As a director and producer, Roger Corman has amassed a massive filmography over his career. He was a master of low-budget, independent B-movie’s. Corman also kickstarted the careers of quite a few famous filmmakers and actors. But when you trade in low budget, exploitative fare, occasionally, you miss the mark. Exhibit A – the 1980 eco-horror movie Humanoids from the Deep. Released at the tail-end of the eco-horror cycle of the 1970’s, Humanoids from the Deep was a minor success. Though Corman was the uncredited executive producer, he apparently had a hand in some of the movie’s more seedy content. Arguably, the story of genetic modification gone horribly wrong sounds like the kind of B-movie that might resonate with today’s horror fans. But rubber-suited sea monsters are probably dated. So is Humanoids from the Deep ‘so bad, it’s good’? Or is it just a bad movie?
In a small seaside community, plans for a new cannery threaten to push out traditional fishing. And the arrival of a scientist promising genetically modified salmon to increase profits only exacerbates tensions. But as the townsfolk become increasingly divided, mysterious disappearances and a rash of mutilated animals points to a surfacing unknown danger. When mutated ‘fish men’ emerge and threaten the town, residents must set aside their differences to fight for their own survival.
Humanoids from the Deep Doesn’t Know It’s a B-Movie
On the one hand, Humanoids from the Deep should be a fun B-horror movie. Just two years earlier, Joe Dante mined a very similar story for plenty of satirical horror goodness in Piranha. But Humanoids from the Deep is like that person who doesn’t get that you’re laughing at them and not with them. Whether it’s the B-movie story and tropes or the rubber ‘fish men’ suits, this shouldn’t be a serious movie. Yet director Barbara Peeters doesn’t seem to understand what kind of movie she’s making. Now to be fair, an uncredited director filmed additional scenes at Corman’s behest. However, this doesn’t explain all of the movie’s discordant tone.
Everything in the movie also feels lifted from other -and often much better – eco-horror movies.
At just under an hour and 20 minutes, Humanoids from the Deep feels long. Too long for such a short movie. For what’s a low-budget B-movie, Humanoids from the Deep takes itself way too seriously. There’s just too many long stretches of pointless dialogue and exposition. Everything in the movie also feels lifted from other -and often much better – eco-horror movies. As a result, the movie has a redundancy to it that kills any suspense or intentional (and unintentional) humour. You want to take its Indigenous environmental sub-plot seriously, but when rubber-suited ‘fish men’ attack a community salmon festival, it’s hard to keep a straight face.
Humanoids from the Deep Makes Things Uncomfortable
Not everything about Humanoids from the Deep is terrible. Like a lot of indie-80’s horror movies, the practical gore effects are surprisingly good. That DIY vibe helps, but also makes you wonder why there wasn’t more of it. In addition, composer James Horner contributes one of his earliest scores, which is much better than the movie deserved. Any goodwill generated by these contributions, however, are undone by the movie’s exploitative sexual violence. You see, the ‘fish men’ of Humanoids from the Deep are compelled to ‘mate’ with female humans. So audiences can expect plenty of lazily staged gratuitous nudity along with a few scenes of rubber-suited monsters groping and assaulting women. Apparently, Corman thought Creature From The Black Lagoon needed more 1970’s exploitation. It doesn’t work in this 1980 B-movie and it most certainly hasn’t aged well.
Humanoids from the Deep – Too Bad to be Good, Too Serious to be Fun
Humanoids from the Deep is many different things, and it’s also nothing. Even amongst eco-horror movies, it’s pretty silly stuff. Let’s face it, the mix of goofy rubber monster suits and deadly serious approach to the material don’t mesh well. Long stretches of dull dialogue offset the handful of decent gore effects sparsely spread over the movie’s runtime. You should be laughing along with Humanoids from the Deep, but you’re more likely to be bored. This is a movie suffering from an identity crisis – a B-movie with aspirations of offering serious narrative. And the exploitative nudity and misogynistic sexual violence pretty much ensure it won’t find new audiences. Only die-hard horror completists will find much, if anything, to enjoy.