There are few horror movies that so succinctly say 80’s horror as well as Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps (1986). For the record this is a ridiculously silly film, but it happens to wrap enough purpose around a bundle of absurdity to elevate it into 80’s horror greatness. Night of the Creeps presents a case-study in exactly how to create a comedy-horror film… very carefully. Given great care, the results can be both entertaining and clever.
The setup for Night of the Creeps is one for the ages. It consists of two blot-on plot devices in the early frames. Ultimately, these bolt-ons constitute a huge part of the films charm and longevity. Some might consider these plot points to be unnecessary, but Dekkar is way too crafty for that type of waste. Instead, instead he let’s the audience in on the joke before they even tell it.
They story begins with some rubber alien looking things (not like Stormtroopers) running around a spaceship randomly firing lasers and hitting nothing (also like Stormtroopers). What’s the emergency? An experiment has gotten out of control and they need to jettison the monsters before the situation gets worse. They let it rip as they pass an innocuous blue planet.
Flash cut to sorority row at Cornish University in the 1950’s. The guys like to take their ladies to “The Point” for some harmless necking. However on this particular night, a mad killer escapes the asylum and is on the loose. At the same time, a meteor or rather a flying sphere full of the space experiment lands just outside view from the point. The young man investigates the crater while his lady gets slaughtered vis an axe by the madman.
Fred Dekker’s just getting started.
Back in the Good ‘Ole 80’s
Flash forward again to the 1980’s. It’s the same school. but with different students. Decades later, the events of the past come back to haunt the student body. In a brilliant casting decision, Dekker employs the services of Jason Lively as the lead character Chris Romero. For those that don’t remember Jason, he played Rusty in National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Make no mistake, this kid can act. His career never got the respect that it deserved. Go get ’em Rusty.
In another fantastic casting decision, Night of the Creeps features horror veteran Tom Atkins as the hard-knocks detective Ray Cameron. Ray gets the distinguished honor over of unraveling this whole mess. Atkin’s chraacter carries a sordid history and a penchant for violence. His standard greeting is the testosterone fueled phrase, “Thrill Me”.
Apart from that, the Dekkar and his casting office bring gaggles of fraternity boys and sorority girls to the party showing respect to the tried and trues horror formula.
Finally, for those that know what I mean, this film also has a Dick Miler sighting. Not enough? How about Robert Kerman of Mondo Cannibal fame!
What Are We Talking About Here?
So the aliens dropped off a care package filled with weaponized slugs that can infect the brains of both the living and the dead. In the case of the dead, the slugs can re-animate the body of the deceased. Once the slugs are done with their host, they erupt through the skull and hunt for their next victim. One night Chris and his best friend try to steal a frozen cadaver from the University lab as a fraternity prank. Unwittingly they boys release the plague on the school. The only hope for salvation is Detective Ray Cameron and his unlikely partner, “Spanky”.
This Is Not An Unintentional Comedy
Make no mistake, this not the type of film that is so bad that it is comical. Fred Dekker and the writers knew exactly what they were doing. The formulated a solid comedic plan and then went for it jugular. Provided the viewer has a remotely activated sense of humor, and 90 minutes to spare, this film should brings its share of laugh-out-loud moments. The best part is that the laughs, while intentional, do not feel contrived or forced. We are not telling jokes here. The comedy comes through wacky situations and absurd circumstances.
— Some Dude in the Bathroom Stall
Production and Special Effects
The production values for Night of the Creeps are sufficiently good for their time. Fred Dekker does a decent job pulling off the black and white 50’s vibe as well as the 80’s modern feel. We are unsure of the budget for the film, but the production and cinematography feels polished and competent.
As far as the practical effects are concerned, they oscillate between comically lame to fantastically brilliant. As we have already conceded, the aliens at the beginning look silly even by Ice Pirates (1984) standards. The slugs also look slightly ridiculous as they writhe across the floor. In several places they launch themselves like nerf darts into the mouths of their victims. It’s a great example of the tried and true technique of filming the sequence backwards as they yank the slugs from the victims mouth.
Apart from the silliness, Night of the Creeps also offers a heaping helping of truly awesome effects. There are multiple scenes involving dead bodies, zombies and walking autopsies. Some of the more awesome scenes show the slugs erupting from the skulls of victims in explosive fashion. Our favorite is when the slugs split the dome of Beta Epsilon captain, “The Bradster” (Allan Kayser).
An Outstanding Trip Down Memory Lane
Night of the Creeps is exactly the type of movie that could easily get left on the shelf of the local Blockbuster video. Fortunately, it made it into my regular rotation. This movie has been in the upper echelon of the Malevolent Dark collection for decades. It’s exactly the type of film that reminds us why we started watching horror in the first place… It’s fun! Night of the Creeps is as close to an 80’s classic as we can think of. We highly recommend it.
Night of the Creeps (1986) - Primo 80's Sci-Fi Horror - Malevolent Dark
Director: Fred Dekker
Date Created: 1970-01-01 00:33