HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (October 5th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Whilst it may not be a direct remake or reboot of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water (2017) clearly takes some inspiration from the classic sci-fi horror and spins it's own unique (and captivating) story and style. There are other films that have aped the 54' version as well. One of these is Roger Corman's fantastically named 'Humanoids from the Deep' (known as 'Monster' in some territories). Although it's fair to say it bears no real resemblance to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (or The Shape of Water) in terms of tone and style.
For a start, it's a Roger Corman production, so you kind of know what you are letting yourself in for and in that respect, the film doesn't disappoint. Oh before I go into too much detail I should probably set the scene in terms of plot etc. Basically, in a small coastal American town called Noyo (think of a cross between Bodega Bay and Amity Island, just a bit more backwards) the son of an angler is dragged to his death by an unseen force on a routine fishing trip after he accidentally falls into the water. Any witness testimony is useless to as the others on the boat (and the boat itself) are immediately blown up in a classic spilled petrol/flare gun accident. Accidents happen at sea and all that so the locals aren't unduly worried. They're still not concerned when a load of the local dogs all get killed one evening either (surely that's a warning sign?!). They're all too focused on the arrival of a company called Canco, who are planning to build a huge cannery near the town and are at the beginning of efforts to persuade the townspeople that it will benefit them all. Unfortunately, what they haven't told them is that in their efforts to genetically modify salmon to make them grow more rapidly, they've inadvertently set off a chain of events that will come back to haunt the people of Noyo. You see, some of these mutant salmon have escaped and been eaten by prehistoric fish called Coelacanth and the result? Rapidly evolving gigantic fish men of course!
Oh boy. I watched Dracula (1931) yesterday. A classic film that bled class and sophistication. And I decided to follow it up with a film about a bunch of slimy fish people who run around killing and raping people in a coastal community. What was I thinking? You know what though? I actually had a good time. Less, so after I did a little reading up on the movie but a bit more on that later.
On a pure entertainment level, Humanoids from the Deep is as trashy and as excessive as you would expect. Gratuitous nudity? Yep, tonnes of that. Stunted dialogue and illogical character decisions? Uhuh. Loads and loads of scenes of people getting their face ripped off/beheaded/shredded up? Oh there's that by the bucket load. It's never boring, that's for sure.
However there are elements to this film that from a modern perspective just feel pretty icky. For a start the level of nudity is undoubtedly exploitative. Women undress or shower or just seem willing to have sex at the drop of a hat – and most of them (barring the scientist) are not the sharpest tool in the box either. There's a scene in the final act when everything culminates in an annual festival, where 'Miss Salmon' is introduced. She's just a woman in a bikini for men to leer at. When another woman in short shorts comes over to give a drink to the DJ that Miss Salmon is sitting next to, we duly get a close up of the DJ slapping her ass. We don't even see her face! Of course it's always easy to retrospectively slate a film based on the modern view of what is and isn't 'acceptable' but there are times in this film where you just wince. To compound all this, the humanoids are not only killing people – they are raping women. In fact, the original cut of this movie didn't include enough of this so Corman asked director Barbara Peeters to add some in. She refused and was subsequently fired. New scenes were shot by another director although hardly any of them made it into the final cut of the movie. One of the leading actresses went on to basically disown the film because of this.
It's a shame because the film flirts with exploring some serious issues; genetic modification, racism, harming the environment – all concerns that feel more poignant than ever. However they're all drowned out by boobs and mutant fishmen.
The last scene is admittedly great though – although nor sure the people behind 'Alien' thought so...