DVD Review: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Night of the Creeps DVD CoverDistributor:  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

MPAA Rating: Unrated

Director: Fred Dekker

Starring: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Allan J. Kayser, Dick Miller, David Paymer

If you try and analyze the elements of all the great horror movies there are certain things that continually crop up. Obviously gore and terror are key, but you could also add to that a streak of dark humour, quotable dialogue, straight-but-slightly-knowing performances, characters that you care about, lots of genre references and in-jokes, better than average special effects and a pretty good story – Night of the Creeps has all of those.

The story begins in 1959 when an alien aboard a spaceship (stay with it) ejects a capsule that his pursuers are trying to get back. The capsule heads towards Earth and lands in the woods near a couple of courting students. The guy goes to find the meteor while his unlucky lady friend waits in the car, which is parked right on the main road in the path of an axe-wielding serial killer. In the woods, however, the meteor containing the capsule splits open and a slug-like creature leaps out and goes straight into the mouth of the male student.

Fast forward to 1986, and Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall) are a couple of college geeks looking to gain the attention of Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow), so they decide to join a fraternity. Brad (Allan J. Kayser), the leader of the fraternity and Cynthia’s boyfriend, tells the hapless duo that they must perform an initiation, daring them to steal a dead body from the college morgue and dump it on the steps of a rival frat house. Chris and J.C. sneak into the morgue and find a cryogenically frozen body that they try to steal, and after being interrupted by a lab worker they flee, leaving the body defrosting on the lab floor. Unfortunately, the body is the frozen corpse of the 1959 student and it still contains the slug from the meteor; well, it does until it leaps out of its host’s mouth and into the mouth of the lab technician, where it lays eggs on his brain and turns the unfortunate victim into a shambling zombie that’ll spawn more slugs, setting the scene for some zombie action on campus and the introduction of Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), who may know a bit about where the slugs may be heading.

Not your average bleak zombie fare, Night of the Creeps is B-movie madness at its finest. Cult movie legend Tom Atkins is in his element here, playing the grizzled alcoholic cop with a great supply of quotable one-liners (including the unforgettable “Thrill Me”), and Jason Lively and Steve Marshall bounce off each other like an established double act. Obviously paying homage to the classic monster movies of the 1950s, along with the obvious influence of Night of the Living Dead, this movie perfectly blends the vintage with the (relatively) contemporary. Indeed, if you’re a fan of more recent(ish) horror-comedies like Slither, Infestation or even something more left-field like Bad Milo then this is definitely essential viewing and could quite possibly be seen as a forerunner to those movies, Slither in particular. The references are also fun, mainly because it’s done with affection and not in an ‘ironic’ way – there’s the obvious Romero/Hooper/Cameron/Cronenberg names, but also Raimi and Landis are namechecked as well.

One of the true cult classics of the 1980s, Night of the Creeps seemingly got lost amongst the triple-whammy of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead and Evil Dead II and never really found the audience that it deserved at the time but it will make you laugh and go “Eeugh!” just as much as any of those and, apart from some of the fashions and the music, hasn’t really dated at all. Add to that the fact that there are some deliciously juicy extras to delve into and this edition of Night of the Creeps is pretty much perfect for a few hours of hilarious monster mirth.

Night of the Creeps

Special Features: Audio commentary by director Fred Dekker and moderated by Michael Felsher, audio commentary by actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow,Thrill Me: Making Night Of The Creeps documentary, original ending, deleted scenes, trivia track, theatrical trailer, bonus trailers.

US Release Date: 27th October 2009

Sony Pictures – Website

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