Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
"They're not human. But they hunt human women. Not for killing. For mating."
Something strange is happening in the sleepy fishing village of Noyo when salmon stocks begin to dwindle and dogs are turning up dead. Scientist Susan Drake and local fisherman Jim Hill team up to investigate the cause of the problems and discover a terrible race of fishlike humanoid creatures, spawned by mutant DNA, have begun rising from the ocean floor. With the annual Salmon Festival on the horizon, some unwanted guests are about to crash the festivities.
I missed out the key part about the humanoids wanting to mate with human women (not just any women either but hot, young and usually topless females – these creatures are pretty choosy!) but the notion of a bit of a monster-human rape would have been enough to throw a lot of potential viewers off this exploitation classic from the master of sleaze, Roger Corman. Humanoids from the Deep plays like the dirtier, exploitative version of Creature from the Black Lagoon. Remember all of those shots of the Gill Man gazing lovingly at Julie Adams and then making off with her to his lair…. and remember all of the questions as to why he wanted to take her. Well Corman is happy to answer those question in graphic form here.
Focusing on this one sleazy aspect of the film would do a dis-service to Humanoids from the Deep, a great schlocky throwback to the 50s sci-fi horrors of old coupled with the promise of what was to come in the gory horror decade that was the 80s. It’s low budget and that vibe hits from the opening scene and title credits but the grotty and gloomy appearance of the film works in its favour. This fishing village is the perfect location to set a horror film, vaguely reminiscent of Jaws to some degree, and is equally depressing and creepy. Humanoids from the Deep has a decent pace and there’s enough going on at any one time to keep the film interesting even if the first half of the film seems to be little more than human drama interlinked with a couple of random humanoid attacks. Plot and script wasn’t high on the agenda here as there’s little questioning as to how or why the humanoids have arrived but rather the ‘what’ as in ‘what are we going to do about it?’ Best to sit back and take everything as it comes.
And everything comes! The humanoid suit was designed by quality FX specialist Rob Bottin, more famous for his work on The Thing and a number of Paul Verhoeven films. I say suit in singular form rather than plural as apparently only one fully-operational suit was created due to costs – the other two suits you can see in the film had issues and so the camera is only able to shoot them from certain angles. The humanoids look like aggressive updates of the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon. With long, gangly arms, a set of razor sharp teeth, green-skinned and covered in sea weed, and with a high-pitched shrieking scream, these monsters certainly look and sound the part. They’re pretty handy when it comes to dispatching victims too. The blood is free flowing with mutilated dogs turning up, guys having their backs slashed, throats ripped apart and insides gored out. Kids are killed, babies terrified and there’s even a disturbing scene involving a ventriloquist dummy. Humanoids from the Deep's best set piece is an all-out attack on the town's festival with the creatures taking apart local residents celebrating on a pier.
If there is one glaring issue with Humanoids from the Deep, it’s the waste of Doug McClure. Though he gets top-billing, McClure is phoning it in big-style from the beginning and he gets very little to do. A man of his considerable B-movie charm should have been getting a little more rough and ready with the humanoids, throwing punches and being more gung-ho to save the town. Co-star Vic Morrow was another talented B-movie veteran who could have been given more to do other than stick close to the script as the villainous Slattery. It’s a waste of their talents and with the film running for a little over eighty minutes, a bit more could have been done with them. It doesn't help that everything is played so straight and serious - there is a serious lack of fun and self-awareness which would have allowed McClure to flourish, rather than play a dour character.
It wouldn’t be right to end the review without going full circle and talking about the infamous scenes of the humanoids getting jiggy with human females. They’re guys-in-suits shoving actresses to the ground when all is said and done. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy but the scenes don’t ‘mean’ anything to me, they’re just daft exploitation scenes from a film which goes below the belt at every opportunity for maximum effect. Director Barbara Peters shot the film and was finishing up but Corman wasn’t happy with the finished results, thought it was too tame and requested extra nudity. Peters refused and wanted nothing to do with the film, Corman fired her and hired someone else to shoot the scenes. Ironically, these scenes never made it into the final cut and ended up as deleted scenes on the DVD, with Peters’ credit restored to one of the popular and enduring of all of Corman’s films. Between this, Galaxy of Terror and Forbidden World, Corman had cemented his legacy as one of horror’s most popular exploitation producers.
Not one for the purists or feminists, what’s not to like about Humanoids from the Deep? It’s a trash movie masterpiece at its most exquisite: blood, boobs and mutated beasts with a whopping side order of bad taste to go along with it. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Humanoids from the Deep
Director(s): Barbara Peeters
Writer(s): Frank Arnold (story), Martin B. Cohen (story), Frederick James (screenplay)
Actor(s): Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Cindy Weintraub, Anthony Pena, Denise Galik, Lynn Theel, Meegan King
Duration: 80 mins