One thing I've always remembered about Humanoids from the Deep -- aside from the sight of swamp men lumbering after naked women -- is the cover art: two evil, inhuman eyes peering over a prone, scantily clad female body. The image ranks among those that I remember casting sideways glances at while wandering the local video store with my family, and one that I would later become familiar with on my own. Humanoids, combines several things effortlessly -- no doubt thanks to producer Roger Corman. There's a nasty exploitation element, a 50's/60's monster drama throwback, a dash of Jaws, and a social/racial subtext -- something that Corman toyed with in every film.

The aquatic bloodshed unfolds in the fishing village of Noyo, where fishermen in the opening scene capture a terrifying creature in their net. If you doubted my word that Humanoids was going to be an unpleasant affair, then the child being slaughtered by a Humanoid, and a dog that gets eviscerated all within the first few minutes of the film should change your mind. As we venture further into the "story" we learn that the village residents are divided over a corporate cannery, which many believe is threatening to take over their humble town. In the meantime, slasher-worthy carnage is happening left and right, but perhaps the most unsettling aspect is the rape and impregnation of the local women by oversized, slimy monsters who seem to be washing up on shore in droves.
In the Japanese slasher/monster flick Entrails of a Virgin -- a film I'm reminded of while watching Humanoids -- a mutated monster stalks, rapes, and kills a group of Japanese models and photographers who become stranded at an isolated house. When one of the female victims is about to be slaughtered, she asks the monster why he's doing this to her -- to which he deadpans, "Because I hate you." The monsters in Humanoids may not vocalize that sentiment, but their actions certainly imply it. Yet I can't help but feel sorry for these creatures at the same time -- victims of a corporate experiment gone wrong, who are only doing what nature intended them to: propagate their species. Humanoids doesn't have quite the same misanthropy that Virgin does, but it lacks all the humor of Piranha (despite some of the standard B-movie cheese), and the rape element in the film doesn't exactly make this a typical monster movie. While the rape scenes are tame by today's standards, Rob Bottin's effects work helps lend an appropriately grotesque element to the proceedings.

The sex, gore, and nudity in the film was reportedly added after Barbara Peeter's directorial vision was deemed unfit for Humanoids' core audience, so Corman brought on Jimmy T. Murakami to film the exploitation elements and shake things up a bit. It's important to note that while Corman did work with themes in his films that could be considered sensationalistic, he was far too practical to dwell on that alone. Anyone familiar with the director's body of work will attest that he was more interested in discussing social issues than he was about cashing in on the rape of nubile, young bodies on a beach. Vic Morrow's character, the racist Slattery, might be an archetypal creation -- but that a film like Humanoids from the Deep even takes the time to add this sort of social commentary in amongst the more gratuitous gore and scenes of monster rape should prove that Corman was no mere schlock purveyor.

Shout! Factory
has been kind enough to release Humanoids from the Deep as one of the latest entries in their Roger Corman Cult Classics collection. Like the earlier discs, this package is nothing short of amazing. Humanoids is presented uncut, with a brand new high definition transfer of the infamous "international version". The print looks great. There's some grain in various scenes, but if you've suffered through the old VHS tape, this is like a gift from the home entertainment Gods. The package also includes a nicely written article insert from Michael Felsher, a Leonard Maltin interview with Roger Corman, and The Making of Humanoids from the Deep featurette -- which is my personal favorite amongst all the supplemental materials.

I'm incapable of picking a favorite Roger Corman film -- the man's been involved with so many movies that I love, that I could never choose. I think Humanoids from the Deep stands as one of the best examples of what Corman is like as a filmmaker (even though he didn't direct it) -- a film that is first, and foremost, fun -- but isn't afraid to inject a little social commentary into the mix too. I think that's why cult film fans love Corman so much -- he understands that just because we like movies with monsters, aliens, and cheap production values, it doesn't mean we're stupid. The thematic material in these films is never subtle -- because nothing in exploitation cinema ever is -- but it is there, adding one more layer to an already entertaining film.

You can pick up a copy of Humanoids from the Deep on Blu-ray and DVD.
categories Dvds, Reviews, Horror