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HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (1996)

"I didn’t think it was physically possible. It’s why we haven’t recovered any female victims. The mutations, they’re - they’re using them...."

Director: Jeff Yonis
Starring: Robert Carradine, Justin Walker, Emma Samms, Mark Rolston, Danielle Weeks
Screenplay: Jeff Yonis, based upon a story by Martin B. Cohen

Synopsis: In the small coastal town of Harbor Bay, a fish cannery is the target of protesting environmentalists, who believe that chemicals are being dumped into the water. Cannery manager Wade Parker (Robert Carradine) confronts Bill Taylor (Mark Rolston) who admits using artificial growth hormones to increase the size of the local fish. Wade orders him to stop at once. Outside the cannery, Wade clashes with the leader of the protesters, Matt (Justin Walker); later that evening, he is less than thrilled to discover that Matt is his daughter Kim’s (Danielle Weeks) new boyfriend. On a tourist fishing boat, a boy falls overboard and is dragged under the water. His mother jumps in after him, and she too disappears. Locals believe a shark took them. The cannery’s employees dump more chemicals, but are videotaped by the environmentalists, who have Kim with them. The cannery’s boat is struck by something. One of the men goes below to investigate, and is attacked and killed by an amphibious monster. The man’s companion drops a cigarette, causing an explosion which destroys the boat. At a bar, Bill Taylor is questioned by a woman claiming to be a reporter (Emma Samms). He brushes her off, then attacks Matt, who announces that he has the videotaped evidence. Matt and Kim and their friends go to the beach, where they decide to go skinny-dipping. While they are swimming, they are attacked by the monsters; all but Matt disappear. Matt goes to the police, but they do not believe him. Outside the police station, Matt is approached by the woman from the bar, who indicates that she believes his story. Later that evening, Wade hears screams from the water. He rescues a woman, and drags her companion from the water as he is being attacked by one of the creatures. Wade realises that Matt has been telling the truth and rushes to save him from Bill Taylor and his cohorts, who had announced their plans to get the truth out of him about Kim’s disappearance. Wade and Matt track down the mysterious woman at the morgue. She tells them the truth about the creation of the monsters, and the three band together to destroy them.

Comments: One of executive producer Roger Corman’s nineties remakes of his own eighties productions, this version of Humanoids From The Deep is a distinct improvement over the original. Which is not to say that it is without serious flaws. The grue content is unnecessarily high (a funny opening sequence involving the embarrassment of the military turns nasty when one of the soldiers gets his head torn off), and the explanation for the creation of the titular humanoids is particularly stupid (would you believe "amphibious soldiers"? - wisely, this point is skipped over as swiftly as possible). The film retains the abdominal-wall-birth sequences from the first version, which was a ripoff of Alien (1979), while the dumped growth hormone plotline is a steal from Lewis Teague’s wonderful Alligator (1981). The monsters are quite impressive in facial close-up, all exposed brains and fangs, but in long shot they look exactly like what they are: guys in rubber suits. What rescues this film is its almost total absence of the kind of stock black-and-white characters usually found in this kind of movie. Instead, Robert Carradine, Justin Walker and Emma Samms give convincing, low-key performances in comparatively complex roles. The film’s imaginative approach to its characterisations is best evidenced by Mark Rolston’s Bill Taylor. Foul-mouthed, aggressive and criminally inclined, responsible for the chemical dumping, Taylor by every known law of bad film-making ought to end up as monster bait. Instead, he ends up fighting with the good guys after his wife becomes one of the monsters’ victims ("The son of a bitch really loved her," testifies one of his friends). Having spent its opening sequences setting up the conflicting camps, the screenplay succeeds in bringing its people together into a believable fighting unit. It’s also nice to see the kidnapped women fighting back on their own behalf, not just lying around waiting to be rescued, while a reasonable explanation is offered for the (apparent) sparing of the surviving women in the fact that they weren’t ovulating. Credit for all of these points goes to director Jeff Yonis, who rewrote the original screenplay by Martin B. Cohen on which the 1980 version of this film was based. However, criticism must also be levelled at Yonis for allowing the film’s real villains to be cardboard cutouts. While political involvement is indicated ("The Government," says Matt accusingly, just the way Porky Pig used to say, "The Authorities"), it’s the military who’s really to blame, and in evil Major Knapp we have the stock bad guy we were expecting earlier - and yes, he’s monster bait. Infinitely worse than this, though, is the ruinous inclusion of the seemingly inevitable kicker ending telling us that it isn’t all over, after all. Surprise, surprise. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Humanoids From The Deep reaches new depths of tastelessness by following up the final bloody birth sequence with an inappropriately cheerful end title song called "I’m All Messed Up On The Inside".