This is the quiet American fishing village of Noyo, and its fishermen are preparing to embark on another day's work. As they climb aboard their boats, local bully and developer Hank Slattery (Vic Morrow) almost gets into an argument with Indian Johnny Eagle (Anthony Pena), but his friend Jim Hill (Doug McClure) breaks it up, and they all set off with little resolved. But this will be no ordinary morning, as one vessel ends up destroyed in an explosion, killing all of the crew - what nobody knows is that the chain of events that led to this was set off by a mysterious presence in the sea, something that is about to emerge with terrible consequences...
Humanoids from the Deep quickly became notorious on its initial release for being one of the trashiest horror movies around, and ran into controversy for its more sensationalist sequences. As this was directed by a woman, Barbara Peeters, one imagines producer Roger Corman cynically hiring her to put off any accusations of outright misogyny, a decision that backfired when she claimed the more objectionable scenes were reshoots added without her agreement, having been fired when she refused to film the rapes Corman insisted upon. Of course, the fact that this went further than any other monster movie up to that time ensured its success at the box office.
This in spite of the protests, which naturally whipped up more business for what was really one of the grottiest pictures New World ever released. Even the customary social commentary that their filmmakers liked to smuggle into the productions came across as half-hearted, with the humanoids turning out to be the result of experimentation courtesy of those dodgy scientists we've heard so much about in horror and science fiction ever since Frankenstein donned his lab coat. If that seems hackneyed, then get a load of the pro-Indian stance where Johnny Eagle is protesting about a cannery being planned that will harm the environment, something that would carry more weight if he was not the sole Indian character.
And the fact that it's forgotten about after half an hour once the humanoids attack. McClure, looking beefier than ever and around ten years older than he did in The Land That Time Forgot, makes little impression as the hero who has a young family to protect, which leaves Morrow to walk away with the film as the only actor more memorable than the killer creatures, which is regrettable in one way as his character is the most deplorable; don't worry, though, as he learns his lesson when Eagle saves him from turning into fish food near the end. Ann Turkel shows up in the scientist role of Dr Drake, apparently on our side until the final, tacked on scene which is lifted from the previous year's Alien.
In essence Humanoids from the Deep is an update of the type of creature feature Corman would have produced back in the fifties, only with newfangled sex and violence included to spice things up. But there's very little exuberance about the unleashing of all this mayhem, which climaxes in a local festival being overrun with men in goofy monster outfits; maybe it's the manner in which every scene seems to have been shot on an overcast day - no holiday resort this - or maybe it's the lack of enthusiasm in the cast's portrayals, or maybe it's that, you know, rape isn't much fun. Of course, the sexual assault element takes up about a minute of the screen time, but it's was what the film was best known for, proving that cynical exploitation quite often works like a dream for an otherwise unremarkable movie. It was eventful, you could give it that - there's an explosion practically every five minutes. Music by James Horner.