Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Night of the Creeps

You know how I feel about 80s horror movies, so I think I’ll finally stop waxing poetic on that decade.  I was in my teens between 1981 and 1988 and it was a tough time for me growing up, so that’s what I looked to for a way to live vicariously through the characters on the screen.  Yeah, most of the films were silly and unbelievable, but they were always entertaining and never missed the mark when it came to giving the audience a good time.  Even though there was an overabundance of horror films back then, most of them were solid and above mediocre standards.  I loved them and still do to this day.

Well…lookee there…I said I wasn’t going to be overly verbose on that decade, but I did it anyway.  It just goes to show that the subject of horror movies in the 80s is something I never get tired of talking about.

I’ve also mentioned before that due to the superfluity of that genre of films, I didn’t get to see quite a few of them that were released during my movie-going days back then.  So when I catch up these days, usually by checking out the catalog of DVDs on Netflix, they usually bring me back to that innocent age of my teenaged years.  Sometimes they’re excellent movies that make me think, “Why have I not seen this one?”  Other times, I turn off the flick twenty minutes into it, regretting that I had it sent to me in the first place.

Now, the odd thing about Night of the Creeps is that I had it sent to me some years ago and threw it on for a watch—maybe letting it play for a half hour or so—but decided to eject it from my PS3 and sent it back to Netflix.  The reason I didn’t get into it?  Probably because of my feeling that one should watch horror movies during the right time of year.  If you’d read my review ofThe Howling, I started off with editorializing my view of watching most horror movies during the month of October.  Not all horror movies, mind you, but the ones that were made during the decade of 1980 through 1989 generally fall into that category.  So I think that’s what went wrong when I first saw Night of the Creeps—it was probably during the spring or summer and it just didn’t keep my interest.

I don’t know what made me change my mind and decide to give the movie another chance, but that’s exactly what I had done.  I seem to recall that perhaps it was a horror movie podcast I was listening to that made me reconsider trying it out again (Horror Etc.? Corpse Cast? SlasherCast?).  Whatever—or whoever—had gotten me to change my mind, I’m glad it did.  I saw it again and it had such a profound impact on me, I decided to purchase the Blu-Ray (which coincidentally had been released a few months beforehand) and it now sits proudly in the front of one of my horror movie binders.

Night of the Creeps marks the debut of director and writer, Fred Dekker.  He went on to direct The Monster Squad a year later, an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” and the ill-fated second sequel in the Robocop franchise.  However, as a writer, Dekker has had a string of hits, most recently having a remake of The Monster Squad on the block as well as a rumor that Predatormight be rebooted as well (let’s hope that neither of them will happen—no disrespect to Mr. Dekker, but the originals are classics and don’t need to be regurgitated).  As a first-time writer and director, Dekker really hit it out of the park with Night of the Creeps.

The film opens, in an alien vessel in space, where an alien is running away from some others and
carrying some container.  It’s able to shoot the canister out into space where it lands on Earth.  The year is 1959 and the container is found by some young man as it opens up as some leech-like creature jumps from it into his mouth.  The movie jumps 28 years later and focuses on two friends, Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall).  Chris attempts to impress a girl, Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), by trying to join a fraternity.  As part of the pledge, the frat leader, Brad (Allan Kayser), tells Chris and J.C. that they need to steal a corpse from the college medical center and place it in front of the sorority house.  Chris and J.C. attempt to do so and inadvertently release a corpse from a cryogenic tube, being scared off and not going through with the frat initiation.  But the corpse is the young man from 1959 and he’s now some sort of zombie, turning others into zombies as his body releases more of the leech-like creatures, making more and more people into zombies.

Now, one thing I hadn’t mentioned is the inclusion of the great Tom Atkins in the cast.  Complete with his signature mustache, he plays Detective Ray Cameron who’s been on the force for a while.  Through some flashbacks, and as a subplot, we see that there was a serial killer on the loose back in 1959 and he had a chance to save the girl that he had a thing for but he wasn’t able to do so.  I like what he does with the character in the film, being a smartass to everyone and delivering some cool—but cheesy—one-liners throughout the movie.  The tagline of the film is one of the best he delivers: “The good news is your dates are here.  The bad news is…they’re dead.”  I guarantee that by the time you’re finished watching this movie, you’ll be using the term “thrill me” every chance you get…I know I do.  For all the years Atkins has played serious roles in the middle of typical tawdry plots, he finally gets this one and is allowed to have fun with it.  You can almost see the twinkle in his eyes as he delivers some of the best lines in this movie.

Jason Lively and Steve Marshall as the two main characters are your typical 80s teen heroes, much like Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith from Weird Science.  The antics Lively and Marshall get into as Chris and J.C., especially the contrived set-up to the movie, is emblematic of this movie—or any movie of the 1980s for that matter.  You’ve got to give it to them for taking their roles seriously and acting them out better than what you’d expect from a movie like this.

For any of you who love a good zombie movie, but want something more than what we’ve been given over the years, which is just a rehash of what George Romero has done, this is a refreshing one to see.  The reason the dead walk is a little on the sci-fi side of things, but it’s still nerve-racking how it all comes to be, leaving the whole movie full of tension. 

So, my final “bit” on Night of the Creeps?

Relive the 80s with this gem as you’ll get the practical effects that are notorious in these earlier
horror movies, the humor infused within is just enough to entertain but not ruin the story, you’ll feel the nostalgia of that era (especially if you grew up during that time), and there’s just so much more you’ll probably get out of this movie that I might’ve missed.  Overall, it’s refreshing that, during a time where slasher-type films were always green-lit for a horror movie release, a movie of this caliber and budget was given the go-ahead.  But just a word of advice…this is a perfect movie to see during the fall or winter, sitting in the dark with some popcorn and reliving that beautiful era of horror movie-making.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

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