Night of the Creeps (1986)


Director Fred Dekker is known mainly for his 1987 horror comedy The Monster Squad, in which a small town is invaded by all sorts of classic movie monsters.  It's one of those movies that has developed a big fan base over the years, and has often been viewed as a sort of companion piece to The Goonies, even if The Monster Squad relies more on horror tropes than childhood adventures.  Before doing his most famous film, Dekker made a movie that was a tribute to every b-movie cliché he could think of.

In 1959 an alien experiment is ejected from a spaceship and lands on Earth.  The cylinder contains slug-like creatures that multiply by laying their eggs in the brains of other organisms and keeping them mobile until they find another host.  At the same time an escapee from a local asylum goes on a killing spree.  While the inmate disappears after hacking up the old flame of rookie policeman Ray Cameron, the girl's current beau is put into cryogenic suspension at Corman University.

In 1986, as an attempt to pledge to a fraternity in order to impress a girl named Cindy (Jill Whitlow), Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) are told to steal a body from the university medical center's morgue.  They happen upon the body from 1959 but flee once it comes to life.  Unfortunately, it survives long enough to start infecting others, leading to the boys working with now Det. Cameron (Tom Atkins) and Cindy to help keep the creatures from taking over the town. 

Dekker went all out on this, from great practical effects to suitmation for the aliens at the beginning.  What really sells it, however, is the friendship between Chris and J.C., and the over-the-top performance of Tom Atkins.  He's having a lot of fun here, and reportedly enjoyed making this movie more than any of the others he's been involved with.  As for Jason Lively and Steve Marshall one could believe they had been friends forever with the chemistry they have.  I didn't think Jill Whitlow was the best choice for the female lead, largely because her voice was a bit high, and she sometimes seemed disinterested when the rest of the cast was giving it their all.

As much as I liked the characters, the effects and the humor, I can't say I enjoyed watching it as much as everyone enjoyed making it.  Strangely, I feel the same about The Monster Squad as well.  The movie contains so many ingredients, and they should work well together.  I'm left entertained but still unsatisfied at the end.  I think the reason may be because although different directors copied elements from this movie they seem to have done them better, while in some cases I have a feeling Dekker's film suffered from the butchering the MPAA often did to horror movies around the same time.  Night of the Creeps doesn't strike me that it was supposed to be a gore-fest like Dead Alive anyway, even if both have a scene with a lawnmower. 

It's still worth a look and has a great soundtrack. I heard Stran Ridgway's "The Big Heat" in there, even though I can't imagine a frat boy like Brad (Allan Kayser) listening to something that has words one has to follow.  I enjoyed the aliens, the space scenes are well-done for the small budget, and everything here just seems tailor- made - right down to the last names of the main characters being those of horror directors - for fans of the genre.  There is so much that is good about this movie that I wish it came together a bit more. 

Night of the Creeps (1986)
Time: 88 minutes
Starring: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Tom Atkins, Jill Whitlow
Director: Fred Dekker



 

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