Next up in the “Water Foul” spotlight on cinematic aquatic terrors is the 1980 creature feature, “Humanoids From The Deep.”
The story of “Humanoids From The Deep” was conceived of by producer Martin B. Cohen and Frank Arnold, an aging actor. The screenplay was written by William Martin, who notably doesn’t have any other film credits according to IMDb.
The primary director on “Humanoids From The Deep” was Barbara Peeters, who had directed a handful of exploitation films previously, and went on to direct for television programs like “Falcon Crest.” Later on, Jimmy T. Murakami (“Battle Beyond The Stars”) was brought in to direct additional sequences, but didn’t ultimately receive official credit for his work on the film.
The cinematographer for “Humanoids From The Deep” was Daniel Lacambre, who also shot “Battle Beyond The Stars” and “Saturday The 14th.”
The producers on “Humanoids From The Deep” included the legendary b-movie figure Roger Corman, story co-writer Martin B. Cohen, and Hunt Lowry, who has gone on to produce films like “Donnie Darko,” “Last of the Mohicans,” and “Top Secret!”
The effects team for “Humanoids From The Deep” included Steve Johnson (“Big Trouble In Little China,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Videodrome”), Shawn McEnroe (“The Howling,” “Cocoon”), Kenny Myers (“Species,” “Galaxy Of Terror,” “Galaxina”), Margaret Prentice (“The Thing,” “RoboCop,” “Total Recall”), Roger George (“Chopping Mall,” “Ghoulies,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Never Too Young To Die”), and Chris Walas (“Piranha,” “Gremlins,” “The Fly”).
The editor on “Humanoids” was Mark Goldblatt, who also cut such films as “Enter The Ninja,” “Predator 2,” “Super Mario Bros.,” and “The Howling.” He also went on to direct a couple of movies, the cult classics “Dead Heat” and 1989’s “The Punisher.”
The music for “Humanoids” was composed by James Horner, who would later win an Academy Award for his score to “Titanic,” and has received numerous accolades for films such as “A Beautiful Mind,” “Braveheart,” “Aliens,” and “Avatar.” “Humanoids” was one of his first film scores, and his early career featured a number of similar low budget horror and sci fi features like “Battle Beyond The Stars,” “The Hand,” and “Krull.”
Assistant director for “Humanoids From The Deep” James Sbardellati went on to work on films like “Slipstream,” “Frailty,” “The Island Of Dr. Moreau,” “The Beastmaster,” and “She’s All That,” and also got head directing duties for the 1983 sword and sorcery cult flick “Deathstalker.”
The cast of “Humanoids from the Deep” includes Doug McClure (“Cannonball Run II,” “Roots”), Ann Turkel (“Deep Space”), Vic Morrow (“Twilight Zone: The Movie,” “Roots,” “1990: The Bronx Warriors”), Anthony Pena (“The Running Man”), and Hoke Howell (“Kingdom Of The Spiders”).
The story of “Humanoids From The Deep” centers around a seaside town that becomes terrorized by mutated, sex-crazed creatures from the sea. As the plot progresses, it is revealed that the creatures were created as a byproduct from hazardous chemicals and genetically modified organisms that had been introduced into the local ecosystem.
Apparently, a fair amount of personnel drama ensued around the filming and post-production of “Humanoids from the Deep.” As mentioned earlier, Jimmy Murakami was brought in to film additional sequences after Peeters refused to do so, specifically because the proposed additions were all focused on increasing the gore and explicit sexual content of the film, which was counter to the original vision for the movie. One of the actors, Ann Turkel, tried to stop the release of the picture after she caught wind of the content of the additional sequences (to no avail).
Reportedly, additional actors had to be hired to play the parts of the monsters after the stunt men on “Humanoids” refused to wear the monster suits.
Menahem Golan (“Enter The Ninja,” “Revenge of the Ninja,” “Ninja III”) had at one point planned to make a sequel to “Humanoids From The Deep” in the early 1990s, but the plans ultimately fell through.
Joe Dante, who had just finished directing the film “Piranha,” reportedly turned down the opportunity to direct “Humanoids From The Deep.”
“Humanoids” went by a number of working titles throughout production in an attempt to give the film a sense of legitimacy and class. Two of these titles were “Beneath the Darkness” and “Monster,” the latter of which was used as the final title in some foreign markets.
“Humanoids” managed to gross a reported $2.5 million on an undisclosed budget, which was almost assuredly far less than $2.5 million. The film currently holds an IMDb rating of 5.7, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 56% (critics) and 43% (audience), making for a generally poor reception.
Even though a lot of Murakami’s extended sequences and extra shots didn’t make it to the final cut, it is clear that there was an attempt to up the sleaze factor from watching the film. The amount of totally unnecessary sexual violence on the part of the creatures (which is never adequately explained/rationalized) is absolutely through the roof, to the point that it even drags the pacing of the film down. The film was interestingly both praised and scorned for the explicit nudity and violence by various critics, creating an contentious division of opinion.
The monsters in “Humanoids” honestly don’t look great, They are certainly better than the typical rubber suit beasts that popped up in flicks like “Zaat” or “Horror of Party Beach,” but this was also made in 1980 and on a budget upwards of $2 million: it should look better than those flicks. In fact, it should look astoundingly better, which it unfortunately doesn’t.
One of the biggest problems with “Humanoids” is that it takes itself a bit too seriously for what it is. Outside of one or two semi-humorous sequences (there’s an attempted seduction via puppet?), this film is dead serious from start to finish, and never feels fun. I don’t understand what something so inherently ridiculous was made with such gloomy style, because it certainly doesn’t do the film any favors.
Also not helping the overly serious tone, awful monsters, and way-too-heavy content are the poorly-written characters. Basically, none of the characters are memorable in the slightest, and they seem to all die before you get to know them. For all of the things I dislike about, say, “Lake Placid,” I can give you broad strokes of what each of the central characters was like. Gun to my head, I have no idea how to describe the characters in “Humanoids,” except for that one creep who attempt the puppet-assisted seduction.
Last but not least, “Humanoids from the Deep” is guilty of a whole lot of rip-offs from much bigger and more successful contemporary blockbusters. There is obviously a lot of “Jaws” influence (the attack sequences and POV monster shots, for example) in the film, easily as much as there is from the more obvious predecessors “Creature From The Black Lagoon” or “Horror of Party Beach.” “Humanoids” even goes so far as to rip off the dramatic “Alien” chest-burster with the ending (which looks awful). I am a little surprised that they couldn’t figure out a way to wedge a light saber or a star destroyer into this flick to cover all of the blockbuster bases. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? Regardless, “Humanoids” is a knock-off from top to bottom, and doesn’t have a lot in the way of original contributions.
“Humanoids From The Deep” is like licorice: some seem to absolutely love this one, whereas it incites revulsion from many others. As much as I love b-movies (and licorice), I wasn’t impressed overall with “Humanoids From The Deep.” It is a faithful enough update of the old sea monster classics, but it is definitely missing something. The sexually charged monsters are just weird, and the whole thing is way heavier and more serious than it needed to be. It also feels like a soulless assembly of other successful elements from movies at the time that just don’t work when thrown together. Sexual-themed dread works in “Alien,” but it doesn’t need to be in “Jaws.” If you are into Corman movies, this is probably worth checking out, but it certainly isn’t in his upper echelon of memorable works by a long-shot.