Day 11: Female-Helmed Horror Movies For October
Humanoids From the Deep (AKA, “Monster”)
Directed by Barbara Peeters
1 hour, 20 minutes
I watched it on Amazon Prime. I spared others from watching it with me.
The story of this movie is more interesting than the story inthis movie. Ya see, “Humanoids From The Deep” (AKA the laziest title ever: “Monster”) was a New World Pictures movie, which meant Roger Corman, and while there’s a lot about the eccentric Director/Producer I admire, he could be relentless about wanting to add what he considers necessary sleaze to his exploitation movies. So Barbara Peeters goes and makes this admittedly boring monster movie but then Corman’s idea of a solution to save it is being a gross jerk and hiring the Second Unit Director James Sbardellatito direct scenes of the humanoids raping the women they capture. And the scenes aren’t even scary, which kind of fits since nothing about this movie is scary, but because these rape scenes aren’t scary, all we’re left with are images of perfect breasts being oozed on and groped by jerk monsters. Yuck. So that was all for nothing. And Peeters and Corman had a big falling out over this and it ended their long-running working relationship. Peeters then went on to direct some TV in the ‘80s, including “Remington Steele” and “Cagney and Lacey” and then that’s about where her credits stop.
One of the stars of the movie, Ann Turkel, who plays the scientist, even went on TV after the movie came out to rail against Corman for turning what was just a confusing mess of a monster movie with some environmental and union themes into an offensive movie. It’s one of those actor nightmares, to have worked on something you thought was at least a good time of a flick and have it turned into mean-spirited schlock.
Make no mistake, this is outright schlock. There is no don’t-show-the-shark subtlety in this “Jaws” rip-off. You see them often and you see them quite well-lit. And to muddle things even more, another director is listed online but isn’t credited in the movie, Jimmy T. Murakami, and the small amount of research I was willing to stomach for this flick didn’t turn up any explanation as to what Murakami got roped into doing here. I’d already had enough in seeing how much Peeters had been usurped. But to be fair, if she hadn’t been a female director and the scenes in question weren’t rape scenes, I would have said, “Good, fire that director. This movie’s terrible.” Plenty of actually fun movies were made under the constrictions of “Give the audience their nudity and violence; this is an exploitation flick.”
Since it’s a “Jaws” rip-off, it’s set in a small seaside town full of internal political conflicts. It’s a town of fisherman and they’re divided on whether to accept a cannery company that wants to build there. One side says the cannery will bring in jobs and the other side wants to stay or become unionized (that part’s never clear – just some shouting about unions) and keep things as they are. The union side is represented by a Native American man (Anthony Penna, playing a character named Johnny Eagle – okay, sure) who’s trying to block this cannery that the white guys are so hot on. So the white guys go after him in a brutal way. One of them kills the guy’s dog and they blow up his dock. (You don’t care about spoilers here, do you? You’re not gonna watch this movie.)
And this is all apart from the movie monster. That’s a classic theme, one of my favorites, actually (who is the real monster?), but it doesn’t work here. It’s just touched on here and there. This was just full of too many ideas and none of them well done. None of the kills are scary. None of the townspeople react in an assertive way. They know there’s monsters running around, killing people and no one even debates whether that big town festival coming up is a good idea. There’s even a mom holding her toddler and a knife to defend them with and it’s boring. How is that done in a boring way? That’s so loaded and potentially badass! I’ll have to put it in one of my movies and hopefully I’ll have better luck pulling it off. So since “Monster” or “Humanoids From the Deep” is mostly useless, I’ll just hit a couple of beats I did enjoy because it’s my blog and I can do what I want to. And I want to move on as soon as possible to a movie I (hopefully) like.
The speaker at a town hall meeting who introduces Turkel’s character as “Dr. Susan Drake here, great little scientist” and Dr. Drake side-eying the shit out of him for that condescension.
A couple frolics on the beach, heading off to be alone and they walk past a bunch of humanoid footprints, and it’s the closest moment to creepy.
I swear I’m not making this up, but a guy seduces his date in a beach tent via his ventriloquist dummy. And she’s into it and I don’t blame her. It’s so goofy and after the non-seductions in most of these movies, a guy using a dummy is a real step up in effort. I think I’ll just end with the dummy. Sounds about right.