by Jack Sommersby
Far from great, it's consistently entertaining and boasts some scares -- along with a sustained creepy atmospheric sense that clings. Plus, it's got the foxy Janet Julian onboard! Who needs anything more!!??With a title as unsubtle as Humongous, the naughty-minded might presume it alludes to a lower part of the male anatomy or the upper part of a female's. Actually, it's in reference to the central villain: a horribly deformed, hairy-all-over man-beast terrorizing vacationing teenagers on a seemingly deserted island. Yep, echoes of Friday the 13th and other slasher flicks of this ilk are bound to come to mind; yet, aside from some dull stretches and a derivative story, Humongous manages to provide a good-enough time more often than not. Just don't go into it expecting a classic.
"Some Scares, and Janet Julian's Buns!!!"
The film opens thirty-six years in the past, where a rich woman is raped by one of her party guests at her secluded island manor. (The fact that we witness most of the attack from the point of view of the woman makes one more than a bit quesy.) We then forward to the present day, where five teenagers are preparing to set sail in a parent's yacht for some Spring Break fun. We've seen these types before: the fresh-faced boyfriend and girlfriend (David Wallace and Janet Julian), the nympho (Joy Boushel), the nebbish (Janit Baldwin), and the jerk (John Wildman). Of course, being that Boushel prominently displays her boobs early on, and taking into account a slasher's general distaste for the female bod, we know she's inevitably a goner. Julian, however, isn't shown to be an instigator of sex, so we have the feeling she might just make it through whatever lies ahead. (Besides, she's got top billing.) Needless to say, after the yacht gets destroyed in a mishap (or big-time contrivance, if you will) the teens become marooned on the very same island where the rape in the prologue took place. Lucky for them, they picked up a stranded boatman (Layne Coleman) before, who now proceeds to tell them a little tidbit about the island: of how a human monstrosity roams about mercilessly slaughtering people with a generally disagreeable demeanor. You see, the man-beast is the offspring of the woman who was raped, so, in essence, his/its violent nature is intended to draw up a doppelganger parallel between him/it and the rapist. (Yep, I made it through Psych 101.). Soon, the teens are being picked off one by one, with the man-beast going the anti-slasher route by forgoing sharp insturments and using its massive strength to crush his/its victims to death. (If Humongous wants to hug you, tell him/it to send a friggin' card instead.)
The director who pulled duty here is Paul Lynch, whose previous outing was the dull, inept Jamie Lee Curtis slasher entry Prom Night. Here, his film technique hasn't improved all that much, what with the muddy visual life and bumpy rhythm failing to help glide us over several dead spots (unsavory compliments of William Gray, the writer of Prom Night and the much-better The Changeling). Yet the forty-watt-bulb lighting actually works in that it gives the film a doom-laden, eerie atmosphere. The man-beast is always out there somewhere, and because the marooned teens have little in the way of survival gear (like flashlights, in particular) and are forced to make their way around in the dark add a creepy intensity to the proceedings. We're never privy to any more visual information than they, so their growing terror gradually works on us. Relying on creepy atmospherics that give the island setting a real sense of isolation, Lynch builds tension better than expected, following a character around a few beats longer than usual before the inevitable big "Boo!" moment arrives, with a firmer grasp of pacing and control, and allowing the suggestion of menace to play just as big a part as the physical depiction of it. Sure, his work isn't always on the money -- a few attempts at breezy, off-hand humor are dreary, and some of the scene transitions are clunky -- but considering just how little effort that apparently went into the screenplay, he should be commended for doing adequate work from a subpar blueprint. (He even pulls off a nice erotic moment where Boushel opens up her top and presses her breasts up against Coleman to keep him warm. Hoo-ah!)
The cast helps, too. While the character base is (predictably) limited, the actors give naturalistic, unaffected performances, which are certainly preferable to the the barrage of overacting you usually encounter in flicks of this genre. My favorite of the lot was the eternally beautiful Julian, who's appealing and exudes a disarming aura of decency. The camera simply adores her, and her spunkiness as the prevailing heroine is never overdone. Also, there's a not-bad shot of Wallace slipping his hands under her bikini and squeezing her to-die-for buns. (It's a shame, though, that Julian's career never really took off -- her best-known role is as Christopher Walken's girlfriend in Abel Ferrara's King of New York.) Is Humongous worth going out of your way to rent? Kind of. Yes, there are certainly better horror movies, and what this one finally adds up to is slight. Yet you take what you can get nowadays, and considering just how many dreary, disreputable videos of this nature I've rented and ejected from my machine inside of no more than a fifteen-minute span, the mere fact that I was entertained and affected and reasonably scared throughout most of this film's running time proves that it should "cut the mustard" for horror fans.It's perfect for audiences looking for an undemanding, scary good time -- along with those longing to see the drop-dead gorgeous Janet Julian in a skimpy bikini.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2874&reviewer=327
originally posted: 12/13/02 07:59:30