Shout Factory has done it again with their Roger Corman Cult Classics imprint with their release of the infamous 1980 cult classic Humanoids from the Deep. I received Humanoids from the Deep as a birthday present from my best friend and was super excited to watch and write about it. On a side note, you know someone is your best friend when they look at the long list of movies that Netflix swears it doesn’t have and can pick the one that’s just right for a present.
The fishing town of Noyo, California is picturesque but is being torn apart from within. Noyo is known for its salmon and the canning company, Canco, wants to open a cannery. Most of the people want this but it’s opposed by the local Native American tribe. Tensions are running high. They increase when all the fishermen’s dogs are found mutilated except for that of Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya). When Johnny’s dog is mutilated, this prompts a fight with local bigot, cannery supporter, and righteous white-guy ‘fro sporter Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow).
While this is happening, several groups of teens disappear. Creatures are coming from the sea, killing the men, and raping the women. Local Jim Hill’s (Doug McClure) brother is attacked, giving him a personal interest in what’s happening. Unlike Slattery, he’s willing to work with Johnny Eagle to figure out what’s happening. Canco scientist Dr. Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) admits that an experimental chemical to increase fish yields was released during a storm and that she was pressured by Canco to keep it quiet.
While hunting the creatures, Jim, Johnny, and Dr. Drake find Peggy (Lynn Schiller), the only victim who survives.
They also manage to kill one of the creatures and it’s super gross. You’ll never want to eat butterscotch pudding again.
Now they just have to save everyone at the salmon festival where the monsters are running amok!
I have to admit, I normally hate rubber-suit creature movies. I don’t even like the Universal Creature from the Black Lagoon. Sorry. I’ve just never been interested in or scared by these movies. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too many Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies where the creatures are falling into their own eye-bags and have mouths full of hot dogs.
Director Barbara Peeters and humanoid creator Rob Bottin [We've seen his work in Piranha (1978), The Fog (1980), and The Thing (1982)] worked really hard to build an atmosphere of tension and the creatures are legitimately gross. I think the thing that was missing in a lot of creature features is the texture. These monsters look like they were dumped in a barrel of K-Y Jelly and they probably were. It’s not just the creatures, the mutilations hold up really well for a movie that is thirty-four years-old.
The version released by Shout Factory is the uncut European edition, also known as Monster. They didn’t even change the title card.
The big elephant in the room, right now, is the portrayal of rape in this movie. I’ve complained about the portrayal of rape in media in the past but my major complaint is when rape is used as a narrative tool to move along a character’s (Usually male) story-line without exploring the effects on the victim. It should be a corollary of women in refrigerators syndrome and it’s why I won’t watch some shows.
To be honest, this movie does engage in this. We don’t find out what happens to Peggy, the only surviving victim, until the last possible scene. This doesn’t bother me the way it does in other movies and shows because we don’t see the Vengeful Boyfriend’s Quest of Righteousness, either. The rape wasn’t used as a means to drive the boyfriend to character development, it was used because that’s what invaders do, somewhere between the genocide and smallpox blankets.
This movie in its original form, before it was released, had most of the gore but the rapes were portrayed by pulling the camera away and showing the shadows. Roger Corman wasn’t pleased with this and had second unit director James Sbardellati film the rape scenes. The changes were made without telling Barbara Peeters or any of the principles working on the movie. After it was released, Peeters and Turkel both asked to have their names removed from the movie but were denied.
I understand their reaction, to a degree. If I worked on a movie and the executive producer stepped in and added scenes that changed the tone, without my knowledge, I’d be angry. That being said, I don’t think the scenes hurt the movie. They don’t glorify rape or make it look fun or erotic. And it fits in with the racial tension in the town. What do you think happened when Johnny Eagle’s people made first contact with Europeans? It probably looked a lot like what the humanoids do to the town.
I actually liked this movie a lot. It was creepy and it didn’t shy away from what invaders would do. And it’s (hopefully) the only movie I’ve ever seen that used a ventriloquist dummy in foreplay.