Saturday, December 8, 2007


After suffering through the ineptitude of FLESH FREAKS, I decided to follow it up with NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, Fred Dekker's 1986 cult classic that mines the zombie/alien angle to far greater success. And though it's not CITIZEN KANE, Dekker knows how to assemble a solid sci-fi/horror B-movie.

A pair of dorky hipsters (Chris and J.C., who, following the unspoken tradition of most '80s duos, have an understated homoerotic relationship) have to steal a corpse as part of a fraternity prank. In the university morgue, they sneak past a dues-paying David Paymer (billed here as Young Scientist, though he still looks planted squarely in middle age) to find a cryogenically-frozen cadaver--which we know from the film's extended prologue was infected by alien parasites back in 1959. J.C.and Chris inadvertently thaw the corpse, allowing the slug-like parasites to swarm across campus, infecting humans and turning them into undead incubators until they're ready to burst out (from the head, of course). Fortunately for them, hard-boiled detective Tom Atkins, still affected by the events of the parasites' arrival in '59, is on hand to help kick a little alien ass.

Fast-paced and packed with plenty of gruesome thrills, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS hasn't aged particularly well, emitting a distinctly 1980's vibe with its hairstyles and fashions, characters known as the Bradster, and cornball humor (some of which is actually funny). This time-capsule feel just makes the movie more fun to watch, adding a layer of nostalgia to the B-movie hijinx. Dekker throws in plenty of shout-outs to genre directors--giving his characters names like Carpenter, Cronenberg, Romero, etc.--and even tosses in a couple of amusing cameos by Dick Miller and Robert Kerman (rumor has it a young George Clooney has a walk-on as a janitor, but I missed him if he's there). The performances are adequate, if a little artificial, though Atkins steals his every scene as Det. Cameron.

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS has gained a slight notoriety for its alternate ending, which usually pops up on cable television broadcasts. I won't reveal either one here, but if you get a chance to compare I think you'll find the non-theatrical ending to be the most satisfying (the theatrical cut ends awkwardly and abruptly, leading one to suspect the cable ending didn't fare too well in test screenings).

Though the film doesn't have an official DVD release yet, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS is pretty easy to find on the collectors' market, and with Dekker's THE MONSTER SQUAD getting the Special Edition treatment recently, it should only be a matter of time until this arrives at your local Best Buy.

Enjoy the trailer, in German.

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