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."

Monday, April 23, 2018


This plays like a trailer for the never produced fifth Blind Dead film. It gets the visual look of the 1970's right and all it's missing is the iconic music. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Earth Day from The Smog Monster!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE WILD BUNCH (1969) Poster Art

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Decemberists on YouTube

Caught these folks again the other night and - as always - had a great time. They played tunes from across their career but leaned heavily on the new, very strong album. The only song I was unfamiliar with was the Lin-Manuel Miranda penned Ben Franklin's Song which was cut from Hamilton. He thought it was the perfect track for The Decemebrists - and he was right! 

Many F-Bombs are dropped in Ben Franklin's Song. If you know Ben's life that won't be much of a surprise. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What I Watched in March

ANNIHILATION (2018) is an amazing breathe of fresh air in these days of tent-pole science fiction films. Operating at the opposite stylistic end of most modern cinema SF that vies for mass attention every year this film is a calmly, deliberately told tale of mysterious alien contact. Telling the frighteningly plausible tale of a slowly expanding extraterrestrial effect that may destroy the North American continent and the world, we accompany a team into the influenced area. Once inside people are subject to odd mental and physical consequence of the alien power spreading across the land as thy push toward the coast to reach the original point of contact. Along the way they discover strangely altered animals, dangerous plant life and the remnants of earlier teams. Each of these encounters makes them doubt their ability to carry on, doubt themselves and wonder if the possible answer waiting for them might be beyond their capacity to understand.

Adapted from a novel by Jeff VanderMeer by director Alex Garland (EX MACHINA) the film channels Tarkovsky's classics SOLARIS (1972) and STALKER (1979) but finds a new way to get to the same questions. This tale's answers are surprising as well with the main character's motivations twisting in an interesting direction by the third act. This is not a perfect film but it is thoughtful, intelligent speculative fiction that stands well beside ARRIVAL (2016) proving that cerebral science fiction filmmaking isn't dead yet, even if it only shows its head on rare occasions.

At the other end of current cinema science fiction we have a film that is built around giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING (2018) should not have been as enjoyable as it turned out to be. As a sequel it should be a weaker version of the original movie running the surviving characters through their paces while introducing some cardboard new faces to take the place of the hearty souls that perished in the last story. So, how did this movie manage to surprise me? It refuses to copy and paste the first film. Yes, it brings the next generation of Jeager controllers on board giving us the fresh, young faces to pilot the robots but it makes a couple of sharp turns with the new characters. The story has advanced ten years so the holdovers are the same but different. In fact, some of the changes to them are both logical and horrible turning the third act of this story in an interesting direction. I won't spoil things but I was impressed with how this continuation grows the storyline in smart ways giving the Pacific Rim title an even more understood importance. And they did it all without subverting the victory of the first movie! I love it.

What anyone would fear from a film of this type is that it will descend to the crap level of the useless Transformers franchise where nothing matters except spectacle and explosions. But, if anything, this movie made the returning characters richer and the new people are well drawn and easily relatable. This bodes well for any future sequels and i hope we get them.


ANNIHILATION (2018) - 8 
NAKED...YOU DIE (1969) - 7 (rewatch)
MY FORBIDDEN PAST (1951) - 7 (New Orleans drama with Mitchum)
DARK HARVEST (1992) - 2 (shot on video mess)
THESEUS AND THE MINOTAUR (2017) - 4 (no budget fantasy tries hard)
THE SAGA OF HEMP BROWN (1958) - 6 (standard western made good by cast)
DIMENSION 5 (1966) - 3 (terrible, cheap SF spy tale)
THE MYSTERIOUS MAGICIAN (1964) - 7 (a.k.a. DER HEXER - fun krimi)
THE SCARLET CLAW (1944) - 7 (rewatch) (creepy Sherlock tale)
LIFE (2017) - 7 (good ALIEN clone)
DAUGHTER OF DRACULA (1972) -6 (Jess Franco vampire film)
NIGHT SCHOOL (1981) - 6 (not bad slasher)
CRY WOLF (1947) - 7 (Flynn & Stanwyck in mystery melodrama)
ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO (1967) - 7 (solid western with Peppard and Dean Martin)
ISLAND CLAWS (1980)- 5 (well done but let down by FX) 
THE NICE GUYS (2015) - 8  (rewatch)

Friday, April 13, 2018

ALIEN (1979) Poster Art

Decades later this film continues to inspire artists.