1980, USA, Barbara Peeters
When this Corman flick was shown in UK cinemas, it was called Monster, a suspiciously generic title. That is entirely appropriate, though, for this energetic, entertainingly daft movie, which is flawed only by some political pretensions, and by the fact that Piranha, made two years earlier, is much, much better monster movie, while being equally cheap.
Fans of seventies monster movies will find the plot familiar. Strange things are happening in Noyo, a small fishing town. Boats are exploding, fishermen are vanishing, and dogs are being slaughtered. Could it have anything to do with the huge conglomerate who are opening a cannery a few miles up from the town and are conducting experiments to increase the size and number of salmon ? Difficult one that. Our hero, Doug McClure, is suspicious, while fans of the cannery, headed by the great Vic Morrow, want the incidents hushed up, in case the conglomerate decide it’s all too much trouble and move to another area. But wait, what’s this ? A message ? Indeed, as the cannery have been messing about with Native American habitats - all these simple people want to do is protect the environment. Surprise, surprise. Lovers of Prophecy, if such creatures exist, will now be wondering whether their film is being ripped off. Which, of course, it is.
What’s happened, as we discover, is that the experiments have spawned giant humanoids, which are marine-dwellers, but which can walk on the land. They look very much like people in rubber suits, but that adds to their cut-price charm. They are horny little bastards as well, getting their kicks from jumping on young women, removing their bathing suits and rolling around on top of them in an R rated type of way. At least one victim seems less than distressed, since her screams looked to me suspiciously like hysterical laughter. Doug, however, squares his jaw as only Doug can do, and rescues one young woman from the monsters’ lair. She is feeling funny following her experience and turns out, in an unsurprising twist, to be pregnant. Hmmm … so do you think someone might have been watching Alien?
While this question is being pondered, the monsters do some more damage, terrorising some campers in their tent. The loss of these campers is no great tragedy, since the man is an irritating ventriloquist whose idea of getting wood before lovemaking is not what you might think. Doug has teamed up with the scientist who worked for the cannery, and who is responsible for these nasty creatures, but not even they can save the town, which is having its big carnival night. As you might expect, the carnival is invaded by the monsters who do some energetic and rather graphic killing and some desultory raping and pillaging. Clever Doug gets rid of them in a variety of ways. culminating into emptying several of gallons of petrol into the water and lighting it, roasting the monsters to a crisp. What the environmentalist Indians might think of this pollution is not addressed.
In a twist ending, which the audience has seen coming from several miles off, the pregnant girl does an impression of Kane in Alien as a baby monster erupts from her stomach. It’s not all that visible though, vanishing quickly before we get to look at it too closely. Whereas Piranha tarted up its cliches with witty dialogue and quirky characters, Humanoids From The Deep plays it straight, and by and large, succeeds in creating a disposable monster movie that is neither boring nor all that interesting. The gore effects aren’t bad, and the monsters, while looking very stupid, are rather endearing. The credit for Rob Bottin is slightly disappointing, since he proved in his next film The Howling that he could do much better. It is, of course, grossly sexist - the director, Barbara Peeters claims that the nude shots were added later - but it could be argued that it’s only making explicit what other monster movies have implied; that what the monster really wants is sex with the scantily clad beauties. The fun is, in fact, only marred by the deeply dull political messages which crop up every ten minutes - aren’t capitalists horrid!!! - and start to spoil the otherwise astute pacing.