Humanoids from the Deep

Humanoids_from_the_DeepA testament to Humanoids’ quality is that the dog Baron gets it;  many films pull punches when it comes to man’s best friend and we can’t count how many horror films have Fido escaping the clutches of some manic — but not from these rubber-suited marauders.

According to the book, Horror Films of the 1980s, “many have complained about Humanoids from the Deep because it features several scenes of grotesque inhuman creatures vigorously humping and impregnating nubile young women.”

It’s tawdry sleaze no doubt but there’s something else bubbling beneath the surface. It’s a Roger Corman production and as he himself has said: “there is always a political undercurrent in my films.” This one’s no exception.

The plot is just as relevant today as it was in 1980, especially given what’s going on in the fisheries industry, offshore farming controversies, depleted stocks and territorial disputes with First Nations: A northern California town is set to welcome a cannery, a purported economic driver for the area. The company’s chief scientist, who’s been trying to develop super salmon, inadvertently creates something you not only wouldn’t want as sashimi but also wouldn’t want anywhere near ye: killer genetic hybrid man-fish mutations. Aren’t they the worst?

Humanoids_from_the_Deep_Speaking of hybrids — this is basically The Creature From the Black Lagoon meets Jaws but with gobs of nudity as the man-fish prey upon the hapless humans.

There’s a splendid poppin’ racially-heated bar fight that must’ve kept foley artists busy, that is stopped by a gunshot in the air (that’s how you know it’s a bona fide bar brawl) and the admonition “pick yourselves up and go on home!”

There’s also the classic townsfolk line “we’re not leavin’ until we get some answers!” and much more delicious dialogue:

Scientist: “They’re in the process of becoming amphibious…Look at the size of the cranium. That means they have tremendous brain capacity!…Look…webbed hands!”
Company shill: “Your theory could be totally incorrect!”

Humanoids from the Deep was rightly included in Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen, which describes it as “a kind of Jaws for perverts.”

But it’s not the size of the boat that counts.

**** (out of 5)

Drive-In Massacre

Drive_in_MassacreDrive-Ins basically functioned as cheap motels in their peak in the mid 60s. So the prospect of gettin’ some was a draw but if you weren’t, think about it…it was a weird business proposition: a big swath of land required for what is an undeniably crappy experience — headlights shone on the screen, long distance to the concession stand, a windshield between yourself and the screen, time spent parking and maneuvering out of the complex, etc etc.

When audiences atrophied theater owners began to show exploitation films — like this one — which also happens to be about drive-in culture. Neat eh?

The Drive-In Massacre movie poster is duplicated in the first ten minutes as a sword-wielding freak starts dispatching movie-goers. Gotta admit, that was pretty cool. However it’s followed by the classic film cliché: the zooming in on a newspaper headline (see image below).

Some bored Barney Miller-types are called into action bemoaning “every nut in town’s gonna be callin’ in claimin’ credit!”

The drive-in manager, “the perfect asshole,” Austin Johnson is questioned and says of his clientele, “they’re all one big zit and long hair.” He oversees staff that includes a circus geek who ruined his teeth biting off chicken-heads, an obvious redneck red herring.

Drive-in-MassacreThe world’s least helpful psychiatrist is conscripted, setting back forensic sciences decades: “don’t expect any miracles…the toughest thing about this kind of case, is that there is no overall pattern for a psychotic killer!” and “a psychotic killer is usually a man.”

There’s an attempt at cinema verité (“the killer could strike again!” in the closing credits), which was better handled in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

** (out of 5)