Netflix's Halloween Horrors - Humanoids From the Deep

I watch a lot of movies, always have. I even worked in a couple of theaters when I was young (The Bel-Air and Greenway, for defunct Houston theater aficionados). My tastes tend away from the mainstream, and I have spent years seeking out obscure horror and exploitation films.

I'm pretty late to this party, but I've recently discovered just how much of that stuff makes it onto Netflix. Since Halloween approaches, I thought some reviews might help steer like-minded people to the good stuff. Or at least the stuff I think is good.

"Humanoids From the Deep" (1980)

"Humanoids" is not the most obscure horror film on Netflix, but it's one of those movies that haunted late night cable back in the '80s, and always seemed to be on the shelves at mom and pop video stores. For those reasons, it's got a fairly big cult following. It's available to stream on demand, so I thought I'd revisit this sordid tale of mutated murderous fishmen bent on mating with human women and disembowling anyone who has a problem with that.

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Make no mistake, "Humanoids From the Deep" is a trashy B-movie produced by exploitation king Roger Corman, and it features fairly graphic scenes of fish monsters raping women and tearing guys to pieces. If that's going to turn your stomach, pick another film to watch.

Despite the patently offensive subject matter, "Humanoids From the Deep" has a few things to recommend it.

Mostly, it manages to stay entertaining throughout its running time, rolling through just about every cheap thrills monster movie/exploitation film cliche there was by 1980, but doing so in a mostly entertaining fashion.

Set in the New England village of Noyo, where fishing is the town's lifeblood, something sinister is going on under the waves. When a small fishing boat explodes in the town's bay after catching something big in its net, it's pretty clear Noyo has problems bigger than its diminishing salmon haul. The setup is a simple one (spoilers ahead, be warned) - the aforementioned salmon supply is dwindling, and the town is seeing hard times.

The obviously evil mega-company, Canco comes to Noyo to open a salmon processing plant, and the town is divided between factions of evil rednecks working for Canco's interests, and benevolent heroes who realize they're up to no good. There's the pissed off Native American, the rough exterior with a heart of gold fisherman hero, and the turncoat attractive female scientist that had been working for Canco. They're at odds with the evil rednecks and Canco, of course, and then there's the titular "Humanoids." The former Canco scientist had developed a serum called DNA-5, intended to make salmon grow huge. Sadly, it instead made them mutate into scary ass gill-man fish dudes, that look like a sort of mashup between a second rate Giger alien and the Creature From the Black Lagoon.  

"MerMAN Dad. MerMAN."
"MerMAN Dad. MerMAN."
Photo by Chris Lane

In "Humanoids From the Deep," the creatures are motivated by the thing all monster movie fish men have always been driven by - the desire to mate with attractive human females. Let that sink in. It doesn't get much creepier, but that's been the monster motivation since The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Of course, they didn't show much back in 1954, when that classic horror film came out, but the suggestion was definitely there. Kill human males, but drag the pretty woman back to your underwater bachelor pad for what? A nice game of chess? No, I have a feeling the Creature From the Black Lagoon had other things on his fishy mind, and it's probably a good thing that interspecies sex was taboo back in the '50s, and was just hinted at.

But in 1980, sleaze merchant exploitation filmmakers certainly could show a lot more, and in "Humanoids From the Deep," they do. There are several scenes where women are sexually attacked by the mutated salmon humanoids, and quite a bit of gratuitous nudity and violence on display.

So will the good guys win? Can they defeat the sex criminal mermen and the evil corporation responsible for this ecological nightmare to begin with? If the answer to those questions is still important to you after reading this far, then you should go watch the movie on Netflix.

As mentioned earlier, the movie is chock full of cliches, to the extent of becoming a fun game of "what other movies did I see this scene in?", but it somehow works. "Humanoids from the Deep" is also one of those films where you'll see lots of familiar faces from other B movies - people like Doug McClure and Vic Morrow.

All the action culminates when a bunch of the humanoids attack a local festival where the population of the entire town seems to have gathered, spreading murderous cheer in what proves to be a very entertaining action horror climax. The Humanoids themselves are shown a lot, and the costumes are pretty nice for cheap men in monster suit fare. The creature effects were masterminded by Rob Bottin before he really became famous with "The Howling" and "The Thing", so they look pretty good for such a low budget film.

Overall, this is a cheap and sleazy horror film, but it's competently made, and well paced, making "Humanoids From the Deep" a lot of fun for fans of exploitation scare films, and a nice lead up to Halloween.


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