“Night of the Creeps” (1986)
Studio: TriStar Pictures
Starring: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Running Time: 90 min.
Synopsis: A college campus is terrorized by space slugs that inhabit the bodies of dead people.
Night of the Creeps is one of those fun entertaining horror films of the 1980’s that is also a throwback to those classic 50’s monster movies. I first saw this film back in the late 80’s on regular television (WPIX Channel 11 was the station I saw it on) and it cut out all the cool gory effects, but I finally got to see the uncut version years later. Night of the Creeps was one of those films where they used deleted scenes in the television version to fill the time from cutting out all the gory scenes. The TV version also showed the director’s cut ending, which I think is much better than the theatrical one, but I won’t give away either endings and you will have to go see the film and see them for yourself.
The film actually starts off way out in space on an alien spaceship where one of the aliens is being chased by a group of his fellow aliens. They are trying to stop the alien from releasing an experiment that they have been working on. Unfortunately, they are not able to stop them and they release this experiment into space and it lands on Earth. The scene then goes to Earth in the year, 1959. The picture is shown in black and white and a young college student is picking up his date at a sorority house. The two go park on lovers lane, but are warned by a police officer, Ray Cameron, (who happens to be the ex of the sorority woman who is parked there) that an escaped mental patient is on the loose and he wants everyone to get out of the area. As the two start to leave they see what looks to be a meteor falling from the sky. The two go check it out, but as the boy goes into the woods to investigate, he leaves his date all alone and the escaped mental patient hacks her up. The boy finds the meteor that landed, but it turns out to be the experiment that the alien released from space. Suddenly these slug type creatures come out and shoot right down the boy’s throat.
The movie then cuts to present day (well, present day when the film was made, which is 1986) at the same college campus the couple was at in 1959. All is well with the world and best friends Chris and J.C. (played by Jason Lively and Steve Marshall) are trying to fit in and meet girls. Chris has his eye on a sorority girl named Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), but is afraid to approach her because he thinks he is a nobody. So, Chris and J.C. decide to join a fraternity, thinking that will make them automatically cool. They are told if they want to join they have to steal a corpse from the medical lab on campus and leave it on a rival fraternity’s lawn. The two attempt to steal the corpse from the lab, but the one they happen to find turns out to be the boy from 1959 who got a mouth full a space slugs. As the two release the corpse from his tank his arm moves and freaks out Chris and J.C. The two forget the corpse and run back to their dorms.
After this, the corpse leaves the lab and wanders over to a sorority house. The corpse’s head opens up and tons of the space slugs come pouring out and they scramble on the grounds of the college campus. Cameron (Tom Atkins), the police officer that warned the couple to leave lovers lane in 1959 is now a detective and called to the case of a corpse being left on the sorority’s lawn. Cameron who still has nightmares of his former girlfriend getting chopped up by a maniac, thinks there is more to this then some college prank and tries to find who or what is responsible.
Fred Dekker, who also directed films like Monster Squad and Robocop 3, throws in all elements of a b-movie into one film. In this film you have aliens, teens from the 50’s, an ax wielding maniac who escaped from a mental hospital, space slugs, zombies, college kids from the 80’s, and a hard drinking private eye. Dekker mixes all these elements pretty well to make a great fun movie. This is also a film that best represents the decade that it was made in, the 1980’s. Just the cast alone who play the college students capture the 80’s vibe. The movie is a cross between Weird Science, Sixteen Candles, and Return of the Living Dead.
Some of the scenes that I liked in the film were the opening when it was set in 1959. This part actually looked like a b-movie from the 50’s and the story was right out of something from EC Comics. Other parts I liked in the film were any scene when the slugs were on the attack. One scene has J.C. in the mens room hiding in one of the stalls and he witnesses the slugs emerge from someone’s head. Another is when Chris and Cynthia are stuck in a tool shed while zombies (who are controlled by the slugs in their heads) are outside trying to get them. Chris takes a lawnmower and lifts it up and one zombie who just broke into the shed walks right into the blades. The slugs themselves are very creepy, especially the way they enter someone’s body. It almost reminds me a little of Alien with the face hugger going on the face. It has the same type of creep factor.
The cast of the film is great. Any scene with Tom Atkins is priceless. He plays a great hard nose, hard drinking, detective who is haunted by demons of his past. I noticed he references a lot of kid show characters from as far back as the 30’s up to the 60’s, like Bozo The Clown and Bullwinkle. He even refers to Chris and J.C. as Spanky and Alfalfa. Chris and J.C. are great characters in the film as well and there is an emotional part when Chris finds a tape-recorded message from J.C. telling him one the slugs got in him. In the message he tries to explain how fire can destroy them, which he found out as he was fighting them off. He tries to tell him all this before the slugs have taken total control. As the message goes to a close, J.C., who is handicapped, then tells Chris that he was able to finally walk, but then he succumbed to the slugs. This part always gives me chills when I hear him say that to his long time best friend.
The filmmaker also pays homage to other horror and science fiction directors by naming characters after them. Chris whose last name is Romero in the film is named after George A. Romero. J.C. Hooper is combo of John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper. Ray Cameron is named after James Cameron and Cynthia Cronenberg is name after David Cronenberg. Other characters in the film are named after John Landis, Sam Raimi, and Steve Miner. I also want to point out that Robert Kerman of Cannibal Holocaust fame has a small role as a police officer.
Before closing, I do have to mention one thing in the film that goes against the typical rules of a horror film of the 80’s. The heroine or final girl of the film, Cynthia, has a topless in the film. Most all horror films from that time always has the final girl fully clothed for the whole film, because she is the good girl virgin and does not have sex or take off her clothes. This is one of the few films that have the lead actress do nudity. The only other film I can think of that did this as well was Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse.
Night of the Creeps is a great horror film from the 80’s that mixes all the good parts of b-movies and puts them into this very entertaining picture. The film finally came out on DVD in recent years and it is worth picking up. If you have never seen it, definitely go out and get it on DVD or rent it. The movie is a great little gem from the awesome decade of the 1980’s.