male decapitated (off-screen)
5) Male bearhugged to death
6) Female has head squashed by killer's hands
7) Male set on fire and impaled on spike