Sunday 26 August 2007

Humanoids from the Deep (1980) Barbara Peters

There were a few surprises here but not many. It was surprising to see a sex and violence horror movie from 1980 directed by a woman, but then the gratuitous nudity shots were added after she wrapped. It was surprising to see a Native American territorial theme in something this dumb, but it doesn't go much further than providing an excuse for some basic racism. Mostly it was just surprising to see a girl's bikini top turn inside out between shots and to hear a DJ in a fishing town pronounce the L in 'salmon'.

The story is pretty basic and pretty obvious. We're in Noyo Harbor, which is an old fashioned salmon fishing town whose traditional livelihood is being threatened by a new cannery. The local Native American is upset about it but nobody else really gives much of a crap. Soon enough it's the last thing on anyone's mind as bad things are happening. Boats explode, people get eaten in the water, one night everyone's dogs turn up dead. Soon it escalates to the point where the population starts getting depleted and lead star Doug McClure has to go and investigate.

He manages to find some humanoids from the deep, who are now enjoying the treats to be found on land too. He does so with the help of the lead scientist from the cannery company, who also shows him video footage of how they came to be. Apparently it's all because some scientific experiment to increase the salmon population went wrong, so injecting salmon with DNA is a bad thing, especially when the salmon grow heads. Anyway they end up as seven foot tall Creature from the Black Lagoon type monsters with heads like the Ghoulies and the moment Doug McClure dumps a dead one on the pier at the town festival, a whole army of the things break through underneath and start a murderous rampage. You have to love the timing armies of monsters always have.

It's hard to describe how bad this film is. Admittedly some of it is funny and some of what's funny is deliberately funny. Some of the shock shots are pretty shocking too. However most of it is awesomely stupid. Yes, I remember how dumb eighties horror movies usually were, but this is worse, and I'm not just talking about the blatant continuity errors where bikini tops appear and disappear just like the sun in this film.

The acting isn't much better. Doug McClure was never a particularly great actor but he's possibly the best one in this film. Vic Morrow isn't great and he's the only other name I know, but Ann Turkel is truly awful. Somehow she got nominated for a Golden Globe for something made earlier than this, which meant that she must have been sleeping with someone. Oh, she was: she married the lead star of that film, Richard Harris, that same year. Amazingly enough she didn't marry Doug McClure after this one.

At the end of the day, Roger Corman's decision to add in more nudity and gore may have spoilt the continuity of the whole thing but his additions are about the only things worth watching. Those and the ventriloquist's dummy.

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