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Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

by on February 18, 2012
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“Humanoids from the Deep” is one of the seminal films of my childhood.

My grandparents, for some reason, in the early days of home video and VCRs, recorded the movie, along with fare like “The Toy,” “Silkwood” and “Max Dugan Returns” and I lapped it all up, especially “Humanoids,” which might have been my first run-in with movie nudity.

My cousins and I would watch it in secret, rewinding and savoring the naked bits over and over.

When I reupped with Netflix, it was the first film I entered in the search field. It was unavailable at the time, but it remained saved in my queue. About three hours before I started writing this review, I discovered it in my Watch Instantly queue, like an old friend standing at my door. I turned it on the moment the kids went to bed.

So here’s the gist: Horny mutated sea creatures get revenge on the coastal town that polluted and overfished its waters by banging as many of its wives, daughters and girlfriends as they can get their slimy paws on.

That’s right. It’s a revenge flick (except it’s not), a story whose origins might have been Gordie LaChance’s second choice for his campfire story to tell Teddy, Chris and Vern in “Stand By Me” (but not really; your average sixth grader could come up with something better than this, much less an extraordinarily talented sixth grader like Gordie).

Directed by Barbara Peeters, “Humanoids” features actors stumbling around in rubber suits that look like a cross between a mutated iguana, Godzilla and “Star Trek”‘s Gorn if any of those also featured an exposed brain. They are randy, violent creatures that have a penchant for snagging bikini tops and are attracted to jiggly breasts (and the breasts here are jigglier than any film I’ve seen that didn’t have Russ Meyer’s name attached to it).

I don’t recall offhand the name of the town they live in, but it’s a sleepy fishing burg where guys put their beer cans in coffee cups and everyone wears puffy vests that Marty McFly would laugh at.

The film’s “sex” scenes are actually mostly rape scenes, gloriously tacky affairs where the creatures paw at nubile, busty, bikini-clad lasses and mount them or drag them offscreen as they claw at the sand.

And how can you blame them given their role models? The townsfolk are a collection of douchebags and jerks who sexually harass the women at every turn. In one scene, a Native American man interrupts a party when his dog has been killed. He’s greeted with scorn from the townsfolk, who say their dogs have been killed as well. A gentleman with a man-perm and a porn ‘stache (Vic Morrow, definitely slumming) proceeds to have him thrown out of the party (without his dog’s carcass, mind you), then the man and two other guys proceed to beat him up.

It’s “Alien” crossed with “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” but without the distracting good acting, special effects, plotting, pacing, character development, self-restraint, taste and originality.

The scares are obviously taken from the emerging slasher genre (recall “Halloween” bowed two years previous), with red herring scares from a cat, a negligee, a sink full of dirty dishes and a telephone in a stretch of about two minutes, and the rest of the film features similar frights followed by creatures menacing their potential victims.

But once the action hits its stride, it’s full-on B-movie hysteria, with the creatures crashing the town’s annual “Salmon Festival” (which many people pronounce the first word with the “L” sound intact), thrashing as many men and collecting as many women (or at least bikini tops) as they can get their scaly hands on.

With creature effects by Rob Bottin, who would go on to work on films like “Seven,” “Robocop” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and a score by James Horner (“Titanic” and “Avatar”), schlockmeister Roger Corman certainly got Oscar-level talent in some areas if not others.

“Humanoids” features a twisty-type ending that is a direct ripoff of “Alien,” but also in a sense gives a coda that might be the inspiration for “Splice” many years later, where a character previously thought of as a hero becomes something perhaps more sinister. It is, like the rest of this film, delightfully cheesy and a legitimate shlock classic.

Well done, Roger Corman. Bravo, sir.