by Mel Valentin
Released in 1980 under Roger Corman’s schlock-heavy, exploitation-churning studio, New World Pictures, "Humanoids From the Deep" is exactly what you’d expect from a combination from Corman’s approach to filmmaking for the masses, a semi-inept, cheesy, low-budget science-fiction/horror flick starring fading B-movie stars and a cast of unknowns (and who remained unknown after this film was made, for obvious reasons). Unsurprisingly, the storyline in "Humanoids From the Deep" provides a convenient excuse for gore- and nudity-filled scenes, all of them gratuitous (and for the gore scenes, mostly unconvincing). Plot, logic, and suspense are purely secondary concerns (you can also forget about meaningful character development or character depth).Set in a small, impoverished fishing village on the coast of Northern California, Humanoids From the Deep opens with a humanoid (unseen) versus a fishing boat. Caught in the fishing boat’s nets, the humanoid’s struggles lead to a fiery explosion that destroys the fishing boat, but not before a young boy is pulled inexorably underwater, releasing a bright cloud of blood into the water. Enter the ostensible hero, fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure, The Land That Time Forgot, The People That Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core), expressing concern over the fishing boat’s destruction. Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow, Combat!), a fisherman and local racist, suspects Native American interference, specifically Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya). Oddly, with the local fish population dwindling, a cannery operation is planned for construction. Hill and Slattery support the construction of the new cannery (Johnny doesn’t, for no clearly defined reason).
"Nothing to see here, folks. Nothing to see. Seriously."
The humanoids from the deep, of course, have ventured onto dry land with a clearly defined, if completely preposterous goal. Cue horny teenagers and twenty-somethings, wandering into secluded coves for some much-needed catharsis. The humanoids, apparently attracted by the scent of nubile, scantily clad young woman attack, killing the males and attempting to procreate with the females. Yes folks, you read that right, the humanoid attacks are used to reveal ample nudity, followed by tasteless, unnecessary scenes of the humanoids forcing themselves on the women. Thankfully, those scenes are relatively brief.
A marine biologist associated with the cannery, Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) begins to shows interest in the attacks, accompanying Jim on a fishing expedition (she also manages to get into a bathing suit, right before they encounter a group of humanoids protecting a nest area. So what exactly are the humanoids? It takes little brainpower to guess the humanoids are, once again, scientific experiments gone awry (this time funded by a profit-driven corporation seeking to create bigger, fatter salmon). Hill is left with an untenable theory about the attacks, a disbelieving sheriff, and a festival culminating in a seaside funfair (a ripe target for the humanoids). The humanoids attack, blood is spilled (alas, not copiously enough), and screaming extras run headlong into the slow-moving humanoids. Oh, and let’s not forget the superfluous subplot involving Hill’s superfluous wife Carol (Cindy Weintraub), who appears in several unnecessary scenes.
The preceding description may, alas, make Humanoids From the Deep far more interesting than the ultimate result, a plodding, pedestrian effort that completely lacks tension or suspense (thanks to clumsily staged scenes by director Barbara Peters), rote characterizations, clichéd situations and conflict that serve as background filler between the humanoid attacks, and the head-scratching decision to show the poorly designed humanoids in daylight early in the film, making each subsequent return laughable. Rob Bottin, who only a year later would contribute his makeup effects expertise on The Howling and John Carpenter’s The Fog and The Thing, had obviously little to work with here, in terms of budget, time, or conception (he was also twenty-one when he provided his services to Humanoids From the Deep). Performance wise, the actors fail to leave a memorable impression, although Ann Turkel deserves to be singled out for atrocious line readings (granted, she had pseudo-scientific jargon to work with in most of her scenes). Composer James Horner (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), in an obviously early effort, provides a spare, above-average score that proves to be the only notable feature in the entire film.Ultimately, even aficionados of schlocky, early 80s, sci-fi/horror exploitation fare who find themselves bored on a Friday or Saturday night and wander into the local video store looking for cheesy or campy escapist entertainment should probably show some self-restraint and give "Humanoids From the Deep" (decent cover art notwithstanding) a pass. Then again, fans of schlocky, early 80s, sci-fi/horror exploitation fare would do better to rent 1984’s underseen and definitely underappreciated "C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers)" instead. Or not. As another alternative, try similarly themed, but infinitely more amusing, "The Horror of Party Beach," either straight up or via the MST3K treatment.
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originally posted: 08/14/05 18:08:36