The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) | The Movie Waffler

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Blu-Ray Review - NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)

night of the creeps review
A pair of dorky students unwittingly unleash alien parasites on their college town.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Fred Dekker

Starring: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, David Paymer

night of the creeps blu-ray


Fred Dekker may have made an inauspicious return to Hollywood this year as his buddy Shane Black's co-writer on the ill-fated sequel The Predator, but as the writer/director of two 1980s horror gems - Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad - he has enough credit in the bank to keep him in favour with genre fans for the rest of his days. Making its UK blu-ray debut courtesy of Eureka Classics is Dekker's 1986 debut, Night of the Creeps, complete with Dekker's preferred original ending. I must confess I prefer the schlockier studio-imposed ending, which you can access as a special feature on Eureka's disc, as I find it fits the b-movie tone of the film better than Dekker's ending.


night of the creeps review

Night of the Creeps takes place in a Californian university that might be mistaken for the one John Cusack sets out for in The Sure Thing. After a 1959 set prologue in which an escaped lunatic chops up a sorority sister while her boyfriend swallows an alien slug (welcome to Night of the Creeps folks), we cut to present day 1986. There we find Chris (Jason Lively, who enjoyed 15 minutes of '80s fame between this and National Lampoon's European Vacation) and JC (Steve Marshall), a pair of dorks desperate to be granted entry to the fraternity run by Aryan uber-jock Brad (Allan Kayser), whose girlfriend, Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), Chris is head over heels in love with, despite never actually, you know, speaking with her.

The frat-boys convince our nebbishy heroes that they will be granted fraternity memberships if they can steal a corpse from the college's medical centre. Breaking in to the facility, Chris and JC come across the cryogenically frozen body of the teen we saw swallowing the extra terrestrial slug in the opening flashback. Messing around with some controls, JC accidentally thaws out the body, unwittingly unleashing a night of mayhem on his town which will involve zombies, exploding heads, creepy-crawlies... and a date for the formal.


night of the creeps review

'80s movies are rarely as charming as we remember them, and many come off as downright creepy today, particularly anything involving young men and their attempts to get laid. None of the rapey aspects of Porkys, Revenge of the Nerds and their mean-spirited ilk are to found in Dekker's debut, which is as charming a comedy as any the era produced. What differentiates it from many of its contemporaries is how it acknowledges from the off how pathetic its male lead, the lovelorn Chris, is, with his buddy JC calling him out early on with regards to the folly of his perceived involuntary celibacy. Whitlow's female lead Cynthia isn't simply a prize for our hapless male hero; she recognises immediately just what Chris's intentions are, and it's she who makes the first move. The three relatively unknown young actors have a great rapport together, like John Hughes kids that have found themselves in a Howard Hawks movie.

The real star of Night of the Creeps however is genre legend Tom Atkins as the investigating detective Ray Cameron, who has a personal connection to the events of 1959. The actor tells a story of how he was approached by Dekker's friend, Shane Black, who asked him if he would be interested in playing the role of Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon. Atkins was old and wise enough to know the studio wasn't about to let Black cast a pockmarked character actor in the role that ultimately went to Mel Gibson, but Black's gesture shows the level of adoration that movie geeks had for Atkins at that time. His turn as the roguish Doctor Challis in Halloween III should have made him a star, but Night of the Creeps is the closest we have to seeing Atkins in a leading role. Dekker is clearly in love with the character, gifting Atkins with a handful of the most memorable lines of the '80s. If there's a better dialogue exchange in an '80s genre movie than the one that begins with Cameron proclaiming "I've got good news and bad news..," I've yet to hear it.


night of the creeps review

Night of the Creeps is a remarkably confident debut for its director. Dekker's direction is rarely showy (though there is a great flourish involving an actor mounted on a turntable), but his camera is always in the right place and the shock moments are timed to perfection. Though Dekker's decision to name every character after a filmmaker associated with the horror genre is a little groanworthy now (it was probably quite fresh in 1986), his film is as enjoyable an example of a filmmaker taking the entertainment of their childhood and updating it for an '80s audience as more heralded films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Gremlins. And watching Chris, Cynthia and Cameron team up to take a flamethrower to an undead horde of the sort of frat-boys that would have grown up to become supreme court nominees provides a cathartic pleasure in 2018. Classic Spanky!
Extras:

Two feature commentaries - one from Dekker, the other featuring actors Lively, Atkins, Whitlow and Marshall; an hour long making of doc; extended interviews with Atkins and Dekker; deleted scenes; the original theatrical ending; trailer; trivia track; and a limited edition booklet.

Night of the Creeps is released on dual format blu-ray/DVD on October 15th by Eureka Classics.



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