More eighties trashola from Roger Corman, with plenty of gore, slime,
cheesy sea monsters, gratuitous T&A and one of the cinema’s better
mutant birth scenes. Of course, if you’re looking for anything beyond
those elements then you’d best look elsewhere!
1980’s HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (released
internationally as MONSTER) was the final feature directed by the
seventies sleazemeister Barbara Peeters. It capped Peeters’ eight year
association with Roger Corman, during which she directed BURY ME AN
ANGEL (1972), SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS (1974) and STARHOPS (1978) while
laboring on the crews of such Corman anti-classics as NIGHT CALL NURSES
(1972), THE YOUNG NURSES (1973) and EAT MY DUST (1976). Since 1980
Peeters has worked mostly in episodic television, and on an in-the-works
documentary about abused women called LEGACY OF RAGE. She now dismisses
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP as “dreck” (it was admittedly re-edited against
her wishes), although it remains her best-know film, and one of the most
popular Corman productions of the eighties.
A small California fishing town is rocked by the
opening of a shrimp cannery owned by a slimeball named Hank Slattery.
Concurrent to this are a number of suspicious deaths: a fishing boat is
blown up and several local dogs are killed. This only increases the
tension between the townspeople who support Slattery’s cannery and those
who oppose it.
But then things really go to Hell when a skinny dipping
couple are attacked by a scaly humanoid sea creature that dispatches the
guy and drags the gal off to be raped. Another couple suffers a similar
fate while camping out on a beach the following night, and the creatures
attack again shortly thereafter, nearly drowning a young man and forcing
a young woman off the road in her pickup truck.
Dr. Susan Drake decides to investigate. She and some
local fisherman discover a cluster of beachside caves, out of which
several critters emerge. The creatures are killed and Susan does a study
on their genetic make-up; her conclusion is that they’re part human and
part fish, having been created by DNA-altered salmon from Slattery’s
cannery. Now these humanoids from the deep are determined to wipe out
the fully human “predators” in their midst.
Unfortunately for the townspeople a carnival is held
that night to celebrate the opening of the cannery, providing the
humanoids with plenty of bodies to dismember, behead and worse. Then
there’s a girl who got raped early on by one of the creatures, and is
about to give birth…but to what??
The script for HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP isn’t exactly
great, or even good; its director Barbara Peeters claims Roger Corman
only offered it to her after every male director in his stable turned it
down. The film is packed with shopworn clichés (such as the monstrous
footprints in the sand glimpsed early on) and the narrative hook of a
large corporation encroaching on a tiny village only distracts from the
good stuff, being a demonstration of Corman’s oft-irritating penchant
for injecting social significance into his films.
Another Corman dictate is evident in the fact that the
critters of the title are kept largely off-screen until the third act.
Corman’s rationale was that audiences probably wouldn’t be too impressed
with the creatures once they finally saw them, and in this case he was
correct, as the humanoids look like exactly what they are: guys in dopey
monster suits draped with dripping seaweed. The designer of the things
was a young Rob Bottin, whose best work (on John Carpenter’s
and the original TOTAL RECALL) was still several years in the future.
At least the film contains a goodly amount of gore and
female nudity, and an amazing mutant birth. These scenes were admittedly
shot after the fact by the film’s second unit director James Sbardellati,
against the wishes of Ms. Peeters. So while most everything in the film
is pretty lousy (this includes the score by a young James Horner, who
riffs shamelessly on those of JAWS and
PSYCHO), its enthusiasm for all things
exploitive makes for an enjoyable dose of grade-B delirium.
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (MONSTER)
New World Pictures
Director: Barbara Peeters
Producer: Martin B. Cohen
Screenplay: Frederick James
Cinematography: Daniel Lacambre
Editing: Mark Goldblatt
Cast: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Cindy Weintraub, Anthony
Penya, Denise Galik, Lynn Theel, Meegan King, Breck Costin, Linda Shayne