I must admit that I had never seen this film before today. I had it in my hands on more than one occasion in my young life at the video store but never bothered taking it home. It just seemed like an incredibly stupid film, though to be fair I wasn’t exactly renting Bergman films at that point in my life. Over the years I have learned a great deal about the film but still had not seen it. After giving it a look today, I can’t say I’m thrilled to have added it my ever-growing list of watched films, but I can now understand why it has such a large cult following. It is basically CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON had that film been written and directed by Ray Dennis Steckler, a cheap, gory and nasty film full of fish rape and wishy-washy social politicking. It starts off strong, gets ridiculous, puts on a straight face again and then finally collapses into unintentional hilarity. My first instinct was proven correct. This IS a stupid film, but that’s kinda the point, right?
The film starts out strong and with a great deal of seriousness, contrasting the groups of fishermen who inhabit the small town of Noyo and exploring the tensions between the Native Americans who used to own the land (well, the ONE Native American anyway) and the fishing community that now calls it home. Of course, all of this seriousness and interesting character dynamics were bound to be lost at some point when the fishmen began turning up, so I knew not to get my hopes up too high that the film would continue along the straight and narrow. In many ways, the film prefigures many of the creature features (GRIZZLY, THE STUFF, PROPHECY, C.H.U.D., etc.) that would come along in the 1980s in terms of the social commentary contained within the film. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is every bit the attack on Reagan Era politics that the other films I mentioned are, this film just happened to come out the year before Reagan began his presidency. But we don’t need to pay much mind to all of that (the film certainly doesn’t) as it isn’t really the game HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP wants to play.
This is basically just an update of the 1950s style monster flick, the kind where scientific advancements bring about terrible consequences. In the case of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP, it’s a DNA booster designed to bring salmon to maturity quickly. Unfortunately, a supply of the chemical spilled into the open waters, sending fish into the evolutionary fast lane, eventually creating humanoid fish monsters that can walk on land and tear apart anything in their path. More importantly, they also want to use our women as breeding stock. Now leaving aside the fact that the screenwriters have absolutely no working knowledge on the subject of evolutionary biology or genetics (nothing evolves up to humanoid by default and it would be impossible for a fish monster to successfully procreate with a human being), what we have here is a more dangerous kind of monster than anything the 1950s offered up. While the monsters of films like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH were more than willing to just carry off unsuspecting women, these nasty fuckers are full blown rapists. Every female they get their flippers on, alive or dead, ends up getting violently humped into the ground. The men get off much easier. They just ripped apart. Outside of hentai, this is probably the most monster-on-girl action I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s tasteless, cheap and completely wrong. But that’s kind of the point, right?
Most of this material wasn’t even shot by the director, Barbara Peeters. Having been shit canned by producer Roger Corman for refusing to shoot more T&A, the Corman-hired replacement amped up the sexual violence quite a bit. Corman always had a working formula for the films he produced. Every 10 minutes, either breasts get flashed or blood gets spilled. That is the Corman formula and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP certainly follows it. Once the beasts turn up and the shit starts to hit the fan, it never stops flying. The incredibly stupid ending features the monsters laying siege to the town’s annual salmon festival, leaving piles of bodies in their wake. The monsters, wisely kept largely out of sight until this point, prove to be remarkably flimsy looking beasties and the frenzied action never really gels into anything more than hyperbolic hysteria. The coup de grâce delivered to the monsters involves the intrepid babe scientist and the grizzled old fisherman spraying gas into the water and lighting it ablaze. The nearly endless shots of fish monsters flailing about as they burn to death never once actually diving beneath the surface, basically sums up the entire climax of the film. Dumb, dumb, dumb…
But that’s kind of the point, right?