Sony // 1986 // 90 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // November 6th, 2009
The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is...they're dead.
It's hard to be a fan of Eighties horror films. For every great film that lives up to its fantastic cover art, there's a dozen flicks that probably shouldn't even have been made. Now that it's almost two decades since the Eighties were over and numerous DVD houses have minded the era for various releases, it's getting harder and harder to get excited about releases of catalog titles from the era. Then along comes a film like Night of the Creeps, which has long been MIA from home video, and I admit I got my hopes up. I've seen the film on so many "most wanted" lists over the last decade that I knew it had to be special, and this new release from Sony shows that the wait was worth it. Following in the footsteps of The Monster Squad (another Fred Dekker film), this DVD release of Night of the Creeps provides good, clean fun wrapped up in a solid package filled with informative extras.
It's all about a girl. When a college geek falls in love with a sorority girl, he convinces his best friend to pledge a fraternity with him in the hopes of winning the young lady's heart. Since the two gentlemen aren't exactly frat material, they're sent on a mission to steal a corpse to prove their loyalty. Instead of finding a corpse, they accidently unleash a cryogenically preserved body and the alien experiment living inside it. Suddenly, the dead are coming back to life and all hell is breaking loose.
I knew that James Gunn's fantastic little horror homage Slither borrowed a lot of different things from a lot of different movies, but I had no idea it owed so much to a single film: Night of the Creeps. Both films share the basic idea of space-slugs that turn people into zombie-like creatures (as well as a penchant for naming many of the characters/locations after famous horror film directors). Both films feature a solid blend of humor and horror, with enough gore to go around. Finally, both films succeed because they don't take themselves too seriously.
Don't get me wrong, Night of the Creeps easily qualifies as a "bad" movie: the characters and situations are insane, the dialogue goofy, the effects over-the-top, and the hairstyles are eye-watering. And yet, I had a heck of a lot more fun watching Night of the Creeps than I have watching a contemporary horror film since...well, since Slither. Part of the success of the film is the way it refuses to take itself seriously, which means that as often as not I laughed with the film instead of at when things got cheesy. The film is also helped by a couple of strong performances in the lead roles of the college nerds. They're just pathetic enough to be underdogs, without ever sliding over into obnoxious and unsympathetic. The rest of the actors are better than most horror films get as well. It's fun to play "spot the actor," as several famous character actors appear in the film, including Tom Atkins (most recently the sheriff in My Bloody Valentine remake) and David Paymer (from Drag Me to Hell, amongst others).
The film also doesn't skimp on the pacing. With the exception of a few scenes early in the second act, the film picks up speed and moves toward the inevitable climatic battle with all due speed. Even a prologue that starts on an alien space ship in the Fifties where an axe murderer is on the loose can't stop the juggernaut of reanimated corpses. Once everyone is on board with the idea that strange things are afoot, the film doesn't let up with the action or the gore.
Fans have been waiting a long time for Night of the Creeps to arrive on digital disc, and I'm happy to report that the wait was worth it. Everything starts out with a great transfer, with strong blacks, excellent color rendition, and no significant compression problems that I could see. For a twenty-plus-year-old film, Night of the Creeps looks fantastic. The sound track has been remastered into a 5.1 surround mix and the results are good if not spectacular. Those wonderful Eighties synths are in full force, and the dialogue is crisp and clear.
Extras, though, are where this disc really shines. There are two commentaries, one features director Dekker (and a moderator), and the other is a cast commentary. Both are fun tracks that illuminate the making of the film, as well as its fate since release, not to mention how the film affected all their lives. For more on the film, we get "Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps," which runs for just shy of an hour. It's split into five segments, each of which tackles a different aspect of the film, from casting to the film's cult status. Then, there's the original theatrical ending (which is what separates this "director's cut" from the theatrical version), as well as several deleted scenes and the film's trailer. There's also a 20-minute featurette that focuses on the career of Tom Atkins, and a text-based trivia track.
I'm not gonna lie: you need a bit of a soft-spot for the Eighties to appreciate Night of the Creeps from the big hair to the geek protagonists, every frame screams "Me Decade." If that's not your bag, I totally understand, but as a child of the Eighties, I can't help but love it.
Although I never saw the film as a kid, I have a fond place in my heart for the original VHS box art, with the corpse in the window. This new cover art isn't horrifying, in fact it may capture the spirit of the film better than the old art, but I miss that old picture.
With this release, Night of the Creeps easily ascends to the pantheon of Eighties cult horror films. I will proudly place it on the shelf next to my Killer Klowns from Outer Space DVD. I can think of no better endorsement than that.
Night of the Creeps is good ol' fashioned horror-comedy fun. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Alternate Ending
* Trivia Track
* Deleted Scenes
* DVD Verdict interview with Fred Dekker