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After an "experiment" is accidentally released from a spaceship in a
tube, it crashes on Earth where it infects a youth in the 1950s. Flash
forward to the mid 1980s, and the youth is now cryogenically frozen in
a university lab for study. At least until Chris Romero (Jason Lively)
and J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall) release him, and he begins infecting
countless members of a small college town.
Director and writer Fred Dekker, who has had a lamentably short career
as a helmer, wrote Night of the Creeps in seven days. He told himself
that if he did not get to the end of the script by that self-imposed
deadline, the whole thing would go into the garbage. If this is what
one can come up with in such a flurry, maybe more scripts should have
time limits. We should also be glad that he sold the script with a
caveat: if he wasn't allowed to helm the film, he wasn't going to sell
it. He's said that he didn't care if it sold or not at the time.
Why Dekker has received so little recognition and respect in the
industry is difficult to say. Night of the Creeps didn't have the wide
release and promotion that it deserved, especially given its $5 million
budget (it's curious that TriStar didn't push more to make its money
back). Both this film and Dekker's 1987 effort, The Monster Squad, are
currently only available on bootleg DVDs in the U.S.
Night of the Creeps is one of the better horror/comedies of the 1980s.
The script is clever, paying homage to everything from 1950s sci-fi
horror to the zombie craze started by George Romero to 1980s slasher
films and even John Hughes. Just in case one couldn't catch the homage
angle, Dekker has a lot of character and place names that are tributes
to various genre directors. Dekker's dialogue is witty and
memorable--there are a few classic diatribes in the film that would be
worthwhile and a lot of fun to memorize. Dekker's writing is
self-conscious and self-mocking, predating Scream (1996) by 10 years
(there is actually a whole class of 1980s and early 1990s flicks that
were doing everything Scream was credited with revolutionizing). Dekker
is not afraid to be joyously silly, as with genre character actor
favorite Tom Atkins' response when asked if he's Detective
Cameron--"No, Bozo the Clown". Dekker even gives us the 1980s high
school classic of the hand-cranked middle finger.
But Night of the Creeps isn't just a comedy. The serious horror aspects
of Night of the Creeps are extremely well done. The film is
suspenseful, the effects are good, and there is plenty of gore for
fans. Dekker could have easily made an effective retro horror
film--most of the first five minutes are set in the 1950s, shot in
black and white, and have an authentic feel, with just a dash of tongue
in its cheek. He smoothly transitions from The Blob (1958) and Invasion
of the Body Snatchers (1956)-styled sci-fi (with heavy Alien (1979)
touches) to early 1980s slasher material, then to a more complex and
fantastic collage of zombies, slugs and detectives seeking revenge.
While the film isn't likely to be appreciated by those who dislike
mixing their horror with comedy, and especially won't be appreciated by
viewers who don't even realize that it's supposed to also be a comedy,
neither type is very likely to watch it in the first place--at least
not for long. For those with the appropriate mindset and love of horror
(it's a lot more fun if one is familiar with everything being
referenced), Night of the Creeps is a gem that deserves better
recognition. We should at least be able to buy it on an official DVD
(and please put both endings on the disc).
Tags for Night Of The Creeps Full Movie
, Jill Whitlow
, Steve Marshall
, Tom Atkins
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