I have the moral obligation to warn you, dear reader, that this write-up is heavily laden with Spoilers. Seriously, though, if you're that worred about what passes for a plot in a movie of this type, you might want to consider professional help.

Humanoids from the Deep - 1980
Directed by: Barbara Peters and Jimmy T. Murakami
Story by: Frank Arnold and Martin B. Cohen
Screenplay by: Frederick James

Over the years, I've cultivated a deep love for the genre of the B movie. If a film involves the undead, space aliens, or mutant monsters, I want to see it. Humanoids from the Deep is such a flick, and it exemplifies everything a horror B movie is all about. It's got guys in rubber suits and arm extensions chasing naked or half-naked women, sexual encounters that lead to certain death, and even the all-important massacre at the town fair climax.

The small fishing town of Noyo is in trouble. The catch is off and the economy is down. The creatively named company CanCo is planning to build a new cannery, which seems to please everyone except the town's Native American population. CanCo promises to bring more jobs and, more importantly, to increase the salmon catch thanks to their work to create larger and more plentiful fish. But something far more dangerous, and disturbingly horny, has come to inhabit Noyo's fishing waters....

Every such movie has at its center the Everyman Hero, the ordinary working stiff thrust into circumstances beyond his comprehension. In this one, it's Jim Hill (ably played by Doug McClure), just a local fisherman trying to make a living in the face of a decreasing catch. He has his doubts about the new cannery and how it might affect the catch, but he knows the influx of jobs and money will be good for the town.

Every hero must have a sidekick, and there are two stereotypical roles to be filled here. Jim's brother Tommy (Breck Costin) is the story's Young and Impetuous Sidekick. He's not as sure the cannery is a good thing, and hooks up with the Minority Sidekick, local Indian Johnny Eagle (Anthony Penya). In addition to his role as the token minority character, Johnny also represents the writers' rather half-hearted attempt to include a social conscience in the movie with his attempts to block the cannery because it infringes on sacred ground, or something similar.

With a crew of good guys like that, who'd dare to stand up to them? The obvious (and correct) answer would be the town's Middle-Aged Bully (no genius arch-villain here), Hank Slattery. Vic Morrow, most famous for dying in a chopper accident on the set of Twilight Zone: the Movie in 1985, is typecast into this role. He's joined by a crew of thugs who are more or less interchangable and individually so unmemorable that I can't even pick them out of the cast listing on IMDB. But that's what you want in a movie like this: nothing to detract from the true villains, the Humanoids.

You know you're in for a real treat of a movie when the first person to die at the hands of the monsters is a kid. That's right, he's maybe 10 years old, and falls overboard when his father's fishing boat manages to catch one of the Humanoids in its net. It's the perfect way to start a something with so twisted a premise as hyper-evolved fishmen coming ashore to rape our women. Even Jaws started off with an adult death. This is closely followed by the mutilation of every dog in town except for Johnny Eagle's. Clearly the writers believe absolutely that you shouldn't act with children or animals, and makes every effort to eliminate them from the cast early on.

It's also, surprisingly enough, a great movie for explosions. The anime laws of phyiscs apply here, and everything explodes. A lot. In the opening scenes, the fishing boat that lost the kid goes up when a crewman trips and accidentally fires a flare gun into a puddle of gasoline on the deck. Except the flare gun must actually have been a very compact surface to air missile and the boat made of a combination of TNT and that stuff they use on the heads of strike anywhere matches, as there's pretty much nothing left of the boat larger than a splinter. In a similar vein, when Hank's crew tosses a molotov cocktail at Johnny Eagle's shack in the woods (in an effort to deter him from taking any legal action against the cannery), the building goes up like every square inch was packed with military grade explosives and nitroglycerine. Obviously Johnny was preparing to take the town (and possibly much of the western United States) by force if his legal actions failed. And when Tommy's girlfriend is attacked while driving Johnny's truck into town for help, it goes off a bridge and goes up in a brilliant orange fireball. Who knew there was a Pinto pickup? Even the Humanoids themselves are highly flammable, as evidenced by the way one goes up when hit by a torch right after emerging from the water. Although that could be explained by pollution in the water itself.

With the stereotypes in place, mutant fishmen swimming about, huge explosions, and plenty of gory death, what else could we possibly want in a creature feature? That's right, gratuitous nudity. Well, there's plenty of that. After all, as the scientist explains at one point, these fishmen are driven by an evolutionary imperative to mate with humans. They're hyper-evolved salmon, but for some reason they believe they can evolve further by impregnating our women. Apparently, that's the kind of logic you get when you manage to evolve a brain the size of a water cooler bottle outside of a protective bony skull. So there are plenty of scenes of naked or half-naked women being chased about the beaches, and some mercifully short scenes of them being raped by the beasts. Oddly enough, where most of these movies conform to the unwritten rule "I have seen your breasts, now you must die," the women aren't actually killed. Granted, their fate is possibly worse than death....

The best part of the movie, aside from the big explosions (I do so love to watch things blow up real good), is the climactic battle at the Salmon Festival. Despite the acknowledged threat posed by countless fishmen bent on killing the men and mating with the women, the town fathers still seem to think holding the festival right at the water's edge is a great idea. And it is, because it gives us some of the best scenes of the movie, with the Humanoids shambling down the midway, killing and destroying everything in sight. I would have loved to be one of the guys in the rubber suits; they really looked like they were having fun tearing everything down. In an inadvertent nod to H.P. Lovecraft, the KFSH dj keeps on reporting the riot right up until he is killed in what sounds like a particularly horrific manner. And there's a fine example of mob justice at its best when a group of townsfolk armed with clubs surround one of the creatures and proceed to beat it to death.

We also get two required scenes at the festival. First is the Redemption of Hank Slattery, where he overcomes his bullying selfishness to risk his life to save someone's little sister from certain death. And then, just as Hank is about to be dragged into the water, his mortal enemy Johnny Eagle, arrives to save the day (and Hank's ass). The hatchet, as they say, is buried. The battle continues around them as Hank and Johnny share a moment of intense male bonding before heading their separate ways.

Finally, it's over. It's unclear whether the creatures were all killed, or merely driven off, but the fighting is done, and the surviving residents of Noyo can take stock. For the first time, we hear sirens in the background, as if someone finally had the common sense to call the police or an ambulance. But back in the lab where the genetic accident that first created the Humanoids happened, they're setting us up for the sequel. One of the women who was attacked is giving birth to a baby. But the birth goes horribly wrong in a poor imitation of the chestbursting scene from Alien as an infant Humanoid tears it's way out of its mother's stomach. There's even a loud, wet, and unecessary "pop" sound effect accompanying the birth. We're all set on the off chance that someone has the bad taste to bring us Return of the Humanoids from the Deep.

One final note of interest: the musical score was done by a relatively unknown young composer named James Horner. The music itself is fairly uninteresting, but you can hear the beginnings of the style Horner would later use when he scored films such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Aliens, and even the mega-super-blockbuster Titanic. An altogether impressive career to have come from such humble beginnings.

If you're a big B movie fan, and want to see an excellent combination of guys in rubber suits terrorizing a town, blood, gore, gratuitous nudity, things exploding, and mayhem at the carnival, Humanoids from the Deep is the creture feature for you. Just remember when you run out to rent it to grab the 1980 version from the Roger Corman Classics series; there was a made for tv movie remake in 1996, and from what I recall, it was godawful.


Sources:
Humanoids from the Deep. Barbara Peters and Jimmy T. Murakami. Martin B. Cohen, Hunt Lowry, and Roger Corman. DVD. New Concorde Home Video. 1980.
IMDB.com. "Humanoids from the Deep (1980)." The Internet Movie Database. <http://us.imdb.com/Title?0080904> (March 24, 2003)
Enigmatic Apostic, The. "B-Notes - Humanoids from the Deep." B-Notes - User's Guides to Dubious Movies. September 7, 1999. < http://www.jabootu.com/acolytes/bnotes/humanoids.htm> (March 24, 2003)

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.