Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Night of the Creeps (1986)

How is it that a little 80s classic with a legitimate cult following such as Night of the Creeps can remain unavailable on DVD? It just doesn't seem right to me. I had to watch the thing about a week ago on demand. What a fucking joke. This movie has everything; tits, booze, gore, a classic soundtrack, brain slugs, zombies, Rusty Griswald (just kidding), and Tom Atkins. The only thing its missing is an original story, but it's not like that's a prerequisite for making a classic genre film. Everybody rips everybody off, especially when they're paying homage. It's just the nature of the business.

In fact, James Gunn, who wrote the Dawn of the Dead remake, clearly must have seen this movie at some point despite the fact that he conveniently doesn't remember it. The similarities between this and Gunn's Slither are fairly striking. Between the small town settings, the zombie-making space slugs, the similar tones, etc; it's hard to believe that Night of the Creeps wasn't, at the very least, playing on a screen behind Gunn while he and his family were watching Crocodile Dundee or some shit at the drive-in. C'mon man, just cop to it already. What's the big fucking deal?

Exactly. What is the big fucking deal Gunn? You actually improved on a minor classic, a beloved (albeit in a fairly small circle) cult picture. Slither is a fantastic gem. You should be proud. Along with that pride comes acknowledging your influences which should include Fred Dekker (Creeps) as well as Cronenberg, Romero, and Carpenter. It's ok, man. We'll still dig your film. In the future though, can't you just let us see Starla's breasts? Maybe in the sequel?

I enjoyed Night of the Creeps, warts and all. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Jason Lively (who made a worse Rusty Griswald than the abomination that is Ethan Embree) is a horrible, god awful, I'd like to punch him in the nards (possible homage to Dekker's Monster Squad?) till they fall off kind of actor. If this were any other kind of movie, say a romantic comedy or Rent, I would have turned the thing off after five minutes. Luckily, this mopily abysmal performance is, for the most part, offset by Steve Marshall as J.C. , Lively's sarcastic best friend. J.C. is given all the fun lines not given to Tom Atkins ("that guys got one continuous eyebrow").

One more thing I didn't really like. The film tried a bit too hard to nod to its sources. Characters had names like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hooper, Cameron, Landis, Raimi, and Sally. Hell, one guy was even billed as Psycho Zombie. We get it Dekker. How about next time you come up with some original names so that whenever Detective Raimi is announced we're not thinking of a somewhat better picture like Evil Dead II? Ok, minor complaint. The movie is what it is and I fucking liked it. A lot.

I loved the melding of genres. Part zombie film, part escaped maniac (aka slasher) film, part alien invasion film, and part college frat comedy film. The tits could come from any one of these film types, so I'll just attribute their inclusion to all of them. This picture is full of terrific flashbacks, including the black and white opening ("sorority row 1959"). The soundtrack is terrific and includes the likes of the Platters ("smoke gets in your eyes") and Paul Anka ("Put your head on my shoulders"). Several allusions are made to Plan 9 From Outer Space, including, um, the entire fucking plot. Aliens raising the dead? It's genius! Why didn't it work so well for Ed Wood? I'll tell you why. Technology. He lacked the technology to computer generate good performances, good dialogue, good plotting, etc. I suppose his special effects could have used a little tweaking as well. Whatever. I still love that movie.

The effects in this picture are great and, in a way, the slugs are more convincing than the overly computer generated slugs from Slither (ok, my one complaint from that one). I also like how they get into their human host, lay eggs in the brain, force them to walk around dead for a while, and then explode outward so they can find a new host. Another difference between this and Slither: The slugs in Slither didn't have to go in through the mouth. They just tended to burrow into your skin. Not so here. I love a good mouth slug (not a euphemism for dick). Actually, the more I think about it, Fred Dekker probably should have named a character Detective Sholder. Oh well. Like Sholder's film (The Hidden), this one also has an infected dog. Actually, I can't remember if the dog in Sholder's film was infected at the end of the first one or the start of the second one. Hmmm...

Did I even talk about the plot yet? Fuck. Space slugs land on earth. 1959. They infect a person. He's cryogenically frozen. Cut to "pledge week 1986". Lively wants to get laid, so he tries to join a fraternity. J.C. goes along for the ride. Their assigned prank: Retrieve a corpsicle from the morgue. Instead, the break into David Paymer's Cryogenics lab and unleash hell upon the town. It's up to J.C., Lively, and Tom Atkins to avert some kind of oral hostile take over.

Yeah, the Tom Atikins. The great Tom Atkins. What the fuck hasn't this guy been in? I don't know, but it's a short list. Here's a sampling of his credits; The Fog, Escape From New York, Creepshow, Halloween III, Lethal Weapon, Maniac Cop, Bruiser, um...Xena. He's one of those guys you'll recoginze instantly and not know his name. He's in the "that guy" hall of fame. Well, guess the fuck what? He's dropped the "that guy" status and become a full fledged star in this picture. He's tremendous as Detective Cameron (still, not happy with the names) who delivers all the classic lines from "thrill me" to "it's miller time". Vintage 80s lines. Let's not forget the great line on the poster work above. The instant J.C. leaves the picture it's up to Atkins to prevent Lively from ruining it. Between Atkins and some soaped up boobies, Lively had his work cut out for him. He wasn't up to the challenge.

Release the fucking thing on DVD already. Shit, and if you even think about putting this out exclusively on Blu-Ray, I'm going to be fucking pissed (especially as I'm shelling out my cash).


brian said...

Credit where credit is due. I borrowed this from Elmo a few years back. Would have written about it then, but I didn't take notes at the time. Also, didn't have a blog.

elmo said...

How I am honored! I got a "Creeps" t-shirt from ebay last year, and hope to someday be buried in it.

And, um, christ- you remembered that much from one viewing four years ago? Yeeowza.

brian said...

actually, I just rewatched it about a week ago. Comcast on demand. Zombie month. I also tried watching Chud II. It's a sequel in name only. God awful.

Beepy said...

On Demand had a "zombie month" and no one told me! What is wrong with you people?

You know I used to be a fan of the Vampire but then I saw my first Zombie. Once you've seen Zombie...