If you asked me what I thought of Fred Dekker before I watched the release of the Night of the Creeps Blu-ray I wouldn’t have been able to give you much of an opinion. However, having now seen the film, and realising that he was also the writer/director of Monster Squad, a number of Star Trek: Enterprise episodes, and Robocop 3 (even he’s not proud of that one), I have to say he might be one of my favourite directors.
Night of the Creeps is Dekker’s first time as a feature film director, but watching the movie you’d be hard pressed to tell. It’s sleek, stylish, has great effects, a brilliant cast, and a sense of fun that directors who have been working in the industry for decades sometimes fail to achieve.
Beginning in space, the film shows a battle on an alien spaceship, complete with little rubber space men and laser guns. During the fight a mysterious canister is ejected from the ship and crashes to the planet below them, Earth. Landing in a quiet American town in the 1950s, the canister is found by a college couple and the boy becomes infected by a strange parasite.
This opening sequence is brilliant. The alien spaceship is so completely different from anything else in the film, yet doesn’t feel jarring or out of place, and adds an extra layer of scope and scale to what could have been a fairly small story. Once the pod lands on Earth the film switches to black and white and evokes the feel of a 1950’s B-movie, complete with parking teens, radio announcers talking about an escaped mental patient, and said mental patient wielding an axe.
Following this frankly inspired opening the film jumps forward in time to the 1980s where it follows college students Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) as Chris decides to try and woo the beautiful Cynthia (Jill Whitlow). When Chris decides that the best way of doing this is to join a fraternity, he and J.C. get roped into performing a prank that requires them to steal a body. Sneaking into the college labs they discover the frozen body of the boy from the 1950s and let him out, unwittingly unleashing the parasites inside him upon the town.
The set up is silly and simple, two things that are definitely needed for a film as ridiculous as this. The characters don’t take themselves too seriously, J.C. seems determined to make everything into a joke, and they are content to have fun with their misadventures. Whilst the film isn’t an out and out dark comedy, the college students bring a level of levity and humour to the film that stops it going too far into the realm of horror.
Dekker would go on to release Monster Squad a few years later, and it follows a similar mix of humour, charm, and horror, though aimed at a younger audience. As such, if you enjoyed Monster Squad but have not seen Night of the Creeps you’ll very much feel at home here.
One of the best characters has to be Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), a gruff and grumpy police detective who is haunted by events in his past. He brings a level of seriousness to proceedings, even having the darkest and most emotion filled scene of the film, yet also has some of the best comedy lines too.
‘I’ve got good news and bad news girls. The good news is your dates are here.’
‘What’s the bad news?’
The zombie effects are top notch, with everything in the film being done practically by an incredibly talented team. Whilst some practical effects can age very quickly, a lot of the work in Night of the Creeps still looks great. The head bursting effects of the zombies are over the top and at times ridiculous, but they work so well because the film as a whole feels over the top and ridiculous.
There’s not really a moment of the film that feels slow or dull, and it was thoroughly entertaining throughout, especially when you spot the little cameo appearances from people such as Dick Miller, Greg Nicotero, and Shane Black. The script is punchy and witty, and the editing and music are perfect for a cheesy 80’s flick.
The Blu-ray presents the film in the director’s cut version, which boasts an extra scene of zombie killing action in a tool shed, as well as the original ending. The release does provide the alternative, theatrical ending in the extras, but it’s good that the film is presented in the way it was originally intended.
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The Blu-ray also gives two commentary tracks that are both filled with great behind the scenes stories and insight, as well as behind the scenes documentary, and an interview with Tom Atkins who briefly discusses his career.
Night of the Creeps is an absolute gem of a film, one that I’m disappointed that I’d never seen before. The new release corrects that, giving not only the best looking version of the film on home release but a slew of extras that are more than worth exploring. A must have for any fan of horror, or the 80’s.