Friday, October 30, 2009

Night of the Creeps

A lot of bad horror flicks have been released through the years – you can find a lot of them by scrolling through this site – but one of the more notable films not to be released on DVD has been the 1986 cult classic Night of the Creeps. Horror fans will have to find another movie to bitch about being unavailable, because Night of the Creeps was released last week, just in time for Halloween. In recent years, the success of Shaun of the Dead has inspired a number of films in the zombie-comedy – “zombedy” – sub-genre, such as Hide and Creep, Trailer Park of Terror and Undead or Alive. But Night of the Creeps got there first, and is one of the best.

In outer space, some small, naked aliens are chasing one of their kind through a spaceship. The fleeing E.T. is carrying a metal container, which he manages to jettison through space. This does not look good, but what is the chance of this canister making it all the way to Earth? Hell, Superman’s space pod made it all the way from Krypton. We’re doomed.

Down on Earth, it’s 1959. Kids at the local college are having parties and making out, a coed has dumped her high school sweetheart Ray because he became a cop, and we can tell it’s the 50s because everything is in black & white. The alien canister is heading right for them, but that isn’t even the biggest of their worries, because, as so often happens in college towns, an axe murderer has escaped from the local asylum. Ray’s sweetheart finds the axe murderer in a tragic way, while her date locates the canister, and has an alien slug jump into his mouth. Some people are unlucky, this couple constituted a black hole of misfortune.

Now it’s the present (1986) and everything is in color again. Ray is a bitter police detective (now played by the great Tom Atkins, in what might be his best role), still mourning the loss of his true love, and the bobby-soxers of 1959 have given way to Revenge of the Nerds-style hijinks. A couple of dorks are looking to impress a girl by joining a fraternity, and are given a task of stealing a corpse. The fraternity has no intention of letting them in, because in the movies, fraternities are evil, just like in real life.

(An aside. The truly horrifying thing about this movie is the exposure to how awful fashion and music were in this decade. How did we ever let it get that bad? Culturally, we would have been better off to go straight from 1979 to 1990.)

The corpse stealing caper goes wrong, as they often do, and the two dorks manage to revive the corpse of the slug-swallower, frozen since 1959. Apparently the slugs enter human hosts, feed on the brain while they breed, controlling the dead host while this happens, then the hosts head explodes, releasing a horde of new slugs. This all seems like a bad thing. Soon the dorks have teamed with Detective Ray and the Hot Chick, and are all that stand in the way of the Earth becoming a zombified alien slug breeding ground.

This is definitely a campy B movie, but it is a very well done B movie. It’s good enough to function as a comedy or a low budget horror film, so you can enjoy either or both. With the exception of Atkins and a couple of famous faces in small roles (David Payner and Dick Miller), none of the cast went on to lasting success in acting, but they acquit themselves well. Atkin’s catch phrase in the movie, “Thrill me”, said whenever he answers the phone or arrives at the scene of a crime, is one of the most memorable in horror history, and you’ll probably find yourself answering the phone that way for a while.

The movie features the director’s preferred ending, although the ending most of us saw back in the 80s is available as a special feature. There are also deleted scenes, two commentary tracks, featurettes and trailers, so if you are a huge fan of the movie, this should be heaven for you. The transfer is surprisingly sharp. I was expecting a lot of grain, but it cleaned up quite well. My biggest complaint is the releasing company seems to have gone out of its way to pick the worst possible DVD cover, but you can always turn it to face the wall.


John Hornor said...

Just watched the trailer for this. Looks like it informed Slither quite a bit.

KentAllard said...

Good catch. James Gunn, the writer-director of Slither cited this as a major influence on his film.

The Doctor said...

Yegads! That cover *is* rather garish.

I loved this movie way back when, so I'll have to look out for it over here. Looking forward to the alternative ending.

The Doctor said...

Oh, I think I just found it on youtube.