Night of the Creeps
night of the creeps | fred dekker | jason lively | tom atkins | steve marshall | meta | history | parody | alien | aliens | zombie | zombies | comedy | sci-fi | sci fi | united states | jill whitlow | wally taylor | bruce solomon | vic polizos | allan kayser | ken heron
Film: Night of the Creeps
Director: Fred Dekker
Writer: Fred Dekker
Starring: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins and Steve Marshall
This was a film that I remember watching at least part of it when I was growing up as it was on the movie channels from time to time. I don’t think I ever fully watched it from start to finish in one sitting though. From what I remembered, it was one that I was always fond of and when I saw my theater showing it as part of their Horror 101 series in 35mm, I knew I had to go. The synopsis is alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a zombie. Some teenagers and a police officer fight back.
The film kicks off in 1959. It actually is on a spaceship where an alien is escaping from two others as they are shooting at it. The fleeing one is carrying something and others are trying to prevent it from getting away. The alien ejects the experiment where it crash lands on Earth. A couple is at a local lover’s lane when a police officer tells them to go home due to a mental patient escaping. It is awkward though in that the cop and the young woman used to date. What sparks them to leave is seeing the thing from space crash. The male goes to see what it is while his girlfriend is attacked by the killer.
We then shift to the present. It is rush week and two guys pass through it. There’s Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall). J.C. has something wrong with him as he has to walk with crutches. They stop when Chris sees the most beautiful girl, Cynthia (Jill Whitlow). They follow her into the party at the Beta house where J.C. goes to talk to her for Chris. He decides the only way to be with her is pledge the frat, which the two of them do. It is ran by her boyfriend though, Brad (Allan Kayser). As an initiation, they have to go to the medical center, find a body and leave it on the steps of their rival frat. The problem though, they aren’t going to be allowed in even if they do this.
The two end up stumbling into a lab where they find the body of Johnny (Ken Heron), the man from 1959 who has been in cryo-stasis since then. They release it and it moves, freaking them out and they flee. The body comes back to life and attacks a young scientist (David Paymer), before going to the sorority house where Cynthia lives.
Being awaked from a dream is Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins). He’s the cop from what happened in the 50’s and he’s called to the lab. We see that he’s stuck in the past and reliving what happened on a daily basis, using booze to help cope. He investigates what happened here.
Johnny goes up to Cynthia’s room by a fire escape and vomits slugs out. She calls the police and Brad thinks it is the prank Chris and J.C. were supposed to do for him. Cynthia is over Brad and his demeanor toward people. She seeks solace with Chris. The problem though is the slugs that are now free start to take over people and they become zombies, incubating more slugs. Can all this be stopped before it is too late?
Now I have to start off my thoughts on this saying that I had a blast with this film. I don’t remember it being as fun as it was is and I heard people say how meta it is, but I didn’t realize to the extent. This is a horror/comedy and probably one of the best ones I’ve seen to be honest. The film is so self-aware of itself that I think is why it works so well. We have a lot of different elements combine into this film.
To get into that, we have the film mocking Plan 9 from Outer Space. Now I’ve never seen that one, but I know it is aliens that are making zombies to do battle. This film starts with aliens, which made the slugs that do just this. The film even has Plan 9 being shown on TV and making jokes how this isn’t a bad sci-fi movie. This actually really made me laugh, but it is so smart on top of that.
Going with the meta aspect, this film has so many references to great director’s. I will say that today this is a bit played out, but in 1986 when this film was made, I think it’s great. To just name a couple, there is Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Cronenberg, Landis and Raimi. Every time I heard one, it made me chuckle because this is a horror film by a horror fan for horror fans.
Also even though this film mixes so many sub-genres together, I think it actually really works as well. The character’s have such depth, which I will cover here shortly. I will say that it does have an unreal expectation because Cynthia is absolutely stunning, but as someone who hopes to find someone to be interested in me that is that gorgeous, it does give the viewer hope, even if it is false.
This brings me to the pacing of the film. It comes in at a quick 88 minutes. The film never hits a lull and things just continue to build. This really helps to build the tension, because we can see everything that is happening while those in the film can’t and that is good. There are also subtle hints we are given to things and it circles back to them later which is also just really good writing. The ending is a bit of a stretch, but it fits for the film for sure.
Now to the acting, which I think is great. Lively is solid as the hero. We see him at first is unsure and has low self-esteem. What is interesting about that though, it is because of his high school sweetheart breaking up with him. I’ve definitely been in a situation like he is where you really care about someone and it ends. It can shake you like it did for him. His development into the hero is good. Marshall is actually great. He has a physical disability, but is completely confident in himself. He knows his plight. He loves his best friend so much he will do whatever he can to make him happy, which was really heartwarming. Whitlow is beautiful and I was a big fan of her. I don’t know if I necessarily buy her falling for Chris like she did, but I can’t fault the film for going this route. Atkins is great in this film as well. I love that his character couldn’t get past what happened. His character embodies this from the car he drives to having the case file out as well as old yearbooks. It is just crafted in such an amazing away and his character parallels to an older version of Chris. The rest of the cast definitely rounded out the film for what was needed as well.
Next I will move to the effects of the film. They all seem to be done practically, which is in part due to the technology available at the time. I think they look pretty solid though. Not all of it looks great, but that gives it a bit of charm in my opinion. There was some kind of digital effect with some of the slugs that doesn’t really hold up, but I didn’t mind it. The zombies looked good and the blood that we get in the film did as well.
The final thing to cover would be the soundtrack of the film. I know that it is kind of a cheesy 80’s score with the exception of the scenes from 1959. At the time of writing this, it didn’t really stand out to me, but it definitely fit for what was needed. I did have to chuckle at the montage sequences we got though because the music was era during them for sure.
Now with that said, this film is great. I had such a blast seeing this one again. It is kind of all over the place in the aspect of all of the subgenres that are being mixed together, but for whatever reason it works. The acting really helps to bring this film to life and really give it some depth you don’t always get to see in one like this. I thought the pacing of the film was on point and built all the way to a good climax as well as an ending that fit. The score was pretty much what they needed and the effects were pretty good for the most part. I definitely think this is a fun film and worth seeing if you haven’t. I will say, it is a bit outrageous while also being self-aware.
My Rating: 9 out of 10