There are many amazing horror films from yesteryear that, for some inexplicable reason, still haven't been released on DVD. Last year, I reviewed the unsung classic "Dark Night of the Scarecrow" and it hadn't been slated for a any kind of a DVD release at the time. A few months later, I received word that it would indeed be coming to DVD after all. It's clear to me now that, simply because I reviewed the film, it's going to be re-released. Sure, you could write it off as a mere coincidence, but the fact is, I and I alone determine what classic horror movies get the DVD treatment. Why? Because the world revolves around me.
It's with that in mind that I am reviewing the one horror movie that absolutely baffles my mind as to why it has never been released on DVD after all these years: Night of the Creeps. In the same vein as Slugs, it's a perfect blend of horror and comedy, and there's honestly no reason whatsoever that this cult movie shouldn't be more readily available to all the fans out there. So let's take a look back at this horror-comedy gem from 1986, and maybe it will remind people just how much fun this film is and why it needs to be released again.
It begins in outer space on some spaceship where we find an alien resembling an overgrown fetus running through the dark corridors of the ship with a canister in his hands. He's being chased and shot at by two other angry naked baby aliens who are trying to prevent him from ejecting the canister (containing some sort of scientific experiment) from the ship. Before they can blast the hatch, the canister is jettisoned out and headed straight for planet earth. While it's never explained why that one alien wanted to get the canister off the ship, seeing angry naked alien babies shooting lasers at another angry naked alien baby is one hell of a way to start off a movie.
Cut to sorority row way back in 1959, writer/director Fred Dekker takes us through all of the classic scenes you'd expect from this period in time (in black & white no less). A beautiful girl (Pam) in a poodle skirt being beckoned to her window as her boyfriend (Johnny) throws pebbles at it, a romantic evening at make-out point in a fancy classic car looking up at the stars, a meteorite flying right over their heads, and a warning on the radio about how an axe-wielding lunatic recently escaped from the local mental ward. Oh the fun I missed out on having not been born in the 50s.
Curiosity gets the best of Johnny when that meteorite passes over their heads, so he drives the car to near the crash site. He tells Pam to wait in the car while he goes to investigate the situation...
Pam hears another announcement on the radio about how the escaped lunatic is headed in their general direction and calls out for Johnny. Sorry Pam, but Johnny has just made one heck of a scientific discovery. Golly! Say, wait a minute! That's no meteorite at all! It's the canister that the angry naked baby alien shot out from his spacecraft! He leans in for a closer look at whatever is sloshing around inside the canister, when all of a sudden, one of the creatures (er, Creeps) bursts through the container and flies directly into his mouth! Mmmm, beefy!
Pam continues to call for Johnny, but he's a bit preoccupied at the moment... what with an alien experiment coursing its way through his innards 'n all. But don't worry Pam, there's another special guy who's decided to come keep you company!
Yep, that very same axe-wielding maniac that was mentioned on the radio is sneaking up right behind her and just as his axe is about to chop her pretty lil' head off, the film cuts to the same college campus in 1986 during pledge week. Christopher Romero (Jason Lively, who I will forever remember as "Rusty" from National Lampoon's European Vacation) and his best friend & roommate, James Carpenter 'J.C.' Hooper (Steve Marshall), are having a philosophical discussion about scoring some major league babes. Chris obviously doesn't have the confidence that his handicapped friend has, because he's positive that they're both "lameoids" and their grandparents have sex more often than they do. While J.C. tries to dispute this, his words fall on deaf ears, for Chris has just spotted Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) Cronenberg, the most beautiful girl in school. She makes her way into the Beta's frat house, so Chris and J.C. bravely follow her inside.
Fun factoid: the last names of many of the characters in Night of the Creeps are tributes to some of Dekker's favorite directors such as John Carpenter, George Romero, David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, Sam Raimi, John Landis and James Cameron. The students in the film are also attending Corman University, a nod to Roger Corman.
J.C. decides to help his friend out since Chris is far too timid to just go up and talk to her. It's at this point that we are introduced to one of the finest on-screen portrayals of the "dumb jock" stereotype in the form of Steve, the football playing bozo with an impeccable unibrow. Seriously, have you ever seen a finer testament to oafishness than unibrow Steve? I think not my friends... I think not. After tricking Steve to go away for a while, J.C. attempts to introduce Cynthia to his pal, but Chris panics and accidentally spills bear all over another guy. Way to make a lasting first impression there, Chris. Lameoid indeed.
Afterwards, Chris talks with J.C. and tries to convince him that they need to join the Beta fraternity if he's going to have a chance at winning over Cynthia. J.C. thinks Chris should just try talkin to her instead, but Chris already has his mind made up. You know, Chris may be the leading man, but it's clear from the first time we meet him that J.C. is the one with his head on straight in this film.
We then get introduced to the head of the Beta frat, one of my all-time favorite movie assholes, Brad (Allan Keyser). Brad is the physical embodiment of everything that is snobbish and douchebagish in a human. From his perfectly sculpted hair, to his preppy attire, to his holier than thou attitude, to the future corporate suck-ups that he keeps in his company at all times... Brad is exactly what every successful horror movie absolutely must have: a character you simply love to hate. What I never realized until now is that Brad was portrayed by the same guy who played the bumbling "Bubba Higgins" on the old Southern comedy TV series, Mama's Family. Wow... that guy sure has some range.
Brad informs the two that they already have most of the guys they need on their roster, so Chris and J.C. will have to perform some "act of devotion" to prove how sincere they are about wanting to join the frat. After the two leave, Brad confirms to his frat brothers that even if those two manage to pull off the task, he's still going to let them join the frat. It's then that we get yet another reason to hate Brad... he's currently dating Cynthia. She may be a looker, but if she's dating Brad she's clearly not the brightest bulb on campus. Perhaps Chris should set his sights a little higher? No, this is a horror movie and logical thinking of that nature has absolutely no place here.
Next, we find a young scientist (David Paymer, who's played his fair share of doctors and scientists during his career) trying to enter his lab, but he can't remember the security code for his door so he leaves to call one of his assistants. Naturally, this gives Chris and J.C. the perfect chance to enter the lab in order to complete their special task in hopes of joining the Betas. While the scientist couldn't remember the code, J.C. pushes just a button on the keypad and voila! They're in. Once inside, they flip on the lights and see the cryogenically frozen corpse of Johnny (the kid from 1959 who swallowed one of the Creeps at the beginning of the movie) standing before them in a sealed refrigeration unit.
Since their task is to find a corpse and leave it on the front steps of a rival fraternity, and there are no other stiffs in sight, they disengage the cryogenic unit and start to drag away Johnny's corpse. Only thing is, Johnny isn't exactly dead, he's just been frozen all these years and when he grabs Christopher's wrist, the two of them run outta there in the blink of an eye.
Then our dashing young scientist returns and finds Johnny's body lying on the lab floor. When he approaches him, Johnny grabs his neck and spits out a creep right into the scientist's throat. Swell prank, Johnny!
Back in their dorm room, J.C. goes on a long-winded rant about how Chris is always getting depressed and how he just wants him to be happy. "If you weren't such an asshole, even girls might like you." They then have a pillow fight. Yep, men in college having a pillow fight. I think I've discovered the root of their problems. They shouldn't be pledging for a fraternity, they should be pledging for a sorority instead. Problem solved!
Now we cut to a dream sequence in which Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins, who also starred in one of my favorite horror movies, Halloween III: Season of the Witch) is having a nice dream about sitting on the beach and drinking from a coconut while a beautiful maiden emerges from the water.
All is going well in the dream until Ray finds himself back in 1959 in his old cop uniform. You see, he actually dated Pam back then and has been haunted all these years by the memories of what happened that night.
He approaches the car where her body was found and we see that same axe-wielding maniac still hacking away at her. Ray goes to shoot him but quickly realizes that the maniac is now a zombie. But wait! It was all just a dream right? Maybe it was... or maybe... just maaaaaybe... it was foreshadowing. OoooOoooOOOooOoooooo!!!
But for now, the dream is over and he's just been called in to cover the case of the break-in at the experimental university lab where the body of that scientist was recently found. Before we move on, let me just say that Detective Cameron is the true star of this film. He's got attitude, he's got more one-liners than you can shake a stick at and he's got a catchphrase that I still believe needs to find its way into our day-to-day vernacular. "Thrill Me." As far as I'm concerned, this simple phrase is the backbone of this entire movie and ranks right up there with any of your favorite quotes from other films such as Evil Dead.
Within a span of less than a minute, he says "Thrill Me" twice, along with introducing himself as Bozo the Clown when somebody asks him if he is indeed Detective Cameron. After chewing out the other officers for sloppy work since one of the two corpses (Johnny's body) is missing from the crime scene, he explains that dead bodies don't just get up and go for a walk. Oh how wrong he is.
The film then cuts to Brad dropping off Cynthia at her sorority house as he explains how he's running late for some pledge humiliation. To add to the "love to hate him" fun, Brad's license plate actually reads "BRADSTER" and includes a novelty "It isn't easy being perfect" cover. This Brad fella just keeps getting better.
Back inside the house, one of Cynthia's sorority sisters asks if she can store some jars containing human brains in their basement. She explains that the brains are to be dissected for their biology class next week. We've already seen a few zombies in the movie, including Johnny who just got up and walked right out of that experimental lab, and now they want to store human brains in the basement of a sorority house? Mr. Fred Dekker, from one writer to another, I salute you.
Cynthia then makes her way up to her room and is clearly already having second thoughts about her relationship with Brad... er... the Bradster while the reanimated body of Johnny creeps ever closer to the sorority house. We're teased a bit at first as a sorority sister downstairs is studying and hears something at the door, but it only turns out to be her cat. It's a black cat, at least.
Turns out that Johnny was making his way up to Cynthia's bedroom window and we see a bunch of the leech-like Creeps spurt out of his forehead. I should note that he brought a flower for her before the Creeps spilled out of him. Even zombies like a little romance before attacking their victims.
The Creeps then fall down to the ground below and make their way into the basement of the house. Say, wasn't there something important stored in the basement? Hmmm, I can't remember. Oh well, I'm sure it was nothing...
There's still more madness to Night of the Creeps!
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