Monday, November 2, 2009

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Title: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Director: Fred Dekker

Cast: Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow


Sometimes movies completely bleep out of the radar, disappear, cease to exist. This usually happens with really cheap sci-fi/horror movies that studios figure nobody cares about. Sometimes its films that were such box office bombs that the studio simply wants to forget about ‘em. But sometimes the public will claim for a long lost movie to re-emerge and re-emerge they do thanks to the good will of a distribution company who'll give a crap about these old movies and decides to rescue them from obscurity. I'm talking about companies like Anchor Bay, Synapse Films and Blue Underground, these companies thrive on pleasing horror/sci-fi fans by re-releasing these films on various formats. Even with companies such as these, Night of the Creeps was nowhere to be seen. But wait! Finally somebody out there heard audience’s cries (thanks Sony!) and released this long awaited gem from the 80's! Get ready, because this my friends is one of the best zombie films of the 80's!  

Storyline on this film is a complete homage to science fiction and horror films from many eras; it's as much a homage to 50's science fiction films as it is a homage to zombie movies from the 80's. But what you need to know is this: a meteor containing a deadly alien life form crash lands in the woods! A curious teenager ends up as a host to one of the alien beings! They begin to reproduce in his brain…until his body is found and cryogenically frozen. Fast forward 30 years and the body is unfrozen by a pair of teenagers trying to get into a college fraternity! The alien slugs escape and spread all through out college campus! Will Detective Cameron find a way to stop the alien slugs before they eat every football jock and cheerleader on campus?

I never got why audiences didn’t connect with this movie; Night of the Creeps had all the right elements to become a hit in theaters yet it didn’t; it died a quick and quiet death in theaters. Many members of the crew and cast agree, the film just wasn’t marketed properly. Apparently, the studio didn’t know who to sell Night of the Creeps too, since the film is a mish mash of genres, they couldn't pin point the proverbial target audience. Same thing happened to John Carpenters Big Trouble in Little China (1986), the studio didn’t know how to sell Jack Burton to people, as a result a fine film like Big Trouble in Little China tanked at the box office. Same thing happened to Night of the Creeps and consequently, same thing happened to Dekker’s second film, Monster Squad (1987), it seems as if Dekker specialized in making films that were a hard sell. But there’s one thing all these fine movies have in common: maybe Hollywood didn’t know how to sell ‘em to us, but we found the movie anyway and made it our own!

Night of the Creeps has so many cool things going for it, many elements make it an enjoyable watch. First off, it has this whole background with the alien experiment, the slugs that get released onto our world by an evil zombie midget alien/scientist. Yup, you read that correctly! So we got the science fiction angle there which is fun, especially considering the aliens are midgets! I mean little people.

Then, the movie shifts into a 50's horror film when we are introduced to this couple sitting in their car, enjoying the beauty of a quiet star filled evening. Suddenly a meteorite falls from the heavens! The teens investigate, but wait; theres an axe wielding maniac on the loose as well! Then the film turns into an 80's teen flick and now we  follow a pair of horny teenagers looking to get some action. How do we know this is an 80's teen flick? Well, the film uses that classic 80's plot device where the teens who want to enter a fraternity have to pull off some sort of prank to get accepted. Then it turns into a zombie flick along the lines of Return of the Living Dead (1985), when we enter a facility that conducts secret science experiments involving the dead. But wait, its also a mystery, and so the film suddenly feels like a film noir as we follow a detective slowly uncovering everything! On top of this, we’re on a college campus with cheerleaders and football jocks running around drunk, looking for their next hot date. As you can see, Night of the Creeps is entertaining because it mixes so many different genres, it keeps things fun.

Tom Atkins has to be mentioned as something special in this film because he truly is. He is the epitome of what a bad ass 40 something detective should be like. He’s always the smart ass, the guy who knows the answers to everything. Don't ask him a stupid question, because you'll get stupid answer! His character has so many quotable one liners here, but amongst my favorite is of course, the ever popular “Thrill Me!” or there’s the other one: “I got good news and bad news. Good news is your boyfriends are here, bad news is their dead!” Jason Lively, whom some of you might remember as Rustty Griswald in National Lampoons European Vacation (1985) plays a pivotal role here as the nerdy leading guy, again, the film plays with our expectations of a film, this time its the nerd who is the hero. Steve Marshall plays the wise ass handicapped best friend. And Jill Whitlows plays the hot yet innocent looking, quintesential 80s cutey!

The cheesy dialog and sci-fi angle might not sit well with some folks, but if you can’t take the midget aliens in the first five minutes of the movie, then what are you doing watching this movie anyways right? But if you love monsters, aliens, zombies, cool make up effects, flame throwers, exploding heads, sorority babes getting undressed, zombie dogs, zombie boyfriends, alien slugs, cemeteries, and corpses sleeping in cryogenic laboratories, then look no further, this movie is for you! 

The DVD has some really great extras. The film included in the DVD has the alternate ending, so you get to finally see that alien spaceship hovering above the graveyards, looking for that lost canister of slugs! The original theatrical ending is available separately on the DVD as a deleted scene. That’s the ending with the slug coming out of that dog’s mouth and flying at the audience. It’s got interviews with everyone, Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow. Its got extensive interviews with Fred Dekker the films director, you can see the guy really loved his film, and he really did put his all into  making it as awesome as he could. Don’t worry Mr. Dekker, your film rocks! I hope Dekker does finally get to make another film, and that he puts as much effort and cram it with cool stuff and love for the genre as he did with Night of the Creeps. Mr. Fred Dekker, this film connoisseur salutes you!

Rating: 4 out of  5

Night of the CreepsNight of the Creeps [Blu-ray]The Monster Squad (Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition)The Monster Squad (20th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]The Monster Squad [VHS]


I Like Horror Movies said...

As far as I am concerned, Night of the Creeps is Horror perfection!! It is such an awesome and campy flick, but nothing tops the ridiculous gore (well, nothing but the fact that Tom Atkins is in it). I discovered it for the first time back in college, so I missed out on it for at least 20yrs, but Ive easily seen the movie 4-5 times since and its quickly become a personal favorite, its just so sad that Dekker hasnt done any features since Monster Squad!

Franco Macabro said...

Thats just the nature of Hollywood. You strike out twice and they eliminate you from the "cool book" in other words, they wont fund your films anymore!

Im thinking Dekker must have been extremely frustrated with the whole Hollywood game and thats why he backed out. I mean he struck out yet again with Robocop 3, which I of course try to avoid when talking about Dekkers films, cause in my book, he really did mess that one up, but hey, this is not to say that Robocop 3 isnt watchable, its just not better then the films that preceded it.

Plus its got some really crappy visual effects, specially during those scenes when Robocop is flying through the skies with that jet pack?

But anyhows, if you want to see a bit more of Dekkers work, get HBO's Tales from the Crypt, he directed one episode (The Thing from the Grave) and wrote five of them:

1- Split Personality
2- Lower Berth
3- The Thing from the Grave
4- Only Sin Deep
5- And All Through the House (the first episode in the series! And the most popular!)


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