All of my friends, or anyone who has been visiting this site for a while, knows that I unabashedly love Night of the Creeps. It's the movie I always point to when trying to give a shining example of what 1980's cult flicks should be. The debut feature for writer/director Fred Dekker, there's just so many quotable lines and memorable moments here that if you can't come out of it at least being entertained then, perhaps, you take the genre way too seriously.
Right from the opening scene we know what to expect as Dekker bumps cornball science fiction up against 1950's kitsch going from a shootout onboard an alien spaceship to some lovers on prom night going off to a quiet place to make out while The Platters lush "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" plays on the soundtrack. These two events end up being related when it turns out our aliens have sent some brain invading slugs to Earth and the canister has crash landed right by our youngsters with one of them being taken over by the creatures and the other being hacked up by an escaped axe murderer.
Flash forward to Pledge Week, 1986 on the campus of Corman University (one of many name drops of cult filmmakers to come) where we meet the nerdy Chris (Jason Lively) and his crippled best pal J.C. (Steve Marshall). They're not at all popular and Chris spends a lot of his time lusting after cute fellow student Cynthia (Jill Whitlow). As part of their fraternity pledge they're told to go collect a corpse and happen to stumble upon our cryogenically frozen lover boy from the 50's. Accidentally removing him from his chamber, they unleash our slugs onto a University campus (and surrounding area) filled with plentiful young victims. Soon after, Chris is forced to become an unlikely hero and has to team up with Cynthia and gruff, no-nonsense police detective Cameron (Tom Atkins) to fight off the plethora of zombies left in our brain-mutating creatures wake - as well as our (still) axe wielding killer who's also back from the dead. This leads to plentiful effects sequences involving lawnmowers, shotguns, and even a flamethrower as our unlikely trio tries to save the day.
There's a reason that this has gone on to become a cult favourite. It's fun. I know that anytime I decide to watch it, I always end up with a grin plastered on my face. Dekker's affectionate nods to old creature features blending with, at the time, modern day humour and campus comedy just works. It's a quickly paced blast filled with creative attack scenes, top notch effects work, and managed to solidify Atkins' Cameron as one of the coolest anti-heroes to come out of 80's horror ("Thrill Me!").
Speaking of Atkins, my only prior exposure to him when first seeing this was in Escape from New York and the much maligned third Halloween movie, it's all his show here. He gives Cameron a sarcastic edge and gets to deliver all of the best lines (including the immortal "I've got some good news and some bad news..." moment). However, he's given ample support from the younger cast members with Lively and Marshall sharing some good chemistry, Whitlow pretty adorable, and Allan J. Kayser is jerk perfect as the stuck-up frat boy Brad. Familiar, and always busy, b-movie legend Dick Miller also shows up in one of his many cameos - and it joins The Terminator as one of his best ones.
Being only twenty-six when making Night of the Creeps, Dekker brings a larger knowledge of old school sci-fi and horror to the table than expected and now, thanks to its DVD/Blu-Ray release in the past few years (which I highly recommend you buy), you can see his original ending. While I myself had no issues with the theatrical ending, I didn't mind the original resolution as it added a new wrinkle to things. His follow up, The Monster Squad, would also plunder classic horror films for a fun "Kids vs. Ghoulies" romp. It's really too bad he's only made one other flick since and it happened to be the critically panned Robocop 3, which I thought was entertainingly dumb if a weird decision to take the series in a PG-13 Saturday matinee direction.
I'll say it again; I love Night of the Creeps. It's in my top ten genre films of the 80's. If you're a fan of this style of campy horror mixed with homage then don't you dare hesitate in watching this, you won't regret it. (Chris Hartley, 1/11/12)
Directed By: Fred Dekker.
Written By: Fred Dekker.
Starring: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins.