Humanoids From The Deep
Director: Barbara Peeters
Cast: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow
Review by Brian M. Sammons
Shout! Factory is fast becoming my new favorite DVD and BD company, largely with their awesome Roger Corman’s Cult Classics line. This latest addition to the line is no exception to the great collection of exploitive, drive-in, cult, and just fun as all hell movies that haven’t been out on DVD for far too long, and never out at all on BD. But does this killer, horny, fishmen flick from 1980, the golden age of horror movies (at least in my opinion) deserve the special edition treatment?
In four words; hell yeah it does! I love this movie. It’s got High Priest of the Church of the Eternal Drive-In, Reverend Joe Bob Briggs’ big three (blood, breasts, and beasts) well covered, with the special effects handled by makeup maker Rob Bottin and lots of cute girls rocking the 80s look that I miss so much. No really, I do. Anyway, the music is top notch, provided by James Horner, who would one day soar high above his humble Corman beginnings by scoring movies like Titanic and Avatar. The direction is competent, but not particularly noteworthy. The acting is vintage 80s horror movie, which once again I love to death. The story is a riff on H.P. Lovecraft’s excellent story, “The Shadow over Innsmouth” (whether the filmmakers admit to it or not). The titular Humanoids walk the fine line between being cheesy and badass. Best of all, this movie falls firmly into the camp of “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” and that is easily the best thing about it.
What do I mean when I say that? Well despite all the wonderful nudity and bloodshed (two things many modern movies fail to combine), and the awesome look of the 80s era film stock, it dares to do things that filmmakers just wouldn’t do these days. And I’m not even talking about the gratuitous fishman raping women scenes (more on that in a sec). No I mean this movie kills little kids and dogs! Now in real life I’m not an advocate for either, honestly I’m not, but if the story calls for it, especially in a horror movie, then you have better have the ba… I mean guts, to do it. Yet every time I watch a modern American horror flick and they put either pets or children in jeopardy in an attempt to ratchet up the fear factor, I just yawn because I know for a fact that Hollywood is so afraid of offending anyone that there’s no way any harm will befall the little critters. Hell even Jason Voorhees never killed a dog (the only dog of note was in Part IV and it wisely jumped out of a window to get away from Jason), and the big masked maniac never killed anyone under the age of, say sixteen, or more accurately someone in their mid-twenties pretending to be sixteen. Well this movie says screw all that. Back then there were no PC police ready to pounce on them for the slightest infraction of the “Everyone’s Guide to Good Morals” playbook. Also, if you are looking for a more serious reason I applaud the filmmakers for doing this, then how about this: by having the monsters eat a kid at the start of the movie, the next time the humanoids menace a little girl you wonder if she’s going to be alright. You actually feel a sense of unease, and perhaps even fear, at the scene. You know that these monsters aren’t playing by the rules. I mean, it worked for Jaws, right? Hey fright filmmakers, you paying attention?
As for the story, it’s your typical tale of a small seaside town invaded by a bunch of horny fishmen that slaughter the dudes and make icky fishy sex with the ladies. There’s a nice subplot about the nearby Native Americans and the white townspeople disagreeing about if their town needs a big fishing cannery being built in it, but really, does anyone watch a Corman production for the subplots? No you go to watch a groovy flick packed with gore and naughty nudie bits. Corman knew that, and that’s why his movies, while low budget and more than a bit dated, are still a great movie watching experience for any true horrorhead today.
To further cement their place in my cold, black heart, Shout! Factory has released this movie with a nice selection of extras. There’s a bunch of never before scene deleted scenes that they just found in the MGM vault, most featuring lots more blood and boobies that really should have been in the movie. There’s pretty good and longish making of featurettes, interviews with lost of people behind the movie, including Corman, a separate interview with Corman about the movie by Leonard Maltin, and the usual trailers and TV spots. One thing the presentation was sadly missing was a commentary track, but I guess nothing is perfect.
Last, I was lucky enough to see this movie both on DVD and Blu-ray and both editions not only look great, with a few exceptions where the film still has some scratches on it, but have the same amount of extras on them and I really liked to see that. So many movie companies now days (like Universal, MGM, and Paramount, just to name a few) put out rather bare bones DVDs and save all the good extras for the BD, well not Shout! Factory. So no matter what format of player you have, you can get a great copy of Humanoids for it.
As if you couldn’t tell by now, I really loved this movie and I’m betting you will too. If you love 80s horror, if you love monster movies, if you love movies with Lovecraftian overtones, and you can stomach fishman rape, dogs getting killed, and a child getting murdered off screen, then this is the movie for you. It’s a great late night, popcorn munching, man do I miss drive-ins kind of movie if there ever was one.