The existence of the Deros was first revealed to humanity by the great American hero Randy Shaver (1907-1975). In 1932, while working in a factory job, Shaver discovered that one of his welding guns, by a process inexplicable to him, gave him telepathic powers and allowed him to hear the thoughts of his co-workers. More disturbingly, the psychic welding gun allowed him to hear, according to Bruce Lanier Wright, according to Wikipedia, “the telepathic record of a torture session conducted by malign entities in caverns deep within the earth.” Now, some would have us believe that Shaver spent the next ten years of his life “in a mental institution,” but a far more likely explanation is that he spent that period exploring the labyrinthine tunnels of the hollow earth and uncovering the secrets of the Deros, which he reported to Amazing Stories magazine in 1943. Shaver explained that (shades of Lovecraft) a super-advanced race had once occupied the Earth, but that they were forced to abandon it because of their inability to tolerate the radiation of our Sun. The vast majority of this ancient race decided to abandon the Earth, but they left behind (in tunnels and caverns, where they presumably would be sheltered from the Sun’s radiation) a group of their descendents. Now, some of these descendents remained benevolent and pure like their ancestors, and Shaver calls these figures Teros. But the bulk of the tunnel-dwellers, however, became degenerate and sadistic, and these he calls Deros, which is short for Deleterious Robots (I don’t think “Tero” stands for anything). It’s important to note that the Deros aren’t actually robots, but Shaver uses the word “robot” to convey the cold and inhuman aspect of the Deros. Now, the Deros, it turns out, are responsible for every single unpleasant thing that has ever happened to anyone (remember William S. Burroughs’ line on the subject: “In a magical universe, there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless somebody wills it to happen.”) Did you sprain your ankle? Deros did it. Did you die in a plane crash? Deros did it. Were you kidnapped and dragged into a subterranean labyrinth and subjected to inhuman (and frequently sexual, Shaver had a thing for that) tortures? Deros did it. Fucking Deros.
Now, for whatever reason, Deros have yet to capture the popular imagination in quite the same way that werewolves or vampire have (imagine Twilight, except Edward isn’t a vampire, but rather a sadistic, mentally impaired troglodyte. Sexy, am I right?) But nonetheless, I have seen Deros in at least two movies (I say “at least,” because in some movies it’s hard to tell if the underground monster is a Dero or just some other garden variety nightmare). The movies in question are: Takashi Shimizu’s Marebito (2004), in which the monsters are clearly identified as Deros, and Carlo Ledesma’s The Tunnel (2011), which doesn’t explicitly identify its monster as a Dero, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is.
So, cinematically, what do the Deros get up to? Shimizu’s Marebito takes the “Shaver Mystery,” as it came to be called, and integrates it with Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos. It follows a man named Masuoka (played by actor/auteur Shinya Tsukamoto) who views a video of a crazed man who emerges from the Tokyo Underground and commit suicide by driving a knife into his eye, so as to escape the horror of whatever he saw down there. Masuoka, who clearly has issues, and is evidently “into” viewing this sort of material, decides to venture underground to see whatever it was that the deranged man saw. Well, he quickly finds that there’s much more than a subway system beneath Tokyo, and soon he’s going deeper and deeper underground through a complex system of tunnels. Along the way, he meets a homeless man who asks him if he’s heard about the Shaver Mystery and warns him about those fucking Deros, but that doesn’t deter Masuoka. Our hero eventually reaches the Mountains of Madness (from Lovecraft), which are apparently located under Tokyo, and in a shallow depression in a rock wall, he finds a beautiful naked woman chained therein. He does the rational thing and, after freeing her, takes her back to his apartment to live.
Now, what makes this movie so effective as horror is that everything works by implication, including the Deros themselves. Because even after he’s rescued the woman, the Deros are out to get her, but we almost never get to see them. We get maybe two fleeting glimpses of them, and they’re these quadripedal, albino white things (and troglodytic life tends to be albino) with creepy eyes. And without going into any “spoilers,” let me just say that the Deros begin a discreet campaign of harassment against Masuoka and the woman (because again, they’re Deros, and that’s what they do), that will lead Masuoka to confront a horror so unspeakable that it’s worthy of Lovecraft himself.
The second “Dero” movie that I’ve seen—and which I just watched this evening—is an Australian “found-footage/pseudo-documentary” called The Tunnel. A TV reporter and her crew are investigating the apparent disappearances of homeless people in the abandoned subway system beneath Sydney. The local government doesn’t want to talk about the issue, and so the news crew sneaks into the abandoned system at night to do an investigation. Well, as generally happens in these situations, they soon find themselves fighting for their lives because they’re being attacked by—you guessed it!—Deros (or at least by a Dero). Now, they never explicitly identify the thing as a Dero in the movie, but it clearly is, if only because it looks like one. It’s sadistic and violent, it lives underground, it’s albino, its eyes are fucked up (because if you live underground you’re either blind or your eyes are amazing). The only reason they don’t just call a spade a spade and declare the thing to be a Dero is because evidently these poor Australians aren’t familiar with the Shaver Mystery. Well, good for them. I’m sure it will save their peace of mind.
Now, there are probably other Dero movies out there, but these are the only two that I’ve seen thus far. I’ll keep you posted if I come across more. Oh, and NB: if you ever get kidnapped by a Dero, you’re basically fucked, but you can always hope that (a) some benevolent Teros will come to your rescue (which they occasionally due, even though the Deros outnumber them) or (b) that Shinya Tsukamoto is poking around in your local cavern system and will set you free.