Humanoids from the Deep (And First Post!)
I love bad movies. There’s no other way to phrase it. Even when I endorse a good movie, my friends and family will look at me askance, either because they don’t trust me to pick a good movie or because they are shocked I’ve chosen something within the bounds of good taste. Perhaps I exaggerate, but there’s a reason why my family calls any bad movie one of my movies. I also love horror. I went through the typical dark (but not goth) phase of adolescence which fostered a desire to walk on the wild side. Some time after being terrified that Samara from The Ring was going to crawl out of my television, I developed a taste for all things horror.
So no one will be surprised that I have Humanoids from the Deep amidst my vast collection of schlock and horror. Like many of the B-movies I have, this came from either the shelves of used DVDs at Half-Price Books or a Hollywood Video/Blockbuster going out of business. Furthermore, like many of those cheap used DVDs, this was one that I bought solely on the basis of the description on the back. Therefore, I can say that I didn’t buy this movie just because of the nudity and gore. I swear.
Humanoids from the Deep is the story of a town attacked by humanoid fish, who have come on land to slaughter the men and mate with the women. A scientist, Susan, has been working with the local cannery in the town of Noyo to produce salmon that grow larger and breed more by introducing the creatively named DNA5 into their genes. Unfortunately, coelacanths have eaten the salmon, somehow causing a mutation that makes them rapidly evolve into bipedal, amphibious fish humanoids. They look a little like the Creature from the Black Lagoon if he had a brain outside of his head and ridiculously long arms. According to Susan, the humanoids want to wipe out their competitors, hence they kill the humans and men in particular, but also to further evolve their species by breeding with humans. Humanoids are taking all our women!
By contrast, the humans are a little dull. There is friction in the town of Noyo between the proponents of the cannery, AKA big business, and the small time fishermen who find it increasingly difficult to make a living with the decreasing yields of fish caught. Furthermore, there’s racial tension between Larry and the boys, the group supporting the cannery, and Johnny Eagle, a Native American who protests the cannery; by the way, Johnny Eagle, that was really the best they could do? Larry calls Johnny a “brave” and a “dumb Indian” and gets in a fistfight with him which escalates into a brawl involving various townspeople. Johnny plans on bringing a “big city [minority] lawyer” to help him gain control over his ancestral lands and stop what the cannery is doing, whatever evil thing it’s doing. Larry responds to this information by chucking a Molotov cocktail into Johnny’s house, causing it to promptly explode; everything in an action movie is more combustible and this film is no exception. This is material ripe for drama, but it’s largely pushed to the wayside for more fish creatures and explosions, since the creatures escalate their attacks immediately after Johnny’s house is firebombed. We never hear about the big business/small time fishermen or racial tensions again.
It’s actually amazing how this movie seems to try and be topical only to completely ignore that angle for grue, not that I’m complaining. The film came out in 1980 and the 70s and 80s were a time for increased rights for Native Americans vis a vis regaining their ancestral lands and increased awareness of Native American culture as something more than scalping, wampum, and powwows. I’m not sure if there was racist backlash, but it seems like they were playing with an interesting idea. The big business vs. small time worker theme has long been a fertile area of conflict in fiction. But most confusing is the townsfolk’s reaction to humanoids. Sure they’re terrified when the creatures are rending flesh with their huge claws, but the folk never call foul on genetic modification or the mutation caused by mutant salmon. I thought the film was going to be some allegory about the horrors of biotechnology. Clearly the apathy of the 80’s was already sinking into these people because I didn’t see any of them bat an eye at the mention of sea monsters.
So, since the movie largely ignores the weighty human issues of the day, I’ll focus on what really matters: blood and breasts. Although images of naked women and fish people awkwardly humping them take up a tiny fraction of the time, which is better measured by humans gouged and torn by claws or fish people getting shot or stabbed to death, the sex aspect can’t be ignored. Your reaction to it could run the gamut from perverse amusement at rubber suited actors waddling over and thrusting on top of a woman to visceral horror at the women’s screams and the pregnancy at the end of the film which culminates in a gut-bursting scene a la Alien. There’s undoubtedly an appeal to getting young actresses to run around without clothes, but contrary to what some might tell you, it’s not the whole appeal of the film. Somewhere along the line, the campy premise and rubber suits will get the better of either your sense of humor or sense of taste and the sight of a pair of breasts will incite less arousal than a sense of bad movie glee or weary disgust; you can probably guess which one I was feeling. Of course, that’s if the sight of internal organs and spurting blood doesn’t immediately turn you off; and if it doesn’t, consider a little therapy.
Humanoids of the Deep has a bit of glory amidst the sex schlock and blood. There are two particularly beautiful scenes, an early and late scene respectively. The early scene marks our first encounter with the creature and a series of coincidental events that lead to a boat’s explosion. Long story short, the gasoline that was poured into the motor for the net’s hoist falls to the deck and a man carrying a flare gun to signal that the boat is stalled in the water trips and accidentally fires the flare when he falls in the gasoline. The boat explodes spectacularly. The latter scene is a 10 or 15 minutes long stretch of carnage taking place at Noyo’s incredibly lame festival. For those 10 or 15 minutes, there are continuous screams coming from a prerecorded track and music coming from the carousel. The creatures waddle around chasing and killing people, getting killed by protagonists and the occasional townsperson, ripping the tops off a couple of women. There are only three creatures on screen at one time, though the scenes make it look like they are everywhere. It’s a fun depiction of the chaos caused by an invasion of fish people and it makes the film well worth watching.