Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Night of the Creeps – Review

Night of the Creeps – Review

May 19, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by Fred Dekker, 1986

Before a single word is written about the 1986 B-film classic Night of the Creeps, it is imperative that the career of writer and director Fred Dekker is acknowledged as one of the more unfortunate stories in horror movie history.  Dekker is an immensely gifted artist who created two of the most enduring and fan loved genre films of the 80’s – Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad.  Today, both of these films enjoy a massive cult following and have been highlighted in various horror conventions over the years.  As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, and I have yet to hear a single producer, director, or actor in the movie industry say anything other than the confident brilliance Dekker brings to a film project.  However, money rules the day in Hollywood.  Both Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad were box office failures.  The failure of Robocop 3 sealed the deal.  There is little argument, even from those within the movie studios, that the poor return at the box office had nothing to do with Dekker’s ability to direct and everything to do with the incredibly inept marketing strategies employed by the studio.  Case in point, the tag line for The Monster Squad was “You know who to call if you have ghosts, but who do you call if you have monsters?”  Wow, that is horrific.  Much more could be said, but this reviewer mourns the early departure of what I consider to be a superb director and talent in the horror industry.  Enough time has elapsed; a studio needs to give Dekker another chance.

Night of the Creeps is a perfect blending of about every B-film ingredient you can think of.  Aliens, zombies, sororities, a two-fisted cop, parasites, college humor, cryogenic labs, and gore are all beautifully mixed together.  Dekker refers to his film as placing all his favorite elements in a blender and hitting puree.  It is done tongue-in-cheek and yet has a serious tone.  It is filmed unmistakeably in the style of the 80’s and yet is not overly campy.  This is horror at its best.

The film begins with a strange UFO and alien scene where an experiment of some kind is launched from the spaceship down to planet earth.  The year is 1959 and a couple of sweethearts see what they mistaken to be a falling star.  The boyfriend finds the capsule and several slug like creatures infect him.  At the same time, the girlfriend is chopped up by an escaped homicidal maniac.  Yep, that is one heck of an awesome beginning.

Cut to the present age where we meet and begin to follow two college roommates, Chris Romero (Jason Lively – tough to see him as anything other than Rusty Griswold) and J.C. Hooper.  By the way, that “J.C.” is short for John Carpenter and you can probably figure out the Hooper and Romero names.  J.C. is a crippled who walks with two crutches and is on the prowl to help his best friend Chris score with the love of his life, Cynthia Cronenberg (yep, Cronenberg – seeing a pattern here?).  In order to accomplish that feat, they figure joining a fraternity is in good order.  Their orientation task?  To steal a cadaver and leave it on the front steps of a rival fraternity.  When the two friends set out to accomplish their goal, they find their way into a cryogenic lab where a frozen dude, who just so happens to be the infected guy from 1959, is encased in carbonite (or something like that).   You can guess what happens.  Chris and J.C. thaw out the corpse and the slugs are back on the loose!

Enter the best character of the film, Detective Ray Cameron (a nod to James) who is the coolest cop to grace the silver screen except maybe for Joe Hallenbeck.  Ray Cameron is beautifully played by Tom Atkins, perhaps my favorite character actor of all time.  “THRILL ME!”  Those are the words used by Cameron when answering a phone or walking into a crime scene.  Anyway, Cameron was the cop on the scene in 1959 when the girl was hacked to pieces (who just so happened to be his ex-girlfriend).  He begins to make the connection to the present day situation.  Meanwhile, pandemonium is running wild as more and more college students become infected by the slugs, turn into zombies, and produce more slugs.  Unfortunately, J.C. meets his demise, but not before he learns the secret to killing the creeps – fire.

Eventually the film boils down to an entire fraternity being turned into zombies while on the way to pick up their dates at the sorority house.  This leads to some of the most epic scenes imaginable as you have a bunch of college dudes in tuxedos walking around as zombies.  After Ray Cameron busts into the sorority house to save the day, he delivers what is possibly the best line in horror movie history:

“I have good news and bad news girls.  The good news is that your dates are here.”
“What’s the bad news?”
“They’re Dead!”

Flame throwers, shotguns, lawn mowers, and all kinds of fun inhabit the last 20 minutes of the film as Chris and Cynthia fight their way out of trouble.

As you can tell by now, I love this film.  But it is far from perfect.  Some of the scenes are beyond believable, even for B-film horror, and the cheese factor at times goes pretty high, which is of course intended, but probably goes overboard on occasion.  Much of the dialogue is strained and you may find yourself rolling your eyes at specific scenes in order to get through them.  But all of this happens with the greater good always at hand.  Dekker manages to maintain a small piece of sincerity in the film, especially in scenes such as Chris listening to J.C.’s recorded final message and Ray’s speech on finding his ex mutilated.

Steven Spielberg is all over the place in Night of the Creeps.  There is, of course, a blatant spoof of the beach scene when Cameron sees his girlfriend rise out of the water, complete with the cuts being signaled by people walking past him.  There are more subtle tributes as well, such as when the camera zooms on Cameron’s face while the background moves in the distance when he sees the ax-murderer turned zombie.  That Dekker was influenced by Spielberg’s brilliance is putting it mildly.

Thankfully, Night of the Creeps is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray in a wonderful edition, complete with terrific behind the scenes footage and interviews.  I really don’t like the cover art for the DVD however.  In its original release, the movie went through several different poster and art changes, the best by far being the zombie dressed in a tuxedo holding a bouquet of roses.  If you have never seen Night of the Creeps, then by all means click the link below and buy it now!

Click Here to purchase Night of the Creeps

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