The Ninjabot

Week End Horror: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm by Jason Byard

 

night of the creepsThere’s a good reason that people burn old love letters: they’re usually terrible. Overwrought, sappy, melodramatic and totally embarrassing to read years later. But, of course, there are the exceptions that prove the rule. Love letters that are well-written and earnest always stand the test of time. And that is precisely what Fred Dekker’s 1986 masterpiece of horror-comedy Night of the Creeps is. It’s a love letter, but to a genre though, not a person. And, most assuredly, it’s one of those rare pitch-perfect gems worth hanging onto.

From the outset it’s pretty clear that Night of the Creeps has a lot going for it. The movie is a classic example of  if you throw together enough old clichés the aggregate will be something wholly new and dynamic. The film starts with a quickie cold-open featuring a trio of aliens straight out of the “golden age” of 50’s science fiction. Little puffy pink marshmallow men with laser guns who look so goofy they elicit a chuckle but still manages to hold it’s audience in rapt attention. It’s a perfect palate cleanser that sets the tone for what is to come as one of our new little extraterrestrial friends (for some reason) launches a canister (filled with the creeps of the title) into deep space, setting on a collision course with Earth.

What ensues is a hilarious genre mash-up featuring George Romero-style zombies, vicious alien slugs and exploding heads straight out of the Cronenberg oeuvre all set against the backdrop of what could be just any ol’ 80’s college romp, with your nerdy heroes, bastard frat boys and buxom sorority nymphs. It’s this heady mélange of recognizable filmic stereotypes that gives Creeps it’s relatable feel. And for the more hardcore horror fans among us, the thing is awash in great wink-and-nod in jokes (all the characters are named after horror movie directors, for one thing). The special effects, handled by Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman, are all top drawer for their era (1986) and add a refreshing jolt of shock to break up the otherwise comedic goings on. The scene of the mangled, zombified frat guys climbing out of the wreckage of a bus is a particular triumph.

Tom Atkins Creeps

But it’s the strong performances that are the movie’s major shining point. Sure, most of the main actors, Jason Lively (the original Rusty Griswold), Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow are relatively obscure, but they still turn in solid performances as the films leads. The anchor, of course, is Tom Atkins and his portrayal of the two-fisted and gloriously unhinged Detective Cameron. Atkins drops some of the best one-liners that have ever been packed into a few hours of screen time, and all with a charisma and aplomb that would put Bruce Campbell to shame.

A colossal bomb when it was first released, almost 30 years ago, Night of the Creeps amassed a loyal and sizeable cult following during its years on the back shelves of video stores. A following whose ranks have swollen since its long overdue release on DVD in 2010 (it has some killer extras). The reason being that it stuck to a simple mantra of knowing its audience and giving them what they knew they wanted. What more could you ask?

Night of the Creeps: A+

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