I’ve only been sued one time in my life, and it was for an overdue movie.
This is one time the video store was not my friend.
The movie in question is the Canadian slasher, Humongous. Not exactly Citizen Kane…or The Burning. In fact, it was considered such a schlocky piece of shit, I was surprised the video store didn’t pay me to take if off the shelves.
Let’s go back to where this all started — the Elmsford Drive In (which sadly is now a Sam’s Club). Only fifteen miles from my house, my family spent many a summer night at the drive in. We saw anything and everything, the good, the bad and the hideous. When my sister and I were younger, my grandfather built a platform for the backseat so we had a flat, even surface to lay upon with our pillows and blankets and popcorn. My father would wedge it in at home and drive on the Sprain Brook Parkway with us sliding around on the platform, sans seat belts. We laughed the entire way there. It was like being on a ride at the amusement park. Nowadays, we’d be required to wear helmets, a KN95 mask, four seat belts and a parachute.
For this trip in 1982, the platform was long gone and I was pumped to see the second movie on the twin bill, Humongous. I’d never seen a coming attraction or read anything about it, but the movie poster in the newspaper was bitching to say the least. It showed a freaky man-creature in a roughly made crib with a mobile overhead made of bones. Sold!
I can’t remember what the first movie was, but Humongous, to a fourteen-year-old, delivered. It starts with a scene from the forties where a drunk asstard rapes a woman named Ida. The rape is pretty brutal, but Ida seems to share a special bond with the dogs on the island, most of them German Shepherds. The dogs hear her cries and jump out of their enclosure, chewing her attacker nearly to death. She finishes him off with a rock to the head. Good for her. His “O” face still haunts me.
Fast forward to present day. Busty actress Joy Boushel showed her, um, assets, right off the bat, and teen Hunter got woozy. We’re introduced to two tow-headed rich brothers, their girlfriends and sister taking the family boat for a trip to Dog Island. One brother is a preppy all American dude, and the other is a drunk moron who totes a rifle around. Not a good combo. Though I do appreciate the cans of Bud always in his hand with the old disposable pop top.
The fog rolls in and they find a man trapped on a stalled boat and take him in. Drunk brother runs the boat on the rocks and it explodes. The model boat used for the explosion is beyond hysterical. The group of six find themselves stranded on Dog Island, a place said to be inhabited by a strange old woman and her dogs.
From there on, it’s slasher rote, as a deformed wild man (his face kept in the shadows) picks them off one by one while the kids try to solve the easiest mystery of all time as to the killer’s origins. There’s not a lot of blood, but the score is creepy and there are a couple of chase scenes that will tense you up for a bit. Overall, not as crappy as its reputation. I see worse on streaming every week.
Let’s move along to 1989. My girlfriend and I spot Humongous on the video store shelves. I tell her how great it was and we rent it. She doesn’t quite agree with my stance on Humongous after the end credits roll, but again, we’d seen worse (anyone ever see Boogeyman 2?). I take the movie and toss it in the back seat of my car, promising to return it the next day.
A little aside. The back seat of my 1978 Buick Century was filled with junk. We’re talking books and clothes, magazines, food wrappers, beer cans, wadded up napkins, strange horror toys, rolls of condoms and probably Jimmy Hoffa’s jawbone. I used to toss a blanket over all of it so I didn’t have to see the mess. I was once on a date at our local Fuddrucker’s (I know, big spender) when we spotted a woman and man, along with a police officer, standing by my car.
“Is this your car?” the cop said.
“Yeesss,” I said with some trepidation.
“I need you to open it, please. I got a report that there’s a body inside.”
I admit, the blanket over the mounds of crap did resemble a body. My girlfriend proceeded to curse the worried woman out as I showed the cop I was simply a slob. Not a fun night.
So, Humongous is now part of the garbage pile and I’ve forgotten all about it. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
Now it’s 1990. The bell rings at nine in the morning. I answer it. A man asks me my name and hands me some papers. I shuffle into the kitchen where my parents are eating breakfast. They ask me what that was about. I’m shocked to see I was just served papers to appear in court. I’m being sued for two-hundred dollars in overdue fines for the rental and non-return of a VHS copy of Humongous. My court date is set for a few weeks away.
My parents were very straight-laced and never late with even a library book. The glove compartment of my car is filled with parking tickets and I’m banned from libraries across several counties. Mom and Dad are not pleased, but I’m in my twenties and this is my problem, not theirs.
If I received those papers now, I’d have sleepless nights filled with worry and anger, both at myself for not returning Humongous and the video store for pursuing such a stupid lawsuit. But this is 1990, and what I do instead is toss the papers in the garbage and forget about the whole thing.
I never appeared in court. I was then sent an invoice to pay over three hundred dollars. I threw that away. And all the others that followed. I searched my car for Humongous but never found it. The VHS was either consumed by something living in my back seat, or maybe I had returned it after all.
Either way, I was filled with youthful indifference. Screw them. I had better things to do, like finish college, pick out a ring to slip on my girlfriend’s finger and find a real job.
After a while, the requests for payment went away. I graduated, got engaged, and landed a job at the phone company. The Century died and it, along with all the garbage in the back seat, was crushed in the junkyard.
I never knew what became of Humongous, but the whole lawsuit thing had made the movie a big part of my life. It became my white whale as I searched for a copy that didn’t cost a small fortune. I combed through eBay and Amazon and foreign websites selling DVDs that would probably never play on my American equipment.
I’d given up. Until I stumbled upon it on YouTube recently. My wife and I settled down to watch it with unmitigated glee. The transfer was actually decent, better than the battered film from the drive in. And you know what? The movie held up. It’s a little slasher time capsule and a reminder to always be kind and rewind.
And after you rewind, return the fucker!
People say that no late fees is what makes streaming movies superior to rentals. As a man who was supposed to go to court over late fees, I still prefer physical rentals. Without it, a little movie that could like Humongous wouldn’t mean so much to me, even as the lawsuit meant so little when I was a cocksure youth in need of a car maid.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal—he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. You can follow his madness at huntershea.com.