Review by Rumsey Taylor
Posted on 30 October 2008
Source Warner Home Video VHS
Categories 31 Days of Horror V
Regardless of its utilitarian title, it should be stated that Humanoids from the Deep is about humanoids. This is important to note, because in construction it is easily confused with a film about a great white shark. It opens, for example, with an underwater POV shot, presumably of one of the nefarious creatures of the title, and in short order people begin to die watery deaths—an aural hallmark of Not John Williams’ composition accompanying each. This is an entertaining film, to be sure, but these influences, in their clarity, amplify this film’s derivation, framing its unmet potential as a more singular monster movie.
To illustrate its derivation, let’s compare a humanoid from the deep with a great white shark. In their cinematic depictions mentioned here, both creatures are able to maneuver through shallow waters with consummate prowess and discretion, snatching a victim and mangling him gruesomely without breaking the surface. Each is also equally capable of inspiring riotous fear in swarms of beach-goers. These similarities are most significant considering the humanoids have prehensile thumbs, legs, can breathe air, and can walk on land; nonetheless, they opt to torment humans in much the same way as the shark in Jaws. Now, let’s consider for a moment what a movie like Jaws would have been - nay, should have been - had its principal creature featured such improved mobility. Granted, this would not be the masterpiece of restraint and suspense that is Jaws, but it would certainly promise a more unpredictable genre exercise than Humanoids from the Deep.
Humanoids is variety brand monster mayhem, basically the same as its predecessors, only absent of any prestige. Brand recognition, you see, has much to do with success within homogenized genres in film, especially horror. It’s films like this that directly validate Jaws’ position as a cinematic cornerstone, one whose endurance as a brand is further secured in every cheap film that features some sort of creature thrusting out of the depths of the sea with a voracious appetite. But as with any brand, variety engenders progress, and by this measure Humanoids emerges as a creature feature with modest merits, obscured as they are beneath an ocean of influences.
The humanoids are the product of some mystified scientific experimentation with what’s called “DNA-5,” which is used to genetically mutate salmon so that they grow large and plentifully. Once frog DNA somehow and yet inevitably intermixes with the DNA-5-enhanced salmon, murderous humanoids inadvertently result. But this mutation isn’t the worst by-product—the mutated frog/salmon’s evolution is violently accelerated, and they develop an intelligence that betrays their origin. They become conscious of their advancement. Naturally, they desire to mate with human women to facilitate further evolution. This tendency on the part of our otherwise shark-like humanoids makes them rather unique monsters, in that they’re not only carnivorous but libidinous. The first demonstration of this trait takes us by surprise: a young, attractive couple is frolicking along the beach, when the boy is pulled underneath the surface and instantaneously disfigured (this action is subsequent to the four times the boy has pretended to be pulled underneath the surface by an unseen monster). His torn-up corpse rises, the girl panics, and at this instant you’re expecting a chase; maybe the monster will be fully revealed, maybe only part of him, but there must be a chase of some sort. The girl will flail and scream back toward the relative solace of the beach. Maybe she’ll be killed; maybe she’ll live and warn the skeptical townsfolk of the monster that waits in the ocean. Instead, the woman is - in an instance both affronting and yet remarkable in how unexpectedly it affronts - raped by the domineering humanoid.
My guess is this rape sequence, along with the instances of gratuitous nudity and gore, was conceived expressly in the interest of utmost salaciousness, and to this end it succeeds. But this success is not admirable. Salacious, to be sure, horrific even, but it’s horror at the expense of good taste. This is where Humanoids from the Deep begins to differ from its predecessors, and as with the monsters that are its subject, its evolution is untempered. But perhaps this is the sort of film that is endorsed by mentions of its offenses, and the scene in question notwithstanding - its constructional resemblance to Jaws also notwithstanding - there remain aspects of the film that merit recommendation. Namely, its finale.
For the most part Humanoids is standard monster fare, the focus volleying back-and-forth between the humans attempting to comprehend the horror and the humanoids that are trying rather successfully to kill and impregnate. Its final third is set at a carnival, which is erected rather precariously close to the shore. The townsfolk are present for the occasion, and the humanoids show up shortly afterward. Chaos ensues. I mean, total chaos: the sound of people screaming lasts for something like a full twenty minutes. There’s even a radio broadcast from the carnival, and it remains on air after both DJs are variably killed or raped, transmitting the collective screaming even further outward. This scene is an absolute marvel, foremost because the chaos feels unorchestrated and therefore real. In films that bear even a modicum of directorial finesse, scenes like this are noticeably composed, blocked, or edited—the climax in Humanoids has none of these factors. There are no characters for whom we sympathize, only expendables, and there’s no sense of orientation or rhythm. Everyone is screaming, explosions color the horizon, and the humanoids pop up incessantly. There is a genuine sense of panic.
Of course, this panic is outlasted by continual and erroneous thefts from other, better films, and having exhausted about every single one of Jaws’ influences, Humanoids concludes in an epilogue taken directly from Alien. In respect to this film’s questionable ambitions, I relent to describe the shocker ending, but if you’ve seen Alien then you’ll know precisely what to expect.
Warner Home Video
Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow
Sea Beasts on the Prowl For Human Mates!
The Dead Don’t Die1975
The Brides Wore Blood1972
Girl in Room 2A1973
Nude for Satan1974
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare1987
Brides of the Beast1968
Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye1973
The Curse of Bigfoot1976
Dark Night of the Scarecrow1981
Moon in Scorpio1987
The Legend of Hell House1973
Grave of the Vampire1974
Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake1975
Attack of the Beast Creatures1985
Humanoids from the Deep1980