Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 26 min.
Release Date: September 14th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jeff Yonis Actors: Robert Carradine, Emma Samms, Justin Walker, Danielle Weeks, Mark Rolston, Kaz Garas, Warren Burton
platoon of U.S. Army men open fire upon a metal tank filled with water and some sort of creature. Rather than letting the monstrosity out, they simply shoot at the box – and then they flamethrow it. Thanks to this level of stupidity, the monster escapes out the back and into an astonishingly convenient manhole (located out in the middle of the desert). When one of the soldiers leans into the darkness to investigate, his head is promptly torn from his shoulders. This opening scene is mildly reminiscent of “Jurassic Park,” but with a considerable amount of added idiocy and cheesiness.
The next day, as the big Harbor Shores County Salmon Festival looms, protestors picket the Canco Industries manufacturing plant, which is rumored to dump large quantities of chemicals (specifically the biohazard Synestin) into the water. Bill Taylor (Mark Rolston), the big boss, bribes his employees to keep their mouths shut, fearing that the FDA will close down their operations. He decidedly cares little for the environment.
One of the protestors, Matt (Justin Walker), is dating fellow activist Kim (Danielle Weeks), who happens to be the daughter of Wade Parker (Robert Carradine), a Canco manager on the verge of spilling the company’s secrets. But before the authorities can get involved, the slippery monster from the beginning of the movie snatches a boy from a fishing boat, along with his mother, turning the child into a chewed up, bloody pulp, while the woman’s body can’t be found. Their deaths are blamed on a shark (the same one that attacked Wade some time back), but it’s clear that something far more aggressive and humanoid is the culprit.
The film looks unusually sharp for a Z-grade Roger Corman production, though it utilizes many of the same low-budget techniques for which his pictures are known. A goopy autopsy scene and other aftermath glimpses substitute for more expensive assaults, while fake blood is splattered across walls to avoid showing the web-appendaged alien. In the same vein, the camera regularly takes the perspective of the humanoid (from the deep), so as to keep it obscured for as long as possible. There are an awful lot of reaction shots, focusing on faces rather than the creature.
The central premise about chemical dumping and the greedy corporation’s cover-up are largely extraneous concepts, considering that they have no bearing on the monster attacks. Ultimately, they just eat up screentime between exploitive nudity and gruesome deaths. Wade’s pseudo-love-interest/counterpart, a reporter (Emma Samms), doesn’t even appear until more than 20 minutes in, and then barely has an impact on the other characters. And it’s largely comical when Clint Howard pops up in a very small role as a deputy. To this same point, Wade happens to drive by a dock, where random victims are jumped by the humanoid, further making the plot a meaningless filler, wherein its major players aren’t significant targets for monster mayhem.
This 1996 update is a remake of Corman’s previous movie, “Humanoids from the Deep,” released in 1980. It changes a number of things – primarily the fishy evildoers, which have shifted from genetic experiments on sea life to DNA mutations on death-row inmates. Hilariously, the creature design remains about the same, featuring a wide mouth of teeth and an exposed brain peeking up from the oversized cranium. Since the hellions were formerly people, it actually makes a bit more sense that they’re humanoids (although their bulletproof skin and other details are sillier). The violence has increased marginally, and the makeup effects are more amusing, but the mutants’ inclinations to rape captured women (at least a doctor recommends counseling for monster rape victims) lead to some incredibly shameless rip-offs of the “Alien” franchise, chiefly when it comes to birthing (“Sir, if you listened, you’d know these things mate with women”). The coincidence of Rolston (who played Drake in “Aliens”) having a starring role is almost too much to take. And by the finale, “Humanoids from the Deep” goes so far as to steal from “Jaws.” Were it not for these outrageously obvious thefts, it might have been a passable sci-fi horror exploitation flick.
– Mike Massie