HUMONGOUS (1982) Blu-ray
Director: Paul Lynch
Scorpion Releasing

Scorpion Releasing takes us back to “Dog Island” with their Blu-ray rescue of PROM NIGHT director Paul Lynch’s Canuck slasher HUMONGOUS.

At a party at the Parsons island lodge retreat on Labor Day Weekend of 1946 , debutante Ida (Mary Sullivan) is viciously raped by her rejected drunken suitor Tom (Page Fletcher, AMERICAN NIGHTMARE) who is then savagely torn to shreds by her father’s watchdogs. Thirty-odd years later, five twenty-somethings – bland Eric (David Wallace, MORTUARY), his bespectacled kid sister Carla (Janit Baldwin, RUBY), bemulleted proto-douchebag brother Nick (John Wildman, SKULLDUGGERY), slutty Donna (Joy Boushel, TERROR TRAIN), and Eric’s model girlfriend Sandy (Janet Julian, CHOKE CANYON) – hop on the cabin cruiser for a weekend jaunt. In the foggy night, they nearly collide with the broken-down boat belonging to fisherman Bert (Lane Coleman, GATE 2: THE TRESPASSERS) who warns them away from the jagged rocks near Dog Island which is inhabited by a pack of vicious dogs belonging to the island’s sole inhabitant: an old woman living in the Parson family lodge who only comes into the mainland twice a year for supplies. Nick, who resents the general lack of respect he gets for his utter unlikability, can no longer stand the distant sound of howling dogs from the island and decides to commandeer the boat. The ensuing struggle causes an explosion that sends all overboard except for Carla who is presumed dead while the others manage to make it to the shores of Dog Island. Bert has a broken leg and the others are reticent to trek up to the house in the dark with the dogs roaming the woods; that is, except for Nick who is still all bravado after blowing up the boat and likely killing his little sister… fortunately he runs into the very hungry, hulking presence that we know is actually roaming the island.

Director Paul Lynch’s follow-up to the popular (if ordinary) slasher PROM NIGHT, HUMONGOUS is in no way original, the story recalling TOWER OF EVIL with a side of ANTHROPOPHAGUS while the effectively creepy silhouetted presence of the killer recalls the heavies of both the former film and Tom DeSimone’s HELL NIGHT from the previous year. What the film has going for it its eerie and atmospheric setting, slick photography (with some neat Dutch angles and split-diopter foreground/background compositions), neat production design by Cronenberg regular Carole Spier, and an effective score by John Mills-Cockell (TERROR TRAIN). There is not much gore but a body-snapping and head-squishing are greatly helped by grisly sound effects; however, nothing that happens in the body of the film is as nasty as the film’s opening rape scene (heavily trimmed in the film’s R-rated cut) even though it is played almost entirely in sweaty close-ups of the actors’ faces (the bloody dog attack almost comes as a relief to the audience). Once the attractive-if-dull main cast has been whittled away, final girl Sandy’s dealings with the monster (including dressing up as its mother a la FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II, although it is uncertain who copied whom since they were made the same year, and a nightmarish chase through the woods) are the suspenseful highlight of the film. Lynch followed up HUMONGOUS by producing AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (also available from Scorpion Releasing) before moving to episodic television. Writer William Gray also penned Lynch’s PROM NIGHT as well as Peter Medak’s THE CHANGELING, and was one of the series producers of the 1990s DARK SHADOWS miniseries (for which Lynch directed an episode). Producer Anthony Kramreither later produced the direct-to-video thrillers MARK OF CAIN and THRILLKILL (available in a double feature disc from Scorpion).

Given scant release by Avco Embassy who purchased the film before the company was acquired by Norman Lear, HUMONGOUS found much of its audience on a dark Embassy Home Entertainment VHS release of its R-rated version (the unrated version showing up in Canada and overseas). When Scorpion Releasing put the title out on DVD in 2011 as part of its "Katarina's Nightmare Theater" line, the only source for the unrated version was a Canadian tape master which was further compromised by 16:9 reformatting. The image was still dark but the viewer could finally appreciate the compositions and the use of light, shadow, and blue gels. Scorpion's 2017 Blu-ray is derived from a brand new HD master of the a 35mm print of the R-rated version (92:33) which is presented on a BD50 with an encode of the unrated version (93:42) which is a composite of the missing footage and the newer master (the DVD had an option to watch the R-rated opening but that has been dropped since it is featured in its entirety in one of the cuts). The 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen image is a definite upgrade, not pristine as the print source has obviously seen some play but featuring bolder colors, deeper shadows, and superior detail (that scar on Ida's face in the still photograph under the director's credit really jumps out at you and the details of the monster's face are discernable if still elusive in backlit long shots). With the negatives and intermediate materials currently MIA (possibly junked by Avco Embassy), this may be the best that the film will look. The DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 mono tracks are clearer than before, with the subtler cues of Mills-Cockell's score really setting the listener on edge, but there is a flaw on the track in both versions. The entirety of the boat fight and explosion has an echo that sounds as if perhaps the restorers may have tried to sync up the audio tracks from the two masters to patch up some gaps and accidentally left a duplicate portion on one of the tracks, exporting a mix with a doubled soundtrack for roughly five minutes of the film.

Carried over from the DVD is an audio commentary accompanying the unrated cut featuring director Lynch, writer Gray, and film journalist Nathaniel Thompson moderated by hostess Katarina Leigh Waters. Lynch and Gray express surprise at the amount of unintentional PSYCHO references in the story and visual, although Lynch admits a heavy influence from TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE that viewers may be less likely to notice. The filmmakers also express their displeasure at Avco-Embassy’s poster artwork (Lear had just taken over the company and was not fond of its horror output), and Gray expresses his preference for the foreign title DOG ISLAND. Lynch also relates an anecdote about HALLOWEEN producer Irwin Yablans’ connection to Lynch and Gray’s PROM NIGHT as well as his thoughts on the remake of that film. Lynch and Gray have a back-and-forth banter that at times almost seems like it might become combative but they are obviously fond of one another and proud of the film (all of the participants share some titters over the unintentional “Scooby Doo” aspect of the Wallace’s hair, Baldwin’s big glasses, and Wildman’s pot-smoker). Thompson frames the film within the context of Canadian filmmaking (including tax shelter productions) and Canadian horror cinema, also making the connection to HELL NIGHT (and THE FOG in regards to the visually similar boat scenes).

New to the Blu-ray is an interview with actor Wallace (21:37) who recalls working with Lynch, Julian, Wildman, and the bouncer playing the monster. He discusses the shoot, the film's atmosphere, and recalls auditioning for MORTUARY before leaving for Canada and learning that he got the role in that film while working on HUMONGOUS. He discusses how different the experience of working with Lynch was from working with MORTUARY director Howard Avedis and his producer wife Marlene Schmidt, his and co-star Mary Beth McDonough's refusal to do nudity (which was not in their contract), as well as his mother recognizing that it was not him when she saw the sex scene (he also fondly recalls working with Bill Paxton). The disc closes out with the film's theatrical trailer (1:12). The disc has a reversible cover and a limited number of copies ordered directly from Ronin Flix will include a slipcover. Copies without the slipcover will also be available through DiabolikDVD in late July. (Eric Cotenas)