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Night of the Creeps (1986)



Detective Cameron: Well girls, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, your dates are here.

Girl: What’s the bad news?

Detective Cameron: They’re dead.

This one exchange conveys the entire tone and mindset of Night of the Creeps. Wisconsin doesn’t have this much cheese and Crystal Lake doesn’t have this much camp and rarely is a horror comedy as much fun to watch as this movie is.

The movie opens onboard an alien spaceship. The ETs are fighting an unseen enemy and finally manage to jettison their foes from the craft. The unwanted passengers hurtle into space and eventually land on Earth in the late 1950s.

At the same time a young sorority girl, who has just broken up with her rookie cop boyfriend, has gone parking with another boy from a fraternity at her college. Ignoring a warning from her ex about an escaped ax murderer, the couple head for the local make-out spot. Soon they spot a "shooting star" and the fellow heads into the woods to investigate.

No sooner has he gone than the ax murderer shows up and attacks the girl. Meanwhile the boy has found the pod which contains the things which the aliens were fighting. A small slug or leach like creature shoots from the pod and into the young man’s mouth.

We now jump ahead to 1986 and social outcasts Chris and J.C. have decided to pledge the local "jock" fraternity, even though neither is really jock material, because Chris believes this is the only way he can woo the lovely Cynthia who is currently dating BMOC and all around jerk Brad.

Brad and his frat brothers tell the two boys that in order to even be considered as potential pledges, they must steal a corpse from the hospital and place it on the steps of a rival frat.

The two friends do, in fact, sneak into the colleges research lab, but unable to find the morgue, they mistakenly stumble upon a cryogenics experiment. Figuring that a corpse is a corpse the two manage to release the cadaver from its freezing tube and are struggling to sneak it out of the hospital when the body opens its eyes and begins to move. The two, understandably shocked, drop their morbid prize and run for home.

Unfortunately, the corpse in question is that of the young men who ingested the slug-like alien several decades before. It, now filled with alien parasites, manages to shamble back onto campus before its head explodes, releasing a horde of the nasty little buggers.

As the strange events start piling up, we are introduced to Detective Cameron who, you guessed it, was the cop whose girl was axed in the 50s. He’s now a hard boiled dick with a bad attitude and some of the best lines in the picture. After the creatures kill J.C., Chris and Cameron team up to destroy the alien menace.

We learn that the slug like creatures enter into their victim’s mouth and lay eggs in the brain. The victims walk around in a murderous trance, even if they are dead, while the eggs gestate and once the babies are ready to meat the world, the victims head bursts open and dozens of new aliens issue forth. The things reproduce one victim at a time until a bus load of jocks headed for the spring formal wrecks, killing everyone onboard. This doesn’t stop the guys from showing up for their girls though and thus the zombie killing, shotgun blasting, and flame thrower torching action begins.

I’ll bet you almost forgot about that ax murderer from the 50s. Well, it seems that Cameron tracked the killer down not long after the death of his former love and took his revenge. He buried the killer’s body in a vacant lot that is now occupied by the house mother’s cottage of Cynthia’s sorority. It isn’t long before, infested with alien slugs, the rotting maniac rises to face his old enemy again.

With this much going on, one would think that Night of the Creeps would be a mish mash of different genres and styles. What it turns out to be is a very fun movie that has something for everyone. You’ve got you sci-fi elements with the cryogenics angle, your 50s alien invasion and teens Vs the creature theme working here, the ax murder brings a bit of the slasher to the mix, zombie fans will have plenty of walking corpses to keep them happy and fans of Christian metal will be delighted to see the "Striper Rules" graffiti on a restroom wall. Never has a movie had so much to interest so many and remained as entertaining as this flick and all the while the movie has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.

I have seen reviews of the movie that criticize its "typical college stereotypes," but I honestly think that this is also part of the joke. Some of the humor here is a bit strained, especially the banter between Chris and JC, but Cameron (Tom Atkins) is always right on the money.

All of the performances here are pretty good for a self confessed "cheap B movie". Despite the campiness of the script there are scenes that show real depth to the characters. Chris’ tearful reaction to his friend's death the scene when Cameron is trying to kill himself after the revived ax murderer has killed an old woman are unexpected moments in this otherwise light toned movie. The creators use just enough realism to temper the silliness and inside jokes to keep the movie from being insipid, but don’t use enough to bring the mood done or ruin the fun of the picture.

Speaking of inside jokes, there are several characters named after famous horror directors. There is the love interest Cynthia Cronenberg, a police sergeant named Raimi, three other characters named Miller, Carpenter, Landis and of course, the man himself, Detective Cameron. This could have been annoying as it was in The Dead Next Door, but in the hands of writer/director Fred Dekker, it really seems like the homage it is supposed to be and not fanboy pandering.

I think 'homage' is a good word to use in describing Night of the Creeps. Despite all its 80s cheese, some of which I’m sure was intentional and some of which was not, this movie stands as a tribute B movies from the 50s to the 80s. This movie has humor, both effective and not so effective, great one liners, some gore, an unpretentious nature and a "zombie vs lawnmower" scene that predates Dead Alive by a few years. What more can you ask?