Shout! Factory // 1980 // 82 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 2nd, 2010
From the caverns of the deep...IT STRIKES!
"If we're finding salmon this size here, we can't be too far from what we're looking for." -- Foreshadowing chitchat during a Humanoid hunt
In the small fishing village of Noyo, tensions are running deep. A large corporation is looking to build a cannery, which will help bring more jobs to the town. Almost everyone is in favor of this bit of progress, except local Native American Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya, Megaforce). The town bullies, led by the villainous, perm-haired Hank (Vic Morrow, Portrait of a Mobster), suspect that a rash of dog killings is the work of Johnny's activism, and decide to go after him.
Little do the yokels know that their pooch population is being decimated not by Johnny, but by some foul, amphibious hybrids that live in the water -- or, more colloquially, Humanoids From the Deep. While the Humanoids don't care a jot about the cannery or the Native American's claim to land and water rights, they are interested in feeding on the fleshy folks of Noyo. Well, not all the fleshy folks. While the men might make for good late night snackin', the women hold a different kind of allure. Yes, these slimy, half-human Frat-boys (pardon the redundancy) have one thing on their mind when they spy a comely beach girl, and it's not her astrological sign. The buxom babes of Noyo are the perfect breeding ground for the next generation of Humanoids, and none of the fetching fishwives is safe from their scaly embrace.
Humanoids From the Deep was possibly the last of its kind, a breed that wasn't so much dying as it was all ready dead: a horror/exploitation film about slimy monsters, one that wasn't a slasher, didn't involve space aliens, and wasn't some kind of spoof. Weeks before Humanoids hit the drive-in circuit, the New Kid in Town, Friday the 13th, hit the ground running, changing forever the whole horror/exploitation landscape. In terms of visceral horror, the comparatively quaint Humanoids couldn't hold a candle to the gleefully amoral slashings of Jason (and his mom). The hook: instead of random killings, the Humanoids make the sex with nubile and naked young ladies, a couple of these couplings rendered quite graphically.
We only get two such scenes, and frankly, they're more ridiculous than they are scary, titillating, or disturbing. The problem is that to show full-on monster sex, the film has to show full-on monster, and the monsters here are silly-looking, rubber-suited guys who flail around the screaming starlets, then throw them down and start humping like John Holmes, as though someone flooded the Black Lagoon with a shipment of Viagra. It's the classic cheesy monster movie tricked out with a "roughie" sensibility.
In addition to these marquee moments, we get the usual rampaging monster folderol -- gory slicings, monster POV shots (some looking fuzzy around the edges, some not), monsters popping up to terrorize the annual salmon festival, a ripped off head (that a Humanoid waves around like a trophy), and so on. While there are a couple of actors you might have heard of (Morrow, Doug McClure, Ann Turkel) and a plot of sorts, the point here is really Humanoid shenanigans, Saturday afternoon-style thrills for an R-rated audience.
Barbara Peeters (Just the Two of Us) is credited as the director, but famously clashed with producer Roger Corman about the scenes of sex and violence. Corman wanted more than Peeters was giving -- particularly, the exploitation auteur wanted more down 'n' dirty footage of pretty girls being stripped down and violated by the rubber-suited demons. Peeters balked at this, complaining that such scenes would be gratuitous -- an odd stance from the woman who gave us Starhops and Summer School Teachers, two films that were far from shy about having their leading ladies, empowered though they theoretically might have been, dropping trou at every available juncture.
In the disc's main supplement, a retrospective featuring Corman, actress Cynthia Weintraub, effects artist Chris Walas, editor Mark Goldblatt, composer James Horner, and others, there's a refreshingly candid discussion about the Corman versus Peeters kerfuffle -- a pretty one-sided kerfuffle, actually, since Corman merely had his second-unit director shoot the requisite sleazy scenes and passed them on to Goldblatt to edit into the film. Corman suggests that he had some misgivings about having a woman director shoot these scenes in the first place, and mentions that while Peeters showed the male characters being sliced and diced in gross and graphic ways, the rape scenes were portrayed in shadows.
It's actually kind of funny to hear some of the participants -- particularly Weintraub -- talk about how the actors were shocked by the finished product, since they didn't know the additional footage was being shot. Funnier still is when someone mentions that the actors thought they were making a psychological drama (called, originally, "Beneath the Darkness"), even though they all, at one time or another, share screen time with a Humanoid.
Whatever Peeters' vision might have been, it's inarguable that the grotesque and silly "assaulted by sea creatures" moments make this movie, elevating it from talky pseudo-scifi yawner to something akin to exploitation classic. Certainly, the less said about the storyline, the better, and while there are some nicely suspenseful moments, the payoffs that don't involve non-naked girls are lacking. Besides -- and how anyone associated with the film wouldn't understand this going in is beyond me -- without the boobs and grue, it just wouldn't be a Corman film.
Besides the featurette, which runs about 25 minutes, there's not a lot here, supplement-wise: a three-minute-and-change interview segment of Corman with Leonard Maltin, which was on an earlier release; the usual promotional stuff (trailers, TV spots, print ads, and the like); and about seven minutes worth of deleted scenes. Some of the deleted scenes were evidently found in a vault at MGM and don't contain sound, but were added to the disc "for rarity." While most of the soundless scenes are just alternate takes of the actors talking (silently), some of the assembled scenes would have upped the sex and gore content. Shout! Factory and Corman kind of missed a good bet here. The three or four minutes of assembled scenes could have been inserted into the film, and the disc could have been marketed as containing "never before seen shocking footage!" or some such. There's also a booklet containing an essay by Michael Felsher, which is a decent read, although he does misname one of the main characters.
Tech-wise, this isn't great as far as Blu-rays go, but it's OK. The picture is overall clear and the colors solid, even if nothing really pops. The PCM audio track does the job, though occasionally dialogue is a bit hard to hear, but it renders Horner's Bernard-Herrmann-doing-Halloween-esque score quite nicely.
What it lacks:
1. Subtitles and Audio Options English only? What is this, Proposition 227? Maybe I've just been spoiled by Blu-rays that offer multiple language options and subtitles in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Sanskrit, and ancient Sumerian, but I'm a little floored that this release offers nothing in the way of alternate language tracks or subtitles of any kind. What if I spoke Greek or Cantonese, or if I was deaf or hearing impaired? I'd be denied the whole Humanoids From the Deep experience -- well, half of it, because I could still see boobs and bloodletting.
2. Barbara Peeters How could you put out a special edition of this film without input from the (original and credited) director? So much is made of her clash with Corman that it seems remiss not to include her side. Although Peeters does not get a writing credit, the film boasts her usual nod to social commentary, here in the form of the racially fueled feuding between Native American Johnny and almost everyone else, particularly redneck ruffian Hank. It would be really interesting to know what she was intending to do and why, having worked for Corman before, she was put off by his insistence on exploiting the exploitation aspects of the film. Incidentally, from what I've read, Humanoids From the Deep was the last feature film Peeters directed, though she did work in television throughout the 1980s.
It's Corman. It's cult. It's camp. It's classic. It's Humanoids From the Deep.
How do you sentence a Humanoid?
Review content copyright © 2010 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* TV/Radio Spots
* Print Ads