1: Pure Nostalgia
I often notice people speaking about nostalgia like it’s a bad thing and I just don’t agree with that at all. Nostalgia is a wonderful harmless drug and I enjoy partaking as frequently as needed. My father took my brothers and I when we were young to see HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP. I’m assuming the idea was that because it involved the ocean it would be akin to one of our favorite flicks, JAWS. Well, HUMANOIDS is nothing like JAWS. No matter how wacky this movie may be, I really cannot watch it without viewing it through a child’s eyes. It catapults me backward to a time when movies still seemed completely uncontrollable and dangerous to me. I feel an unexplainable primal energy from every late-night forest stalking scene and every twig snapping under the foot of an ambiguous intruder still gives me a thrill. I feel really lucky that I can even now tap into my younger self’s excitement all of these years later. Unlike me, this movie never gets old.
2: It’s goofy
I really hate to see animals killed in movies and I also have an aversion to onscreen rape. In fact, the same year HUMANOIDS was released (1980) my brother (who worked in a movie theater) snuck me in to see MOTHER’S DAY and I simply could not handle it and ended up fleeing profoundly disturbed. HUMANOIDS involves many dead dogs (!) followed by a lot of fish creatures prone to rape and yet I give it a pass because ultimately the film is good-natured and goofy. It’s sort of like a 1950’s beach monster movie dipped in eighties-era inhibition. Sure, an obvious obsession with T&A abounds but it also makes a point of presenting one hell of a powerful and intelligent female lead (Ann Turkel as Dr. Susan Drake who takes zero guff from anyone). Word has it that Director Barbara Peeters delivered a far less exploitive film to producer Roger Corman who unsatisfied, forced additional re-shoots of more explicit scenes. Maybe it’s because I grew up with this movie (it was rented on multiple occasions and became a family favorite of sorts) but I’ve never found the end result particularly offensive even though its premise of aquatic monsters impregnating women against their will might be a little iffy to modern tastes (HUMANOIDS was remade for cable television in 1996 with its levels of sex/violence toned down). I mean, this is the type of movie in which a ventriloquist dummy inexplicable becomes sentient to witness a double homicide and it’s presented as the most natural of occurrences. It’s difficult to take too seriously.
3: Vic Morrow
I dig Doug McClure and Ann Turkel as the film’s intrepid leads but Vic Morrow playing hateful racist asshole Hank Slattery is pure gold! Nobody does bad guys as convincingly as Morrow and I’m forever sorry he and his young costars in THE TWILIGHT ZONE MOVIE (1983) received such tragic (and avoidable) fates (Pssst, while we’re on the subject: HUMANOIDS handles the same anti-racist theme as Morrow’s TWILIGHT ZONE segment and in a less ham-handed way. Also, this flick’s got you covered on the anti-greed, pro-environmental issues too! It’s pretty sneakily progressive for a monster fish movie, I’d say).
4: Those Monsters!
As much as I love eighties era slashers, there’s something special about the monster movies that were able to creep their way out of the floorboards at that extraordinary time (I’m winking at you, THE BOOGENS). The monsters that inhabit HUMANOIDS have a bit of a throwback feel to them (they’re unavoidably linked at the fin to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON) but they’re also innovative and impressively daunting. How can they not be cool when the legendary Rob Bottin (THE THING) had a hand in their creation? I wish I could share a proper centerfold of these equally humorous and disgusting creatures. Their brains seem to be half exposed, their arms are unnaturally long, they seem to be covered with slime, kelp and gooey debris and the mean, green dudes stand about seven feet tall! What’s not to love and furthermore, where is the action figure I deserve?
5. The Salmon Festival Massacre!!!
Like most young folk I had a soft spot in my heart for destruction. Movies like EARTHQUAKE, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and THE TOWERING INFERNO all brought me great joy (I especially dug the opening of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which involved multiple planets being mercilessly annihilated). Right up there with the best scenes of chaos of my youth is the remarkable Salmon Festival fiasco of HUMANOIDS. There are sea creatures popping out of seemingly everywhere (impressive as only three monster suits were created), frenzied beauty pageant contestants fighting for their lives and innocent townspeople running about pell-mell. At this point, the mystery is over and the frightful fish folk couldn’t be more up close and in your face. It’s a lot of fun and provides an incredibly satisfying payoff to the film. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP taught me at a young age that horror movies could be as joyful as they are scary and for that I will always have affection for this somewhat silly, yet unquestionably awesome film.