During this scare season, I’ve been trying to focus on all manner of horror: on the screen, in comics and on the page. I’ve watched a lot of movies, read a pile of comics and even made my way through a few fiction novels. But there are also so many great true stories about the people who made this awesome art. With The Lady From The Black Lagoon, Mallory O’Meara chronicles the life and career of Milicent Patrick, the woman who designed the Creature From The Black Lagoon, my personal favorite of the Universal Monsters!Enter, if you daree…
Though clearly influenced by Creature From The Black Lagoon, I watched Humanoids From The Deep (also called, more simply Monster) first which is why I’m reviewing it first. I’ve got the rad new Shout Factory DVD version and had moved Creature up to the top of my queue. Though I hadn’t planned it, they made a great double feature as they both feature undersea creatures and their interactions with humans on both land and sea. One really gave me the creeps with it’s underwater stalker while the other was mostly just cool because of the last 20 minutes or so.
It probably comes as no surprise, but Humanoids didn’t have any scares. It does have a good deal of bloody violence and boobs (which were apparently filmed by a second director after Barbara Peeters refused to shoot additional material just have more nudity and was fired). The effects are pretty fantastic too, especially the teenager whose face gets eaten off by the creatures. But, the coolest part of the movie comes at the very end when the creatures come up on land and start killing and maiming residents of the town at a carnival. One thing that always bugs me about slasher and monster movies is that the killers are always too focused. Why do they pass by perfectly killable potential victims and just zero in on one yahoo? If you’re a murderous monster, you should be an equal opportunity one and go after everyone possible. That basically happens here.
The plot’s a little gross and not just because of the kills. See, these creatures come from the deep because a nearby cannery gave salmon some weird hormones. Some of those salmon got out into the wild and mutated into these monsters who don’t just want to kill, they want to bone human women. As you might expect, that doesn’t work out so well for the women.
After watching Creature, I realized that a lot of the shots and sneak peeks at the monster (clawed hands groping around, but nothing else) were taken from the older film, but I kept getting flashes of Jaws which was also an influence on this movie. There’s even a scene kind of like the one where the shark destroys the dock and the guys struggle to get back up to safety. Ah well, it really is worth it just for that last scene at the carnival in my opinion.
The older, black and white film actually gave me the willies. I have some very specific fears about the water that don’t keep me out of it, but are always floating around in the back of my head any time I’m in a lake or ocean. Sure, there’s the one about something else being in the water, like a creature from the Black Lagoon type or a shark, but I’ve got a weirder fear about seeing a dead body under water while SCUBA diving. Mind you, I’ve never been diving, let alone inside something that could have a body in it, but scenes like the one in Jaws where the head pops out of nowhere really give me the creeps. I guess I’d be freaked out by coming across a dead body in any situation, but being under water makes it worse because, you know, you can drown.
Anyway, I mention all that as a way of explaining why this 56 year old movie creeped me out. The scenes with the woman swimming on top of the water and the creature swimming underneath her? Oh man, that got to me. Then again, so did pretty much every moment where she was in the water. Heck, even just seeing the creature sitting and waiting under water was creepy. I grew up on a lake where I got used to seaweed creeping up on me, but the longer I’m away from it on a regular basis, the more skittish I get in the water. It’s not like I won’t go in at all, it’s just on my mind more because I’m apparently turning into a crazy person who believes there’s a Creature from Devil’s Lake (though that does have a pretty good ring to it).
The plot follows some scientists as they try to find where a claw-like fossil came from by heading to the Amazon. Once they come across the living equivalent of that hand, one of the scientists wants to kill it and attacks the creature with a harpoon while the nicer scientist (who’s with Julie Adams, who’s the rare horror starlet who’s super hot without being super slutty) wants to learn from it and later, get the hell out of there. Once the underwater stuff gave way to the tried and true struggle between nature being left to its own devices and man wanting to control nature, my interest slipped away. That is until the end when the creature grabs Adams and dives to an underwater cave that has air.
I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the story because I read Art Adams’ version of the story in Art Adams’ Creature Features last October, but it was still worth watching. I wish I could have seen it in the original 3D, but I’ll take what I can get. This also checks off another classic Universal Studios monster movie I haven’t seen. There’s two more Creature movies that I thought were included on the disc I got from Netflix, but apparently they’re on another one. Maybe I’ll get to them later this month.