Some people really hate clowns.
Myself, I really hate ventriloquist’s dummies.
Seriously, those little wooden things totally freak me out. You know how some of you feel about the painted smile on the clowns ‘face? Well, that’s how I feel whenever I see the big eyes of a ventriloquist dummy or that mouth with the fake teeth. And don’t even get me started on those tiny little legs that some of them have! AGCK!
I mention this because there is a ventriloquist’s dummy in the 1980 film, Humanoids From The Deep. There’s really no reason for it to be in the film but suddenly, out of nowhere, there it is. It belongs to a teenager named Billy who, when we first see him, is relaxing in a tent on the beach, trying to get his girlfriend to undress for him and the dummy. Of course, they’re promptly interrupted by a seaweed-covered monster, who rips open the tent, kills Billy, and chases after his girlfriend. The whole time, the dummy watches with a somewhat quizzical expression on his face. It’s a strange scene.
Now, I’ve done some research and I’ve discovered that Billy was played by David Strassman, who was (and still is) a professional ventriloquist and his dummy was named …. I do not kid …. Chuck Wood. So, the whole tent scene was kind of a celebrity cameo. Roger Corman, who produced the film, said, “You know what? This movie has blood, nudity, killer fish-men, and rampant misogyny but it’s still missing something! How about that ventriloquist that I saw on the Tonight Show last night!?”
Anyway, Humanoids From The Deep is basically about what happens when you try to mutate salmon. You end up with a bunch of pervy fish monsters swarming the beach and trying to make like human/fish babies. You end up with a lot of dead teens and unplanned pregnancies. You also end up with the local redneck fisherman (led by Vic Morrow) blaming the local Native Americans, accusing them of killing all of the dogs in town. Jim Hill (Doug McClure) and his wife, Carol (Cindy Weintraub), try to keep the peace but their efforts are continually tripped up by the fact that almost everyone in town is an idiot.
For instance, despite the fact that there’s been a countless number of murders and rapes and that they’ve all been committed a group of monsters that nobody knows how to fight, the town still decides to hold their annual festival on the pier. Of course, as soon as the obnoxious DJ starts broadcasting, the humanoids from the deep show up and basically, the entire festival goes to Hell. And here’s the thing. The film itself is ugly and mean-spirited and misogynistic but the attack on the festival is totally and completely brilliant. I mean, it’s one of the greatest monster sieges of all time, largely because the monsters are apparently unstoppable and that humans are so obnoxious that you don’t mind seeing them all die. I mean, if nothing else, the monster deserve some credit for taking out that DJ.
It all leads to a “surprise” ending, which isn’t particularly surprising but which is so batshit insane that it somehow seems appropriate.
Humanoids From The Deep is an incredibly icky movie, one that has some effective scare scenes but which is way too misogynistic to really be much fun. (Roger Corman hired Barbara Peeters to direct the film but reportedly brought in a male director to film the movie’s more explicit scenes.) Oh well. At least the ventriloquist died.