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Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Friday, January 16, 2015

[Aquaphobia] Humanoids From The Deep (1980)

Humanoids From The Deep - Theatrical Poster
Theatrical Poster
In the modest coastal town of Noyo, a small group of fishermen think they've wrangled the catch of the day when they net something of a pretty substantial size. This isn't a school of salmon, though, but rather something else entirely that murders a child when he falls overboard. Sent into a panic, the crew scrambles to help, but a poorly aimed emergency flare ignites a puddle of gasoline on the deck, ensuring that there are no survivors left to tell the tale.

Local tough-but-nice-guy angler and family man Jim Hill witnesses the explosion, and the next morning he and his wife Carol find their dog dead. In fact, a vast majority of the dogs along the shoreline have been killed. The bigoted Slatterly is fairly certain that the Native American Johnny Eagle is to blame, so he kills Eagle's dog in return.

A short time later, horny teenagers Peggy and Jerry are cavorting in the ocean, when Jerry is dragged beneath the surf, half of his face torn away. The monster, who we see clearly for the first time, then abducts Peggy, takes her into the sand dunes, and rapes her.

More attacks follow. Two more horny teenagers, Billy and Becky, are camping on the beach. In their tent,
Humanoids From The Deep - Ventriloquist Sex Machine
Ventriloquist Sex Machine
Becky is so aroused by Billy's ventriloquist act (seriously), that she strips naked and has to have it right now. Unfortunately for her, Billy is killed and it is a monster that gives it to her.

When Jim's brother narrowly survives an attack, and there are finally eye witnesses to describe the assailant, he takes it upon himself to get personally involved. Teaming up with Susan Drake, the scientist working closely with the local cannery, they locate the caves where the beasts are living, fight off an entire pack of them, and even manage to procure a dead specimen for analysis. They also locate the missing Peggy, in a state of shell shock and wrapped in seaweed, but very much alive, and take her back to town for immediate medical attention.

Susan theorizes that these ghastly creatures have an origin story closely linked with the cannery. They have been pumping salmon full of chemicals to increase their size, and the recently-discovered prehistoric Titan fish have been consuming them, inadvertently causing accelerated evolution which turns the titans from relatively-harmless sea dwellers into murderous humanoids (from the deep, naturally).

Just as Susan and Jim are starting to get answers, things reach a serious crescendo at the town's annual Salmon Festival. As hundreds of people gravitate and celebrate at the shoreline, the entire humanoid society converges on them, bursting through the boardwalk before raping and murdering with wild abandon.

Humanoids From The Deep - The Humanoids (From The Deep)
The Humanoids (From The Deep)
This scene is the must-see scene in the film, full of protracted and wide-ranging shots of some of the wildest violence in memory: a man's head is torn right off his body, there's a chase on a moving merry-go-round, a topless beauty queen bashes a monster's head in, and the water surrounding them is literally on fire. Meanwhile, everyone who is not currently tangling with a sea beast is purposefully running from one or inadvertently to one. It is sheer, unadulterated madness.

While all of this is going on, Jim's wife and child are in danger at home from a mutant that has wandered away from the rest of the pack. It's easy to forget that Jim even has a family, what with everything else going on and the fact that in nearly every other film, Jim would have ended up romantically involved with Susan. Jim rushes to his family's aid while the townsfolk give the last of the monsters a good ol' fashion boot party.

Come the light of day, things look damn near post-apocalyptic, but there is no construction without destruction, and so the townsfolk can begin to rebuild.

But like any good horror flick, there's one final scare before the closing credits start to roll. Peggy is surrounded by medical personnel, obviously in great pain. We come to realize that she is giving birth, and we know what that means: monster baby. We're perhaps expecting something akin to the birth scene in V, where a newborn baby is revealed to be reptilian, much to the chagrin of the mother. Instead, we are treated to the birth scene from ALIEN, as the baby bursts out of its mother's gut...and only then do we fade to black.

If Larry Cohen had directed CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, it probably would have been something like this. Even some of the beachside attack scenes reminded me of his killer-babies-all-grown-up doing the same from IT'S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1987). Cohen was nowhere to be found in this production, but another low-budget auteur did have his hands all over this piece of cinema: Producer Roger Corman.

With lots of gore and surprisingly good special effects, it's obvious that Corman had come a long way since the days of MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR and DAY THE WORLD ENDED. There are exploitative elements here there will not appeal to all tastes, but a little gratuitous nudity every now and then never hurt anyone, and the rape scenes, while tasteless, are brief and truly not graphic, though many people seem to think otherwise. They are more implied than anything, a far cry from controversial but critically acclaimed films like BAISE MOI or IRREVERSIBLE.

Still, it was a little surprising to see that this movie was directed by a woman...until I learned that Corman hired a second (male) director to spice things up after he was less-than-impressed with the initial cut of the film. Even with the new material, this down-and-dirty ditty still runs a mere 80 minutes or so—it's a brief ride, but also one of Corman's most entertaining.

Humanoids From The Deep - Original Newspaper Ad
From The Herald Journal, 05.10.1980
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP takes the unspoken sexuality inherent in Universal Studio's CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and turns it up to eleven, without worry of good taste. This is an exploitation film, after all, and if you're looking for good taste, you probably shouldn't be looking in this particular neighborhood. It pretends to be something more—hence the shallow commentary on blue collar struggles, the perilous economy, ecological conditions, corporate America, racism and the Native American plight—but it's obvious that most (if not all) of this is just a front, an excuse to showcase the girls, gills and kills that the audience was putting down money to see.  There was, perhaps, a small lesson learned at the end of the film when Slattery goes against character to jeopardize his own life to save a child, and Johnny Eagle in turn has to save him, but that's a long way to go for a brief moment of tolerance.

For a movie about horny fish people, it sure does follow a lot of the tenets of the slasher film: the killer begins in the shadows, slowly exposing more and more of his visage; characters (mostly young) are introduced only to be killed off moments later, mere fodder for the slaughter; sex equals death; and just when you think the killer is dead, he pops back up again for one final scare.  In this instance, though, it is not a solitary killer but rather a whole race of them.  But still, you may as well slap hockey masks over their faces for all the difference that makes.

The humanoids themselves look pretty good, with their slimy, seaweed-strewn bodies and large fishy heads full of tiny sharp teeth. Their arms are absurdly long, though, which I imagine is meant to assist in their swimming...or their abduction of buxom beauties with which to procreate. Their skulls are apparently quite thin, as their brains are nearly visible right through their head, which makes them susceptible to headshots, much like zombies. The humanoids were created and designed by Rob Botin, who also designed the look of Robocop, and worked on films such as PIRANHA (1978), THE FOG (1980), THE HOWLING (1981), THE THING (1982), TOTAL RECALL (1990), SE7EN (1995), FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998), and FIGHT CLUB (1999).  One hell of a filmography, if you ask me.

The script was written by William Martin under the pen name Frederick James. Whatever name he goes by, he only has one other credit to his filmography—he cowrote (and narrated) the documentary GEORGE WASHINGTON: THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T BE KING (1992) with Donald Sutherland.

Director Barbara Peeters has a relatively short, but massively intriguing, resumé. She directed the groundbreaking lesbian drama THE DARK SIDE OF TOMORROW (1970); the biker chick revenge flick BURY ME AN ANGEL (1972); the saucy SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS (1974); the sexy drive-in comedy STARHOPS (1978); and episodes of THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR (1983), CAGNEY & LACEY (1983), REMINGTON STEELE (1984), and MISFITS OF SCIENCE (1986). She wrote, and perhaps appeared in, the X-rated CAGED DESIRES (1970), of which very little information seems readily available.  Peeters was reportedly very upset with the changes that Corman had made to the picture, which he is said to have done without her knowledge.

Jimmy T. Murakami was the secret, uncredited director of the added footage of rape and general mayhem. He had only directed animation up until that point (including the never-aired THE MAD MAGAZINE TV SPECIAL from 1974).  The same year as HUMANOIDS, he also directed Corman's BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS before settling back into animation for the duration of his career.

Johnny Eagle was played by Anthony Pena, who had small parts in the critically derided MEGAFORCE (1982), THE RUNNING MAN (1987), and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY (1989), but is most known for his impressive 20 year run as Miguel Rodriguez on the soap opera THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS (1986-2006). His nemesis in this movie, Hank Slattery, was played by Hollywood heavy Vic Morrow. Morrow got his start in BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955), and went on to appear in many films that will appeal to the genre fan: Elvis's KING CREOLE (1958); as Dutch Schultz in PORTRAIT OF A MOBSTER (1961); the Corman-directed TARGET: HARRY (1969); DIRTY MARY CRAZY LARRY (1974), with Peter Fonda and Susan George; THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA (1975); the Dan Curtis TV movie CURSE OF THE BLACK WIDOW (1977); the Star Wars rip-off MESSAGE FROM SPACE (1978); Charles B. Pierce's THE EVICTORS (1979); the Jaws-derivative THE LAST SHARK (1981); and the gangs-of-the-future flick 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (1982). His final role was in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983), as he was unfortunately killed in the tragic helicopter crash that occurred during filming.

Dr. Susan Drake was portrayed by Ann Turkel, who started in stage plays, transitioned into modeling, and then settled into television and film with 99 AND 44/100% DEAD (1974)—though she did previously have a minor role in the sports comedy PAPER LION (1968). She later appeared in the outbreak-on-a-train epic THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (1976) with Sophia Loren, Martin Sheen, and O.J. Simpson; the hijack drama GOLDEN RENDEZVOUS (1977); the post-apocalyptic RAVAGERS (1979); Fred Olen Ray's sci-fi horror flick DEEP SPACE (1988); and the poorly rated horror film THE FEAR (1995).

Cindy Weintraub filled the role of Carol Hill, and has only two further credits to her name: she appeared in the Joseph Zito horror film THE PROWLER (1981), and all six episodes of the short-lived police comedy BAKER'S DOZEN (1982).  Her movie husband, Doug McClure (Jim Hill), has a filmography that is quite a bit more expansive.  Aside from appearing in numerous westerns and crime dramas for television and cinema, he can also be found in GIDGET (1959); the car-based action flick THE LIVELY SET (1964); the airline thrillers TERROR IN THE SKY (1971) and SST: DEATH FLIGHT (1977); the TV movie SATAN'S TRIANGLE (1975); the Edgar Rice Burroughs adaptations THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT (1975), THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977) and AT THE EARTH'S CORE (1976); the fantasy adventure WARLORDS OF THE DEEP (1978); and the Americans-haunted-in-Japan movie THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS (1982), with Susan George. Children of the 1980s may remember him for his recurring role as the mayor in the sci-fi sitcom OUT OF THIS WORLD (1987-1991).

It's nice to see that even a blue collar fisherman can make his way into politics.

Humanoids From The Deep - The Humanoids, From Bluewater Comics
The Humanoids, From Bluewater Comics
There was apparently talk of a sequel to HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP that never panned out, however indie publisher Bluewater Productions scored the licensing rights to the film, and released their own one-shot comic book sequel in 2010.

It was remade for cable channel Showtime by Corman's Concorde-New Horizons in 1996.  This remake curiously removed much of the gratuitous gore and nudity, perhaps becoming closer to what Barbara Peeters had initially envisioned. Doing so, though, also removed much of the teeth that the original had, and is a much less interesting film because of it—which is amusing, as this movie is basically an uncredited remake of THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, and it added teeth to that product.

This film was released in some territories under the completely generic title MONSTER, which may have caused some confusion as there was another sea creature movie called MONSTER that was released the same year—though that one sometimes goes by the alternate title of MONSTROID, which is a bit too close to humanoid, if you ask me.  You can call Corman's production MONSTER, or CREATURE or even THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO, it doesn't matter.

It will always be HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP to me.

--J/Metro

4 comments:

  1. I watched this last October and had a lot of the same thoughts. This is hardly a great movie, but I enjoyed the hell out of watching it. The science is so bad, the premise so ludicrous, and the idea of the fish monsters specifically getting their victims naked before attacking them so funny that I couldn't help but be entertained the whole way through.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. SJHoneywell,

      Yep, indeed it is a lot of fun. Deliciously tasteless! Thanks for stopping by the new digs!

      --J/Metro

      Delete
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