Case Number 17604

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (BLU-RAY)

Sony // 1986 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // October 30th, 2009

The Charge

"I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here."
"What's the bad news?"
"They're dead."

Opening Statement

I don't remember the first time I saw Night of the Creeps nor do I have any specific recollection of when I realized that this little horror flick would turn into a cult fave of mine. My earliest remembrance is walking through K-Mart one Halloween season, seeing a pile of cheap VHS tapes for sale, noting Creeps on top, and eagerly and excitedly buying it. For many years past that, I would watch my VHS at least every Halloween; but then my VCR went into the trash and Creeps faded into a memory. But eventually everything comes back around, and now Creeps is finally seeing the light of the digital day.

Facts of the Case

1959...

On board a spacecraft, an alien goes running down a hallway. It's carrying a cylinder, and you soon realize he's stolen it. Soon two more aliens appear, shooting at the first one, trying to reclaim the tube. But the alien makes it to some type of disposal unit, and it inserts the cylinder into it, shooting the tube into space. As the tube floats through space the gravitational pull of a nearby planet catches it. On that planet called Earth, several teenaged couples are making out at an "inspiration point" when the tube comes crashing down nearby. One couple goes to investigate and the boy finds the cylinder. At that moment, an escaped mental patient murders his girlfriend. His luck is no better, for an alien slug comes out of the container, enters his body through the mouth, and is now also dead.

27 years later...

Chris (Jason Lively, National Lampoon's European Vacation) and his college roommate J.C. (Steve Marshall, Sleeping in a Dream) are best friends and also social misfits. Though a bit nerdy, the two try to hang with the cool kids and do cool likes. It's rush week and the two are attending a frat party. As they approach the house, Chris sees the girl of his dreams, Cindy (Jill Whitlow, Weird Science). He knows he doesn't have a chance but maybe if he were to pledge a fraternity he might make a positive impression on her. The two begin their frat quest and are tasked to prank a rival house by placing a corpse on their front steps.

Somehow J.C. knows of a potential place on campus to find a body, and there is one there. But they don't realize this corpse isn't dead. It's actually the cryogenically frozen body of the boy from 1959, and he's still alive. The two have released the frozen body thereby releasing the space slugs from captivity. And soon, the slugs are all over campus, killing people and turning them into zombies.

When the dead bodies begin to pile up, Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins, My Bloody Valentine) comes in and investigates. As he tries to figure out what's going on with space slugs and zombies, he will have to confront the horror of the night 27 years ago when he found his ex-girlfriend murdered by an escaped mental patient.

Who will survive the night of the creeps?

The Evidence

Information is missing from what you've read to this point. What you do know is that Night of the Creeps is a cult, horror film; one that I like. You've read the plot and nothing jumps out as being necessarily special. So now you're asking if there anything special about Creeps or is just an acquired taste? In all truth, it's a little of both. Fifteen plus years ago when I bought that VHS, I saw a silly, campy horror film with space slugs turning frat boys into zombies. I'm sure I also liked the heads that split apart, and I know I liked the lawnmower into the face. But that's it, a quirky horror flick. Zip to today and when I watched this movie for the first time in years, I realized quite a few things. First and foremost, it still is a goofy slice of a movie; but it's actually better than that.

Creeps is the directorial debut of Fred Dekker, the man who would later treat us to other cult fave Monster Squad and less-than fave RoboCop 3. But in his first film, once you squeegee away the coating of horror schlock, you begin to realize that there's some depth to this movie. It's better than you expect (or remember), for Fred had a great vision and imbued the film with a mature style -- especially considering what type of movie it is. What you might not know is that the film most often doesn't take itself seriously. It's a comedy/homage to the horror genre. It's a lighthearted comedy/horror with a dash of romance. (Have no fear, it's not chick flicky in any way. You might even call it a template for Zombieland...ok, that's huge stretch.) So as the movie progresses, you get moments of horror (zombies and splitting heads), comedy (see "The Charge"), homage (Detective Cameron, as in James Cameron; J.C. as in John Carpenter; amongst other things), and some romance (boy and girl bond, fighting alien zombies). There's a lot going on in the movie, all coming together to be a great, cult horror comedy. It slipped below the radar on its release, but it has slowly grown over the years. Now it's your turn to delight in Creeps.

But, wait, there's more! In addition to all the fun, Creeps displays a level of complexity with the characters. You'll be surprised as you watch and see the pain and anguish of our characters realistically portrayed -- at least so far as alien space slug zombie frat boys. Kudos go out to cult hero Tom Atkins. Snarky at times, gruff at times, and often too funny and smart for his own good, Tom really gets into his character. The trauma of 27 years ago still haunts him, and he'll have to face it again. Seeing his progression through the layers of angst is really good stuff. Something you surely don't expect in a campy, '80s horror flick.

This is a fun movie with a lot of dimension...and splattered space slugs.

Though its roots are humble and its path to digital release has been long -- this Blu and its coincident DVD mark its first release since VHS, Creeps doesn't skimp or go easy. Video is a 1.85:1, 1080p print that breathes new life into this decade olds film. This new transfer comes with accurate, lifelike colors; strong, rich blacks; and a very respectable balance of contrast and detail. Film grain is apparent throughout, and it gives a great film-like presentation to the movie. It's a solid transfer that freshens up the release, but it is not a transfer that amazes you with a brilliant display of depth and realism. It's great for the movie, its budget, and its age. Scoring even better is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that surprised me from the get go. I expected, at best, an average mix with clear dialogue and little immersion. I was wrong. This mix throws you into the middle of the action with great sound from all channels. Dialogue is clean and clear, the subwoofer pumps out a strong, steady bass, and those surrounds put you in the middle of the mayhem. Well done.

Continuing the never-ending line of praise is the excellent bounty of bonus features. Most of the extra were newly created for this release, showing the love and dedication of the fans. First up is an audio commentary featuring Fred Dekker and moderation by Michael Felsher. Fred is full of information, both technical and personal, talking honestly about his cult hit. You'll be entertained and learn a bunch too. Next up is another commentary featuring the cast: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, and Tom Atkins. It's another entertaining listen, highlighting how much fun they had and how close they became...and still are. Next is the original theatrical ending (0:29), which I'll detail next in The Rebuttal Witnesses. We go on to seven deleted scenes (7:40), which flesh out a few things; but were wise excisions as I think they make Det. Cameron a bit of an ass. On to the big feature, "Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps" (59:46). This great piece, divided into five segments, tells you just about everything you want to know about the cult hit. "Birth of the Creeps" (10:41), "Cast of the Creeps" (15:58), "Creating the Creeps" (10:33), "Escape of the Creeps" (11:34), and "Legend of the Creeps" (10:59) can be played individually or all at once to swaddle you in the cult of the creeps. Next we have "Tom Atkins: Man of Action" (19:55), a piece that focuses on Tom, his life, his career, and what he's up to these days. The last big extra is a text-based trivia track, which I'll admit seems a bit lacking. Also included is the original theatrical trailer and trailers for Ghostbusters, Hellboy, Men in Black, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Blu-ray is also BD-Live enabled, but there is currently no content available.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I really don't have any complaints about the movie or this release, so I'll spend a moment to discuss why this is the Director's Cut of the movie. In reality, there is exactly one change to the theatrical release: the ending. Included here is Fred's original ending that was changed after studio "recommendations." Oddly enough, this may not be a new ending to some, as this ending is the one that many will have seen when it was on cable. The old VHS tapes contained the theatrical ending.

Closing Statement

It's pretty obvious that I'm a big fan of Night of the Creeps and my appreciation for this film only grew with this new viewing. I certainly know this is not a great movie, not fine cinema, and it still has a decidedly campy, horror vibe that is obviously from the '80s. Nonetheless, if you give it a chance you'll find it fun, gory, and compelling. It's a great flick that deserves its cult status, but it also deserves more. I highly recommend this disc. For newbies, here's one to discover at long last. For fans, this disc greatly supplants that dated videotape.

The Verdict

Night of the Creeps is hereby found not guilty of abusing a corpse. I am thrilled!

Review content copyright © 2009 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 90
Acting: 84
Story: 80
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)

Subtitles:
* English
* English (SDH)

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentaries
* Trivia Track
* Original Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Trailer
* BD-Live

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0091630/combined

* DVD Verdict interview with Fred Dekker
http://www.dvdverdict.com/interview_dekker