A 1980 classic from the grind house days of Producer/schlock-master Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, “Humanoids from the Deep,” screams B and this is one B movie that has earned its grimy reputation. I adore it simply because it knows what it is, makes no invention, no pretense; it’s pure, utter exploitation and wallows in its sleaze like a pig in mud!
Taking its cues from better, serious pictures of the previous decade, something evil is happening in the Pacific Northwest sleepy fishing village of Noyo. Fish-like humanoid creatures, spawned by mutant DNA, begin rising from the ocean looking to mate with the local women. Scientist Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) along with local fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure, The Land That Time Forgot) seeks to investigate the cause of this invasion of creatures from the ocean floor. But when the annual Salmon Festival begins, some unwanted guests are about to crash the festivities. It’s never really explained why the fish mutants want to mate with human women, why not other fish mutant females? But if you are watching a movie with “Humanoids” in the title and ask such questions, you need to check your snooty pretense at the door. Complaining about science in a movie like this is akin to the drooling retards who complain about the science in “Star Wars,” – WHO CARES?!
The three leads are some genre favorites, Doug McClure known for his early TV westerns, but later in genre stuff like, “The Land that Time Forgot and its sequel, The People that Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and a lesser known, but a favorite of mine, “Warlords of Atlantis“; is his usual square-jawed hero persona as Jim Hill, a boring guy with a boring name. Ann Turkel is Dr. Susan Drake, who is investigating these strange murders. Not well known outside genre films, (junk like, 99 and 100% Dead) Turkel does her best, although she speaks some very bad science. In one of his final film roles before his tragic death, (he was killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie), Vic Morrow plays Hank Slattery, the town bastard; the type of role he had been great at and became typecast in since the early 70’s. All do a decent job, even when things go into idiot mode, but normal actors are not the reason we care, we want to see nudity, violence, destruction and gore and we get it- plenty of it!
A wonderful schlocky mash-up between “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “JAWS,” this glorious dung heap knows the real stars of the show are the mutants themselves; some impressive suit work headed by the legendary Rob Bottin, who was just getting his start and would set the world ablaze with iconic imagery two years later for John Carpenter’s masterpiece, “The Thing.” The creatures and their enormous bald-brainy heads are an original creation, just as cool as the xenophobe from ALIEN. Although, I’m not a fan of their elongated arms, the suits are impressive as they are full of great detail and craftsmanship, never looking like a rubber “suit” especially at the end during the raid on the Salmon festival, when the mutants come out at night and inflict monster Fu.
Another surprising aspect is the look of the film, surprisingly competent and handsome for a movie of such a high sleaze factor. Composer James Horner, working with Corman here and a year later in “Battle Beyond the Stars,” and a year after that in “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan,” delivers a chilling, effective score that surprisingly doesn’t rip anything off…
For a film that’s nearly 34 years old and coming from a low-budget, the gore is inspiring, the make-up is flawless; one great effect after another. It’s almost as good as all the gratuitous nudity, a revelation for an an impressionable 8 year-old, watching this for the first time going out of my mind. Not just for the mammary surprise, but the gore too- such extensive and realistic lengths; it’s hard to not get the urge to spew.
A fine slab of cheese and the gratuitously high mammary count doesn’t hurt, to be sure, particularly since these are the old-fashioned kind unseen in this Silicon Age. It also shares an odd noteworthy distinction as one of the few entries in the sub-genre known as “Rape horror,” “Galaxy of Terror” followed a year later with a similar scene only it was rape by a giant maggot; a year after that, “The Beast Within “had rape from giant Cicada- humanoid- Roger Corman produced the first two flick, who must have been a weird kinky fetish at the time.. Enormously ironic considering the movie was directed by a woman, Barbara Peters, who claims the gore and rape scenes were added after she left the project by second unit director James Sbardellati. Sure, honey, sure…
The most famous rape horror of them all is “The Entity”, starring Babs Hershey as a woman who is stalked and raped by a poltergeist in her home and was supposedly based on a true story. Whatever was in the water at the time, rape horror was faded away. “I Spit on your Grave” had plenty of rape, but it was more in line with a “Death Wish” than true horror; irrelevant since the film is terrible no matter what genre it falls in.
Humanoids has no ghosts, but plenty of fish raping humans- it’s a bit impossible to connect to a rubber suited mutant trying to mount a heavy-chested beauty, it’s more comical than menacing, but there are a few shots of it being highly unsettling and that’s ultimately a genius move as we are talking about it all these years later. I’m certainly not advocating this sub-genre, but in the context of both films, Beast, Humanoid, it’s bizarrely effective and a lot easier to handle than say in something more serious and realistic like “A Serbian Film”.
Although Ridley Scott’s superb, “Alien,” came before, it’s “rape scene” was very subtle and far more restrained and tastefully done; it’s not enough to fall in the sub-genre however.
Strangely enough, it would not be made today with the same memorable impact for two reasons; CG effects in horror look like video game garbage and nudity is not nearly as prevalent today, (very odd!) as it was in those days. It’s very sad how technology can do anything in movies today except for the most part, make them memorable. Horror movies are in a weird phase now where anything is off limits, really, yet no one seems to take advantage of that. Not sure why or how practical effects lost out, but they are superior in every way, having a perceptible look and feel that ugly CG cannot match.
Humanoids from the Deep is a fast-paced and peppy camp classic that should please horror and sleaze fans with its graphic gore, copious female nudity, and sardonic humor. It may very well be genre trash, and the snooty negative nimrods may cast their clueless aspersions thus, but it’s my kind of trash and I love it long time. The film is not without flashes of humor; a young couple is in a tent on the bench ready to get down. In a strange method of foreplay, the guy has a ventriloquist doll dirty talking to the young woman. The creatures attack, going for the young beauty, then a strange thing occurs- the dummy, unconnected to the guy’s hand does a double-take all by itself as the creatures attack the female and ravage the male. Very funny.
A remake was produced and aired on Showtime in 1996, during the horror resurgence, for some strange reason, the violence and nudity was toned down producing a very lazy, forgettable turd; I guess people only wanted story- YEAH right! Avoid it.