Sunday, October 20, 2019

Halloween Watch: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Watched:  10/18/2019
Format:  DVD
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1980's (so, so 1980's)

I've been meaning to watch this one for a few years as I've not seen much of the work of Monster Squad director Fred Dekker.  Dekker both wrote and directed Night of the Creeps (1986), and it does feel like part of the lineage of films by the likes of Landis and Joe Dante - a sort of boutique film by horror movie dorks by horror movie dorks.  But it's still broad enough to work even if you don't realize the entire movie is a collection of references frankensteined together to make a narrative.

First - I found this movie to be straight up Rated-R horror movie fun.  And I guess, deep down, if a horror film doesn't have anything in particular to say, or isn't going to be a cinematic tour-de-force, give me a good time at the movies.  Night of the Creeps absolutely delivers.  Aliens.  1950's flashbacks with "the escaped axe murderer" trope on Lovers Lane.  Dorky college dudes trying to get into an incredibly d-baggy frat (in my old age, 1980's frat dudes are just absolutely delightful).  And references.  So many references. 

Our leads are named after George Romero and John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper.  Others are named after David Cronenberg, Sam Raimi and John Landis.  We see references to horror, sci-fi and detective fiction - you spot film clips, book covers, etc... 

The cast itself isn't stacked with megastars.  Tom Atkins plays a grizzled cop with a penchant for Hammett novels and not a lot to live for (every time we see his home, the movie is shot like a detective flick.  It's a nice touch.).  Our leads include Jason Lively - who you know as Rusty from European Vacation - and I just figured out is the brother of Robyn Lively and half-brother of Blake Lively.  Co-stars Jill Whitlow and Steve Marshall don't have a ton of credits after the early 90's, and I didn't know them.  But you will recognize Vic Polizos as a "that guy!" actor, and a young David Paymer shows up as a scientist. 

Our plot:  aliens lose a tube full of something particularly bad which crash lands on Earth in 1959.  A sorority girl and her frat-dude beau simultaneously meet surprise endings when the frat-dude goes to see what's landed near them and is attacked by black slugs from the tube and an axe murderer finds the co-ed waiting in the car.  Flash forward to 1986 and we meet two college dweebs walking through the rush-week parties on campus.  They get wrapped up in a college prank which leads them to the coroner of the university medical school, where our 1959 frat guy is in a cryo-tube.  He's freed and escapes, carrying with him the "creeps" which escape onto campus. 

The creeps like to crawl into a human head and reproduce, turning the host into a zombie.

Anyway - it's all done in good humor, and we get a cameo from Dick Miller.  I particularly enjoyed the final visuals of the couple in their formal gear toting a flame thrower and shotgun as a busload of zombie frat boys made their way across the lawn of the sorority house.  But it's kinda chock full of these sorts of moments.  And, Tom Atkins is just a gem in the movie, sort of doing his own thing in an over the top take on the cop at the end of his rope.

Whether for Halloween or, really, any time, it's worth a look.  It's not exactly actually scary in any way, shape or form, but it's a pretty neat flick, and would have been a great prequel to a Plan 9 From Outer Space remake.

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