Some very disturbing things are happening in the small fishing town of Noyo, California. A fishing boat blows ups without warning, the town’s dog population mysteriously winds up dead, and several residents seem to up and disappear out of thin air. The timing for all of this couldn’t be worse. They’re just days away from their annual Salmon Festival, and a new, though controversial, canning facility is set to start construction soon, something that’s set to bring more jobs to little Noyo. The canning company, Canco (no really, that’s the name) has even sent some VIPs to the town to drum up support, including one of its own scientists. But as more strange things continue to happen, it’s becoming apparent to some of the locals that Canco may already be more involved in the happenings of this small town than they’re letting on.
Oh, sure, blame the Mega Corporation for all your problems.
Humanoids from the Deep is an exploitative B-movie with an interesting bit of backstory. It was directed by Barbara Peeters, which may surprise some people when you consider the films subject matter of murder and rape. But it was also produced by none other than Roger Corman (though his name appears nowhere in the credits.)
Corman was plenty happy with the gruesome death scenes Peeters put to film. But when it came to her use of ‘shaddowed’ rape scenes it seems Peeters didn’t live up to his expectations. So he brought in someone else to add a little tasteless sexual assault and nudity to the film. Which, as a financier, was probably something he had every right to do, except he did it in a really dickish way by….apparently not telling anyone he was doing it. They found out when the film was released. Needless to say, people were not happy. ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it hard to imagine being peeved off at having someone change your work without you knowing about it. If someone did that to me, I’d probably want my name off the movie, too.
Actually, I could probably find several reasons. That last one would just be the tipping point.
All that said, the movie really isn’t any more deep, plotwise, with or without the nudity and rape. The only thing that really does is help bring out the grindhouse fans and distract from the dull-ass, Frankenstein-ed-from-other-movies plot. I mean, Humanoids is an exploitative creature feature, sure, but it’s also got some eco-horror and social politics thrown into the mix. Because if you can’t pick one good idea out of the bunch, why not just cobble all your good ideas together. It’s the Roger Corman way.
Other than the obvious issue of the murderous, horny fishman, the rest of the plot focuses on Noyo’s dwindling salmon population and the tension that creates between the white fishermen and the local Native American population. Yes, ladies and gents, the film throws in a bunch of obvious racism to go with the rape and murder. It’s just a smorgasbord of bad taste all around. Add in a questionably dubious company that’s coming into a sleepy little community to ‘help’ and a semi-creepy scientist who knows more than she’s letting on and you’ve got just about every horror movie cliche covered.
And if you missed any, scientist lady here can help you find more.
With all that intrigue and conflict going on you’d think the non-monster sections of the movie would be more interesting. But, alas, they are not. They’re mostly just dull, or make no sense, or come across as some high-school power-play acted out by fully-grown adults. So basically they end up feeling like sloppy, slap-dashed segues meant to pad out the film. Which, to be fair, is exactly what they are, but they don’t necessarily need to feel that way. I mean, you have a plethora of monsters running around that your plot revolves around. Why aren’t you focusing more on what they’re doing/causing? No one is going to hit play on a movie called Humanoids from the Deep so they can get a lesson is socio-political issues regarding fishing rights from the early 1980s. Sure, it might work on some films, but this ain’t Jaws. Know your audience, movie.
She looks about as thrilled to be in this scene as I was watching it.
What the film does get right is the murderous monsters. Here is where the film really shines, because if you’re going to have a movie about murderous monsters than those scenes damn well better be entertaining. Well, at least I think as far as the gore-hounds are concerned they end up being pretty entertaining. Chunks of flesh are ripped off, people are decapitated, and bodies are snapped in two. It may not be the bloodiest monster movie, but I don’t think anyone can deny that the Humanoids know how to get the job done.
Now, keep in mind that, for the most part, the Humanoids are just people walking around in slimy rubber suits (remember Roger Corman.) But the film is shot in such a way as to leave them partially obscured for most of the film, choosing the ‘less is more’ approach in order to build mystery and tension. This is surprisingly effective and greatly appreciated, because after the movie starts showing you more of them they start to lose a bit of their appeal and their fear factor. In the full light of day they look goofy as hell, and on top of that, despite being bipedal, they’re also slow as molasses on land. The only reason anyone really dies in this film is due to the element of surprise. If you saw one coming beforehand you could probably easily get away from them with a brisk stroll.
So, is Humanoids From the Deep any good? If you’re a fan of monster and exploitation films than yes. The monsters are fun, and the nudity and gore are plentiful. The subplots are all boring and slog the movie down, and the acting can be hit or miss, but overall it’s a decent monster flick. Chessy, but decent. I certainly think it’s one of the better ones Corman was involved with, and that’s saying something.
Humanoids From the Deep is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
It is also available on DVD and Bluray.