"Zombies, exploding heads, creepy crawlies…and a date for the formal." - Det. Ray Cameron
Why can't there be more filmmakers out there today like Fred Dekker? The cult director is probably best known for bringing us the 1987 cult classic Monster Squad, his sophomore effort which is quite possibly the greatest campy 80's kids horror/comedy movie of all-time. Night of the Creeps was his 1986 debut and it features tons of laughs and gore.
God, I love this movie. It's far from being a masterpiece, but when it comes to finding a good horror film from the 80's that doesn't take itself seriously, yet manages to deliver everything a horror film (from the 80s) should to the audience, you really can't go wrong with this one. From the first frame till the last, this fun take on zombie flicks pokes fun at all types of classics, from Night of the Living Dead, to even Plan 9 From Outer Space. The film contains homage to the golden age of horror, but what's best about this is that director, Fred Dekker has managed to retain his own style amidst this, not-so-original horrorfest.
The first ten minutes itself is an ode to the cheesy sci-fi movies from the 50's. The movie begins in a literally, black and white 1959. An alien ship in space is shown where we see what's taking place in its interior. Inside we see two dwarf-like humanoids chasing after a renegade of their kin. This renegade alien has apparently gone insane and is attempting to set loose an unseen parasite in an escape pod. Eventually, the pod is launched and crash-lands on Earth, in America, specifically, near a college sorority house. This is where we get to witness the parasite taking control of its first host.
What I love about this opening scene so much is how it lampoons the cliché's of cheesy horror and sci-fi films from that era. With names like "Muffy", girls referring to guys as "dreamy", and of course a generic voice on the radio alerting the public of disastrous news. It's all there for cheap laughs, and it still manages to keep you interested in what's going on without getting too ridiculous.
What really makes the horror/comedy blend work is how they successfully combine the plots of a typical zombie movie with an 80's college comedy. This is one of those few horror/comedies where the classic mixing of the two genres end up working perfectly, but one of it's other best aspects has to be the dialogue. Just like Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps is filled with excellent quotes and one-liners that make this one impossible to forget film.
So back to the story; we flash-forward to a university in Anywhere, USA, 1986, where those classic 80's tunes are blasting away as we meet our "bitchin" heroes, Chris (Jason Lively) and JC (Steve Marshall). It's Pledge Week and Chris is moping over recently losing his girlfriend. JC, his handicapped, smart-ass best friend, is a loyal wisecracker who feels for his pal. JC decides to take Chris to check out the frat parties going on and hopefully get his mind off of pining over his ex.
The plan seems to work, as Chris not only forgets about why he was depressed in the first place, but also happens to lay eyes upon the true girl of his dreams, Cynthia (Jill Whitlow). Unfortunately for Chris, however, Cynthia is affiliated with the despised Beta Frat House. Our hero decides to talk JC into the two of them becoming pledges to the Beta's, assuming that this will make the not-so-shallow Cynthia take notice to Chris. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to Chris, not only does the Beta's pompous and snobby, ultra-douchebag frat leader, Brad want Chris and JC to go through with an extreme task (no, not fucking a farm animal), but also has no intention whatsoever in letting either join his frat, even if they complete their initiation. To make matters worse, Brad the preppy tool is going out with Chris' dream girl, Cynthia.
The initiation is this: Chris and JC must break into the school's morgue area, steal a corpse, and dump in on the front of the Beta's lawn. Now, aside from the fact that this has to be the most depraved frat initiation I've ever heard of, our pair of heroes reluctantly comply, an attempt to go through with it, even going as far as to break into the morgue. Unfortunately, they unwittingly come across something they did no expect: an almost thirty-year old cryogenically frozen body from the 50's.
Now for some unexplainable, dumbass reason, JC decides that because this body is right there in front of them, that they should just take it as opposed to wasting time looking for another corpse to fling on the frat's lawn. Chris of course objects, but JC manages to talk him into it, and eventually, what do you know, all hell breaks loose.
The aftermath of Chris and JC's little stunt not only causes them to chicken out and run, but now the unfrozen, undead, slug-infested corpse has come back to life (sort of) and proceeds to wreak havoc, even claiming a victim or two. This of course attracts the attention of local Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins, in probably his best role to date). Detective Cameron is the epitome of the badass hardened cop of 80's horror movies, and it sure doesn't hurt that he happens to have a taste for some truly memorable one liners. As a matter of fact, the quotes I've heard Detective Cameron say in this film have to be some of the best lines I've ever heard in a horror movie.
Anyhow, long story short: After a bit of investigating, Chris, JC, Cynthia and Detective Cameron all come to the conclusion that this parasite that was host to the preserved body from the 50's is now on the loose and multiplying. The slugs appear to enter humans through there mouths and then proceed to dig their way into the brain, where they harvest and turn the host into a walking zombies that squirts newly reproduced slugs out of their mouths.
Now, as a film, its first hour is not exactly fast paced,.Instead of working like a horror movie, this portion of the film take the 80's comedy route instead and, who would've known? It works, but it also helps build up the characters and story itself, which works exceptionally well (especially amidst all the cheap laughs). By the last third of the film, the viewers are then assaulted by multiple graphic head explosions (resulting in numbers of slugs squirting out of the head wounds) as well as ZOMBIES BEING ENGULFED BY FLAMETHROWERS! That alone is why any self-respecting horror fan should see this film. I have never seen, in a movie, so many zombies set on fire with a flamethrower in my life. You just have to love the heroes' method of extermination: shotgun to the head, and then engulf the ghoul in flames to make sure no slugs escape to get inside anyone elses mouth. These characters' brave and creative accomplishments in undead extermination should have awarded them medals (In the same fashion as the end of the first Star Wars, in my opinion).
The conclusion is easily one of the best of any 80's horror movie, especially with this much fun in the mix. I honestly wish it could have been stretched out on a more epic scale, but hey, that's just me (I also said the same thing about Big Trouble in Little China, for what it's worth.)
Regarding the music of the 80's, I'm not the biggest fan. I still love hearing it, especially in horror films from the decade. There's just something so nostalgic in hearing those 80's synths going off in the background as a scene unfolds and this did a great job of conveying the appropriate atmosphere. One of my favorite scenes, in particular is when a song (I can't think of the title) is playing as a montage is shown depicting both the guys and girls of the university fooling around and dressing up for the Formal they're getting ready to attend.
Another nice little touch to the film (and proof that Dekker is a true horror movie geek) is that all of the main characters are named after famous horror and sci-fi directors. Chris Romero (George Romero), JC Hooper (John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper), Ray Cameron (James Cameron), and Cynthia Cronenberg (David Cronenberg), are just a few, but there are plenty more to keep an ear out for.
And don't forget to keep an eye out for a scene about 50 minutes into the film where some graffiti in the men's bathroom reads "GO MONSTER SQUAD". Interesting, considering it'd be another year before Dekker would release the actual Monster Squad film.
Overall, Night of the Creeps may not stand on the same pantheon of definitive 80's horror such as: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Return of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead, Hellraiser and Re-Animator, but I still feel it is a heavily underrated classic of the 80's and deserves much more recognition today than it gets. Sadly, it's a tough film to find on DVD, so if you happen to own a copy, you're one of the lucky folks. I only hope someone out there gets the brains to put this out on a respectable collector's edition for the fans like they did with Monster Squad, because this really is a true 80's gem in every sense of the term. I really don't see how any horror fan could not like this film, though opinions will of course differ. Even if you don't find it to be all that great, I guarantee you'll find yourself coming back to it; whether it's reminiscing over certain scenes and/or reciting some of its many hilarious quotes, Night of the Creeps is classic, must-see material.
NOTE: As I've previously stated, this movie is loaded with memorable quotes. Tom Atkins alone as Detective Cameron delivers some of the best lines ever put in a horror movie. Here's a few:
Detective Cameron: I suppose Rip Van Winkle would be the other body; where is it?
Sergeant Raimi: The other body isn't here, sir.
Detective Cameron: What? Did he have a date?
"Thrill Me." – Detective Cameron
"Face it, JC, we're dorks; we're lame-oids. My grandparents have sex more than we do." - Chris
"What is this: A homicide, or a bad B-movie?" – Detective Cameron
Detective Cameron: I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here.
Sorority Sister: What's the bad news?
Detective Cameron: They're dead.
"Detective, other than confessing to a murder, is there a point to this conversation?" - Chris
Sergeant Raimi: Detective Cameron?
Detective Cameron: No. Bozo the Clown.
Chris: JC, remind me to kill you some time.
JC: Kill me some time, huh.
"It's Miller time!" - Detective Cameron, as he blows a zombie's head off
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