With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades later. From grotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.
The major success of Jaws inspired a bunch of low budget B-movies in its wake, many from legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman. Right on the heels of 1978’s Piranha came the much sleazier, gorier Monster, aka Humanoids from the Deep. Both released under Corman’s company New World Pictures. Humanoids from the Deep took a kitchen sink approach to its plot; from creature feature to eco horror to even social politics, there’s a little bit of everything and a collage of overt influences worn on its sleeve. At the forefront of it all, though, is exploitation.
For the fishing village of Noyo, California, the salmon seem to be disappearing from the waters at a rapid rate, just before the town’s annual festival. It places a severe economic burden on the fishermen, and creates mounting tension between them and the Native American community. Tensions are heightened even further with the arrival of a canning corporation. Enter a scientist on behalf of the corporation who promises to replenish low stock with genetically engineered salmon. Much of which includes frog DNA, because reasons. Thus, Noyo quickly becomes inundated with slimy aquatic humanoids who slaughter anything in their path save for women. These humanoids were engineered with an insatiable need to reproduce, thus all women they come across are raped. Or at least that’s the goal.
Corman is a savvy businessman above all, and with now over 400 movies under his belt, he has a formula for creating successful projects. When it comes to horror, he’s pretty easygoing with plot and gives his directors a lot of freedom – as long as the movies contain a certain amount of nudity and gore. When Corman hired director Barbara Peeters to helm the feature, his main directive was that these monsters slaughter all the men and rape all the women. She delivered on the kills, but she was more tasteful in her filming of the rape scenes. They were handled usually via cutaways or hidden in shadows. Corman tapped second unit director James Sbardellati to redo those scenes, making them much more lurid and explicit. Peeters apparently wasn’t even aware of these reshoots until the movie’s release.
As for the humanoid creatures, they were designed and created by Rob Bottin. While they’re pretty much just men in rubber suits (Bottin himself played one of them), the design is still pretty cool for such a low budget feature and it’s easy to see why he started to gain traction at this point. Bottin was fresh off The Fog when he landed Humanoids, and the following year he would capture major attention with his work on The Howling. All of which he accomplished in his early 20s, no less.
For a pretty straightforward creature feature chock a block full of exploitative gore and nudity, there’s a lot going on in Humanoids from the Deep. Perhaps too much. Some of the subplots feel sloppy, but then, that’s not really why people push play on this one. The deaths are often bloody and the creatures themselves are memorable; Corman’s exploitation blueprint often achieved the effect he wanted and appeased his fanbase. And the controversy of the behind the scenes directorial and reshoot changes also gave this one a level of notoriety.