Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Humanoids from the Deep

Film: Humanoids from the Deep (Monster)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on laptop.

Ah, Roger Corman brings such joy to the movie screen, doesn’t he? You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a film that Corman either directed or produced. You’re going to get some monsters, lots of nudity, and a running time under 90 minutes. With Humanoids from the Deep, also released under the title Monster, that’s what you’re getting. It’s Corman-style rapey sea creatures in a film that is either a highly-sexed version of The Creature from the Black Lagoon or a nudity-laden version of The Horror of Party Beach. There’s even social commentary, ham-handed as only Corman can do it.

Let’s keep this really simple. In Noyo, California, the main industry is salmon fishing, but the salmon are going away. A canning company called Canco (points for originality in the name) has plans to put a new facility into Noyo and also promises to increase the salmon catch dramatically. There are a few people in the town opposed to Canco, primarily Johnny Eagle (Anthony Pena), the local Indian guy and our unofficial stand-in for biological and ecological sanity. There’s a great deal of tension between Johnny Eagle and many of the drunk redneck locals, primarily Hank Slattery (Vic Goddam Morrow).

Anyway, as it happens, there is also an imminent invasion of humanoid fish creatures, a la the Gill Man or the monsters from Party Beach. Like any self-respecting humanoid creature, it has only a couple of genetic imperatives: kill all of the men and procreate with any available human female through the time-honored monster tradition of rape. There are several monster attacks through the film that give us little glimpse into the creatures and lots of full-frontal nudity.

Eventually, people start disappearing and things get serious enough that people go looking for the monsters, and boy do they ever find them. Primary in this search is the aforementioned Johnny Eagle, who is mainly assisted by Jim Hill (Doug McClure) and the lone scientist from Canco who is aware of the problem and wants to help, Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel). Eventually, the creatures attack the town en masse during the town’s yearly salmon festival and all hell breaks loose in one of the most ridiculous 15 minutes or so I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

So let’s get into some details that either make this film the height of stupid or exactly the kind of ridiculous “horror” action that a particular type of movie fan wants. First is the completely gratuitous nudity. About half of the time one of the creatures attack a woman, it make sure to give us a glimpse of what lies under the clothing before completing the attack. In fact, at one point, a woman in a bikini is attacked, and the creature specifically rips off her top before attacking further. Thanks, monster!

Second is the pitifully bad science. It’s the theory of Dr. Drake that the creatures come from an accident in the lab. See, the researchers were working with a newfangled DNA with the awesome science-y name of “DNA 5” when some of it was lost in an accident. She believes that other fish may have eaten the DNA 5 salmon and thus mutated into humanoid creatures. Because that’s how DNA works, you know. If you eat something, you incorporate its DNA into your genome. Next time you have a helping of fries, be prepared for your genome to incorporate bits of potato DNA. It’s also her contention that the fish in question are more primitive ones caught off the California coast. She specifically references the Indian Ocean fish the coelacanth, which has never been found around California. Then again, she also pronounces the word “co-EL-a canth” instead of the accepted “SEE-luh-canth,” so I’m not sure how much she can be trusted.

Third is the gore. There’s a lot of blood in this movie, along with ripped apart faces, bleeding torsos, and a guy getting his head ripped clean off at one point. The creatures themselves seem to have skin like tissue paper. Hitting one with anything causes a massive fountain of blood. Oh, they all take multiple bullets to drop, but if you whack one on the head with part of a 2X4, it’ll spray blood in a 10-foot radius. The ending is mildly legendary, when one of the critter rape victims gives birth to her own baby humanoid. Let’s just leave it at the fact that Croneneberg did it better in The Fly. But this leads into the final point about this movie. If you were raped by a humanoid, half-salmon, fanged death monster and then found yourself pregnant, would you bring the baby to term?

Fourth, and perhaps most important, is just the random goofiness that films like this are filled with. We have a radio personality, for instance, who works in a town where the major industry is salmon fishing, and he’s unable to properly pronounce the word “salmon” (he says “SAL-mon”). We have people just sort of standing around while creatures run rampant, doing nothing until one of them attacks. Near the end, the Vic Morrow character attempts to save a little girl from the creatures by reaching down to pull her up part of a collapsed dock, and he finds that he can’t reach her. He can’t because he’s also crouched about five feet from the edge—of course he can’t reach her. Move up a couple of feet and lean over.

Humanoids from the Deep is a big, dumb ‘80s horror film. There are no surprises here and plenty of nudity for those who enjoy seeing naked women in distress. I have to admit, I had fun watching it, but really, it’s pretty dumb.

Why to watch Humanoids from the Deep: This is exactly what you expect from a slasher-y monster movie from this era.
Why not to watch: It’s really, really not very good.

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