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  • Rev Horror

Humanoids from the Deep

Dir. Barbara Peeters & Jimmy T. Murakami (1980)

Humanoid creatures (from the deep, if you're wondering) emerge and begin threatening a local town while trying to breed with their women.

Continuing in our celebration of Roger Corman, this time as a producer, we're talking one of my favorite New World Pictures films that is equal parts creature feature and exploitation flick. Hearkening back to the days of the drive-in, but utilizing all of the tricks and gore that weren't available in those times, Humanoids from the Deep is a wildly fun cult classic with some laughably silly creature designs and a dime-a-dozen plot that breaks absolutely no ground. But you know what? It was cheap and easy, exactly the type of programming that Corman & Co. made in bulk.

As much a social film as it is an exploitation, Humanoids tells the story of regular fish that are mutated because of scientific experiments gone wrong. These half man/half fish begin to terrorize the town of Noyo, the home base of a new cannery that is seeking to increase the size of their seafood by genetically engineering their catch, a notion that (obviously) goes horribly wrong. After a boat explosion and a recent surge in dead house pets, townspeople and a visiting scientist must band together to protect the town from the vicious, rapey beasts.

Humanoids is an excellent monster movie, a creature feature that pulls absolutely no punches and goes a lot farther than most films of its ilk. Multiple graphic depictions of dead dogs, children getting eaten, monster-on-human sexual assault scenes... Humanoids from the Deep knows exactly the post-grindhouse audience it seeks to entertain and does so with style. It's got the prototypically loose socially conscious message at its core, but it uses that as a means to an end as much as it does a stance from the filmmakers. It's a great message to be sure, but its a surface level depiction that doesn't delve a whole lot deeper than "people are the real monsters!" type arguments.

It's also a film that perfectly represents Corman's producing genius. This is a film where a lot of the nude scenes were added in post-production, cut into the existing film wherever possible by using leftover creature suits and actors willing to doff their clothes. One could certainly debate whether this is an appropriate thing to do using modern cinematic morality, but it certainly worked at the time, and it served to draw a crowd that may otherwise have missed what appeared to be a fairly rote monster movie. It's an interesting film to dissect when discussing the interplay between horror and nudity, as director Barbara Peeters refused to shoot nude scenes and originally demanded to have her name taken off the film, but we will save that discussion for another. Credit to editor Mark Goldblatt for bringing it all together despite the dissonance between the original film and what was released into theaters.

Despite the controversy, Humanoids from the Deep is a super fun movie that has just about everything that makes a horror movie work. The gore effects are actually fantastic for the year the film was made, the creatures are goofy but a huge step up from Corman's early productions, and the action is fairly consistent throughout. The insertion of the nude scenes, always a prelude to or intermixed with monster attacks, help to break up some of what could have been monotony during the slower moments of the film. Once the creatures invade the local town fair, the movie becomes a total free-for-all that is a whole hell of a lot of fun. Utter chaos erupts, and it is a viciously fun ending for a film that was already a complete blast. And the closing scene is just chef's kiss perfection, a twist ending that works perfectly in achieving the goals the film is striving for.

Volumes have been written about Roger Corman as a producer, and his New World Pictures banner sits atop so many films that its easy to lose count. He's brought so much to the horror genre, and to film in general, that its really impossible to quantify the impact that will be felt for years to come. Humanoids from the Deep is but one example, and I hate that I'm not able to cover everything that he's done here because the man is just so incredible. Regardless of what film you choose, you always know that Corman is going to give you at least your money's worth, differentiating himself from a lot of the cheapie B-movie producers that have come before or since. You know that Corman is giving you a quality product that will stick around in your memory, creating a sense of nostalgia even for the first watch of his films. There's literally no one else in film history that can say the same with such a wide, expansive filmography, and I highly encourage anyone not completely familiar with his work to seek it out wherever you can. Corman will be greatly missed, and the entire horror community owes him a tremendous debt for creating so much of what we love.

Who this movie is for: Corman superfans, Creature feature aficionados, Deep sea fishermen

Bottom line: Humanoids from the Deep is a fantastic creature feature that leans way heavier into the gore and titillation that you'd expect from some of the other films that Corman produced. It's a hell of a fun watch, and even though it doesn't lean too heavily into its important social causes, it makes its case with some exciting Fish-on-Human chaos. This one is streaming on Tubi right now, and I definitely recommend checking it out. In fact, I would suggest binging a few of the films Corman either directed or produced, especially if you're unfamiliar with his work. I believe you'll see he's influenced a hell of a lot of the things you already love.

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