For the last four years, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has hosted a late-night horror movie celebration called Terror Tuesday and if you are a lover of horror, both esoterically brilliantly and obscurely awful, this night was invented just for you. The Terror Tuesday Report will dissect the movie shown as well as provide a barometer for the audience's reaction; as many of these films demand to be seen with an audience, this proves a vital component to the evening.
This week's film: Humanoids from the Deep, directed by Mike Marvin, 1980
A tiny fishing hamlet is facing a crossroads. They don't want the big cannery to move into their town because it impedes upon their quaint, communal way of life. But unfortunately the fishing has been abysmal of late and they may require the genetic engineering sponsored by the cannery to return the bounty to their waterways. Too bad that same genetic engineering, that carried with it promises of brighter days and rejuvenated small businesses, has gone horribly awry and created a race of giant fish men with one thing on their fishy minds: mating with human women. It's going to take more than a hook and some night crawlers to reign in these fish.
I unequivocally love Humanoids from the Deep . It is assuredly in my top three fish rape films of all time. For all its celebrated cheesiness and silliness, I think it's one of Corman's scariest films. The monsters may have been inspired by Corman's early sci-fi b-movies but I genuinely find them to be unsettling. The exaggerated heads and the mouth full of teeth accompanied by the longest arms of any monster in horrordom add up to the ultimate, amphibious stuff of nightmares. Even if you find the design a bit top-heavy and goofy, the monsters are enhanced by withholding cinematography and brutal gore effects. The monsters are not seen in full until near the end of the film. Prior to that, they are in shadow, under water, or obscured by carefully placed foreground objects. It may have been a concession of the budget or possibly a impressive style choice, but it works either way.
Also, these are the most violent fish since Dante's Piranha. They rip people open, tear parts of them off, and even mutilate a small child near the film's opening. The scene at the carnival is a nonstop bloody orgy that is so gritty and nasty that it's effectively hard to watch. By the time you get to the butchered corpse spinning hopelessly on the merry-go-round, the bold cruelty of this film becomes clear. And something I never knew until this viewing, and of which I would still have been ignorant had my buddies and I not been lingering in the theater as the credit rolled, the creature design in Humanoids from the Deep was handled by the one and only Rob Bottin a mere two years before his legendary work on The Thing; yet another standout member of the Class of Corman.
The reason Humanoids from the Deep is not taken more seriously has a lot more to do with the humans in the film and than it does with the humanoids. Part of it may have something to do with the ceaseless parade of topless women; not a complaint mind you, but rather an observation. There were so many boobs in this film that the trailer alone had at least three pair. The teenagers here are incredibly stupid, and I use that word because I find it incredible that some of them don't randomly forget how to breathe and drop dead. But then again I suppose their brainlessness is the catalyst for some of the most indescribably absurd moments of the entire Corman catalog. If you never thought being a ventriloquist would allow you to seduce the pants right off a hot chick, allow me to direct your attention to a certain scene in this film. I also love the girl who stands right in front of monster when she walks outside but doesn't see it because she's too dumb to tilt her head 30° toward the ground.
One of my all time favorite actors of both cult and critically acclaimed fare has to be one Mr. Vic Morrow. His poise and talent instantly elevates the quality of any film in which he appears. You have to respect a guy who's so badass that he was once in a film with Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and he landed the role of the character named Hammer. He is a pitch perfect douchebag in Humanoids from the Deep and yet his hesitation-free heroics when saving a small child are moving; if not sadly ironic. Wrap all of this up with a darker-than-expected James Horner score and the fact that Corman pulled some fantastically shady shenanigans by reediting the film after his female director failed to include enough gore and fish molestation of nubile young women for his liking and you have a truly enjoyable horror treat. Yes, the ending is eye-rollingly derivative, but I still love it. I would highly suggest owning this on Blu-ray as well as VHS.
This particular Tuesday saw the onset of a terribly freak occurrence to which we Austinites are far from accustomed: torrential downpour. All day long the rain fell, compliments of Hurricane Hermine, and had only slightly let up by the time the lights fell in the theater. It seems frightfully trivial to discuss the weather in relation to an indoor event, but it was a poetic prelude to Humanoids from the Deep. The endless cloudburst drenched the entire city so as you walked to the theater in the heart of downtown, everything was wet and dank. By the time I took my seat, I felt as if kelp were growing on my shoes. I looked around the theater at some pretty miserable faces before the film started but the all-consuming awesomeness of this film was like a dryer-warm towel to the dampened spirits in the room.