Back in his heyday, legendary cult producer Roger Corman would famously not let such trite things as good taste stand between him and making a buck. Boobs and blood were a regular occurrence in his quest to wring every single dollar of profit he could out of his gloriously trashy output, but Humanoids From The Deep (aka Monster) took things a little bit further by making it’s loping, aquatic antagonists desire flesh in a more biblical sense than just meaty substance…
I suppose I can’t beat around the bush anymore, so it’s time to rip off the band-aid and just come out with what we’re dealing with – yes, what I’m trying to get at is we’re watching a seaside town get besieged by hordes of rapey fish-men.
While you process this information concerning the stratospheric levels of exploitation you’re about to witness, please remember one thing; please don’t shoot the messenger. No, instead shoot the terrifyingly horny monster that’s splashing down the beach before you.
Welcome to the blue collar, salt of the earth fishing town of Noyo, California where every single resident of the town who’s north of forty looks like they’re a single bacon sandwich away from a massive myocardial infarction and the place plays like Ron Swanson heaven. The fortunes of the place are looking up with a not-shady-at-all corporation looking to build a cannery in town but their experiments years earlier that utilised growth hormones to increase the size of salmon seems to had a worrying side effect in that it’s created a new breed of water dwelling biped that uncontrollable urge to mate with human women has finally caused them to come ashore as barnacle encrusted sex offenders. While this is going on, the rest of the town remain oblivious to the warning signs by either being caught up in the fair that’s due to celebrate the town or distracted by the ongoing feud between a local native american and a racist fisherman, but paunchy local Jim starts piecing things together from the trail of mangled dogs dotted about town.
As the sea monsters continue shred every man they see while brutally ravishing their screaming girlfriends, the moment of virtually every aquatic horror movie from the 70’s and 80’s gradually arrives – a large celebration that sees every single doughy villager hanging out and having fun on the promenade overlooking the ocean – the stage is set for an unfortunately literal orgy as the clawed, green creatures launch an all out assault on the town’s population. Jim thankfully has a plan to keep the monsters at bay (that if I’m being honest is massively weak) but will he be too late to halt the advance of these upsettingly aroused humanoids from the deep….?
So… fishy rape monsters, yeah..?
Look, if it’s any consolation, the sizable elephant in the room that is the off-putting sexual appetite of the title creatures is just one part of a tremendously sleazy movie that seems to be straining at the bit to be as taboo breaking as possible. As if to prove my point it immediately violates two unwritten Hollywood laws with the rude and very fatal chewing of a small child and the mass murder of every dog in the village that impressive occurs within the first ten minutes – but as fellow water based movies such as Jaws, Pirahna and Alligator also famously feature masticated kids, I guess Humanoids From The Deep felt it had to go a step further. Say what you will about Corman’s earlier production of Piranha; as vicious as they were, at least they didn’t feel the need to wriggle up onto the shore and fuck the first buxom bikini wearer they happened across.
Basing an entire movie around fishy sexual assault is blatantly something that would never get green-lit today – although consensual sex with a fish-man will apparently get you an Oscar… just ask Gullimero Del Toro – but it’s clumsy and childish tackling of such a bizarre taboo ends up being oddly watchable if for no other reason than to sate your morbidly curiosity actor how the hell the filmmakers were intending to pull this crap off.
The answer, if you must know, is to get a stuntman wearing an elaborately designed monster suit (by The Thing’s Rob Bottin, no less) to writhe on top of a topless actress in the mud and sand as she screams for help and it ends up wobbily treading the line between childishly offensive and utterly ludicrous; but that’s obviously what Corman is aiming for. Legend has it the director (the very female Barbara Peeters) shot the rape scenes in shadow or partially obscured only for the producer to get the second unit director to reshoot versions that played up the exploitative nature a lot more to the outrage of the original director and cast.
In the passing years, Humanoids is now seen as somewhat of a tasteless trash classic and taken as a memorable example as what insane concepts filmmakers would luridly put on screen and I have to admit, these days it all just looks a bit fucking silly. In fact, for the most part, it actually really works as a morally bankrupt throw-back that’s at it’s dubious best with liberal dashings of beer, pizza and a fuck-ton of at-the-screen heckling.
For a film where scantily clad teens scream at the exogenous zones of man-sized, incel halibuts, the film is admittedly beautifully shot and scored (by another, future big name, James Horner) and even feature a recognizable cast with a noticably bloated and purple-faced Doug McClure in the lead and Vic Morrow playing yet another gruff bigot. It even tries to add in an environmentally conscious message along with a sub-plot involving a Native American man trying to reclaim the fishing rights for his people, but to be fair the main thing you’ll remember is that you’ve just watched a film about aquatic perverts.
So it’s finally time to embrace the exploitation and as I said before, when taken on it’s own and very weird merits, Humanoids From The Deep does exactly what Corman wanted it to do. The monster effects are effectively gnarly with their elongated arms and exposed brains and the impressively bloody body count is actually well done with an opening act face mauling and a later decapitation scoring highly with this grizzled old greyhound. The monsters individually get their comeuppance quite gruesomely too with one getting stabbed by a housewife in the chest with a kitchen knife so many times she pretty much hollows the bastard out like a pumpkin the the film also offers you the unforgettable sight of a hysterical beauty queen, shorn of bikini top and dignity, bloodily smashing in the skull of her would-be assailant before fleeing half-naked to safety.
A remarkably silly movie that mistakenly equates nastiness with edginess; the years have eventually dulled Humanoids From The Deep into a bizarre curiosity that’s almost impossible to take seriously. Fans of trash cinema will get it, but no one would fault anyone else from opting out of a film about misogynistic mer-men…