Tuesday, April 24, 2018


It's difficult to put into words why I enjoy the Canadian horror film HUMONGOUS (1982) but I shall try.

There are probably two understandable reasons why I've watched this film more times than I care to count. The first reason is that in the 1980's this was a pay cable staple for a long period of time so I caught all or part of this movie on multiple occasions. Those late nights glued to the wicked films shown only after prime time were formative in my movie nut life.  Back then I found this film fascinating and titillating for various reasons including that there are a couple of attractive women in it. One of these young ladies is often semi-nude or scantily clad and the other - although never nude - is just the type of attractive woman that you don't mind following around in a horror film. Back then these surreptitious late-night viewings of an R-rated horror film carried a certain sense of slight danger and the feeling of being a little bit naughty. I'm sure that added a little bit to the thrill of the horror and sex elements and accounts for my possibly over-generous view of the movie to this day.

A second reason that I'm probably a fan of this film against my better judgment is that it's a Canadian horror film complete with the odd feel of Canuck-sploitation. You might know what I mean if you've ever seen a film that seems as if takes place in the States but the characters pronounce 'about'  in an odd way or drink Labatt's beer. There were dozens of commercial movies produced in that amazing time in which the Canadian government made it easy to finance films that were of questionable taste and dubious public value. These movies were aimed squarely at making a buck and out of that glorious time came a lot of very interesting exploitation films of which HUMONGOUS is a fine example. It's clearly built on the slasher genre model but coming in 1982 it's early enough in the cycle for it to not feel like as much of a copy/retread as it really is.

The film's structure mimics a number of other slasher films that came both before and after. It begins with a prelude that takes place a couple of decades before the main story begins. This sets up our killer giving a us minimal back story and possible murderous motivations. Post credits we move into modern-day 1981 (when the film was shot) and are introduced to are very stab-able cast, the plot gets underway and mayhem ensues. As a younger man in the middle of the 80's what appealed to me most was that it was a kind of monster movie. The creature who is killing our poor young victims is physically monstrous and bereft of characteristics beyond being a hulking, grunting killer. So for me it fit very easily into the category of monster film rather than slasher film. This is an irrational way to look at the film necessarily but it is one felt right at the time and even in the 21st century looking back it's still kind of feels okay. So what we have is a slasher movie with a monstrous villain at it's center and a bunch of younger people who we watch get murdered one at a time. The good news is that only one of the characters is a despicable piece of garbage / dislikable meat bag and that person get offed first. Sadly, my favorite character kind of gets killed twice.

To be clear, this is not a great movie! I want to emphasize that because I don't want someone to read this slight recommendation then visit the film and rail against me as some kind of lunatic who can't discern good cinema from bad. HUMONGOUS (1981) exists in that strange mid-range between something plausibly good and something definitely bad. It appeals to me for some of the most wrong reasons. Of course, some of those wrong reasons were put there specifically to make someone at a young impressionable age enjoy what I was seeing. And I saw it early enough in my life for it to partially slip under wire for me being able to understand why I was attracted to the story That does not mean that I am blind to its many faults. For instance - the way the group of soon-to-be-dead younger people end up on the island involves our idiot character doing something incredibly idiotic for an idiotic reason and then feeling idiotically bad about it. That's bad enough but it is his actions that cause the film's weakest visual moment which is when we see a boat "explode" and be destroyed. This blast is not accomplished well. Although the movie tries its best to sell the effect it's obviously that they did not destroy a boat or even come close to harming a boat to make this moment plausible. But this modestly budgeted film still gets me on it's side with this sequence because they distract me with the plight of the now marooned victims.... castaways... whatever.

So, yes - I get a kick out of this Canadian monster slasher but I know it's not great. This is exactly the kind of film I return repeatedly but try to hide that fact from others. If nothing else you can read this as a confessional or even a cry for help. But really I think I might just be searching for other fans of the movie out there who might be better able to rationalize liking HUMONGOUS. Maybe we could start a support group.

"Hello. My name is Rod and I like HUMONGOUS. It's been twenty days since I last watched it. One day at a time, I guess."

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