Humanoids from the Deep (1980) poster

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)


aka Monster; Monster (Humanoids from the Deep)

USA. 1980.


Director – Barbara Peeters, Screenplay – Frederick James, Story – Frank Arnold & Martin B. Cohen, Producer – Martin B. Cohen, Photography – Daniel Lacambre, Music – James Horner, Special Effects – Roger George, Makeup Effects – Rob Bottin, Art Direction – Michael Erler. Production Company – New World Pictures


Doug McClure (Jim Hill), Ann Turkel (Dr Susan Drake), Vic Morrow (Hank Slattery), Cindy Weintraub (Carol Hill), Anthony Penya (Johnny Eagle), Lynn Theel (Peggy Larson), Denise Galik (Linda Beale), Breck Costin (Tommy Hill), Megan King (Jerry Potter), Hoke Howell (Deke Jensen)


The small fishing town of Noyo is caught in a dispute between plans of the resident salmon cannery to expand operations and environmental protest from the local Native Americans. All of a sudden, swimmers around the area start turning up gored and mutilated. Susan Drake, a marine biologist working for the cannery, determines that salmon treated with experimental growth hormones were accidentally dumped in the sea where they were devoured by coelacanths and that these have now mutated into monstrous humanoid creatures. As the mutated creatures emerge onto the land, she realises that they are attacking human women in a desire to climb the next ladder up the evolutionary chain and breed.

Despite being made thirty years too late, Humanoids from the Deep is a 1950s monster movie at heart. Its plot could serve as any of the numerous B monster movies that executive producer Roger Corman was churning out in the 1950s – indeed, there are some similarities to Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), one of the first films that Corman’s name appears on. At the time it was made though, Humanoids from the Deep was one of a number of B movies films around the late 1970/early 80s seeking to capitalise on the massive success of Jaws (1975). Amid these, there was a certain subspecies of these films that came with tongues planted in cheek – see the likes of Piranha (1978), Up from the Depths (1979), Alligator (1980) and Blood Beach (1980).

Humanoids from the Deep cheerfully rips its plot off from everything in sight. The monster owes its source of inspiration to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Indeed, it could be The Creature from the Black Lagoon by way of Alien (1979), which forms another strong influence, particularly during the chestburster twist ending. Even more than either The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Alien, Humanoids from the Deep owes much inspiration to the Z movie classic The Horror of Party Beach (1964), which similarly had horny sea monsters attacking bikinied teens. There was also the recent Prophecy (1979) from which it borrows its environmental pseudo-concerns and pollution-caused mutation themes. Indeed, Humanoids from the Deep could be Prophecy without its pretensions and conducted as a much more honest B movie. Also in common with Prophecy and the previous year’s Nightwing (1979) is the introduction of American Indian characters who are seen taking a stand on behalf of the environment.

The only difference between this and a 1950s B movie is that Humanoids from the Deep leaps in with an unrestrainedly over-the-top barrage of 1980s sex and gore. In the way it relishes the scenes of its monsters ripping the tops off and raping female victims, the film comes in extraordinarily bad taste – yet the exercise is played with a deadpan cheerfulness where this contrarily becomes absurdly entertaining. In many ways you could argue, it is only taking to the logical extent the underlying interspecies lust that monsters like King Kong and The Creature from the Black Lagoon displayed towards their respective heroines and bringing it all out of the closet.

Mutant fish people in Humanoids from the Deep (1980)
Horny mutant fish people on the attack

The makeup effects, provided by a young Rob Bottin, are extremely gory and the creature effects very good. The film mounts to a highly entertaining climax with the monsters attacking a carnival amid much mass slaughter and their being shot (which is well staged given that there was only one functional monster suit for the entire production).

Back in the day, feminist groups targeted the film – although many defenders took refuge in the fact that it was directed by a woman Barbara Peeters. That said, there exists some debate whether the sex and gore was edited in by Roger Corman after she had finished. Apparently not, says Rob Bottin who ended up designing as well as playing several of the raping monsters. On the other hand, in the extras for the dvd release, Peeters states that she was fired and all of the material was subsequently added by another director. Barbara Peeters had previously made a handful of exploitation films with The Dark Side of Tomorrow (1970), Bury Me an Angel (1972) and Summer School Teachers (1974), which notedly also have a quite reasonable degree of gratuitous sex scenes. All her subsequent work has been in television.

The film was later remade for cable tv as Humanoids from the Deep (1996) as part of a package of movies under the umbrella title Roger Corman Presents. This time the nudity and gore was considerably watered down.

Trailer here

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