Thursday, 2 October 2014

Night of the Creeps - review

1986 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

Now I need to be a bit careful with this one as I believe Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps is a bit of a fan favourite and I'm aware many people hold the horror-comedy b-movie close to their denim clad hearts. But here's the problem. I'm a Night of the Creeps newcomer and not swathed in nostalgia. I've jaded forty year old eyes and I've now seen my fair share of zom-rom-coms; I don't have that sweaty adolescent sentimentality to keep me going between people dying and heads 'sploding. Anyway, the point I'm trying to get to; the point I'm dallying around, is though Night of the Creeps is good, I mean I did just say heads 'sploding, it's just maybe not quite as good for us, as those who watched it some 28 years ago without their parents knowing.

Things start absurdly and b-movie brilliantly, with weird looking giant Dr Who inspired 80's space slugs battling it out and a particularly grumpy looking one blasting what we learn to be a parasitic space slug to Earth against the others wishes. It's 1959, we know this because things are black and white, and investigating the shooting star that's landed, a young confident college boy out with his date ignores the warnings of an axe murderer escaped from the local mental institute gets her violently dismembered and himself infected and cryogenically frozen. As I said brilliant stuff.

Then it all goes a bit 80s and brat pack with J.C. During (Steve Marshall) trying to win Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow) as a date for nerd friend and roommate Chris Romero (Jason Lively); yes I did spot the names. With the only obstacle to their success, obviously, admittance to the most popular fraternity J.C. and Chris agree to break into the university medical centre and steal a highly experimental corpse, which just conveniently happens to be said cryogenically frozen bug hibernator from 1959. Of course they conveniently manage to defrost him, he conveniently happens to be not well guarded, and it conveniently starts a rather nasty series of events that soon spiral out of control.

It's b-movie parody, it's funny, it's well directed and well fleshed out with a preposterous narrative that sways from semi-coherent eighties teen angst movie to The Return of the Living Dead and over the top horror like a metronome on amphetamines. One minute it's geeky guys trying to get a prom date or hitting each other with pillows, the next it's audaciously absurd space aliens shooting one another with ray guns or twenty-seven year old axe murdering corpses up having a second swing at it. What should be a little disconcerting does actually work though creating that b-movie duality where there's the normal world where people worry about their hair and their dates, when all the while we really know there's a second reality only a block away holding an axe and full of alien space worms. My one small gripe was some of the more excessive contrived convenience, which even though I know is part of the b-movie charm, came across as a little too forced. It's one thing to learn that fire is the thing that can kill the little space leeches, it's another to just happen across a box of matches on the floor of your toilet cubicle lighting the last one at just the right moment as one rushes over to its flammable end.

You just can't beat a good old alien brain parasite; well you could with a fiery stick, but there's just something about scurrying little black super slugs with the singular intent to zoom up trouser legs,  throw themselves into open mouths and take over brains, that makes me smile. Why do they want to do it / what's their motive? No idea though I guess the usual world subjugation. All I know is, once in place it's zombie time, staggering about looking for someone new to explode their head in the direction of. I keep saying exploding heads; whether cat, dog, recently deceased or long decayed it would appear they use the brain as some kind of incubation chamber with which to breed (asexually?), then assume control of the host body before popping the noggin wide open to great cinematic applause to fire new space slugs at any new hosts that might be dumb enough to have their mouths open. By this point it's really all over for the hosts, the best they can hope for some sympathetic soul putting a stop to it all with a one, two, blast to the head, heavy duty incineration of the little critters hiding inside.

I've moaned a lot that it's not perhaps grade A eighties schlock horror but in truth it's not far off. Dekker has fashioned a competent cohesive b-movie wannabe that entertains and shocks nicely and equally and flows by to a satisfactory conclusion. Exploding head, alien parasite zombies were never going to disappoint and honestly one could never get bored watching them pop. Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who I've not mentioned so far is the undoubted star of the show, with one-liners and a personality that rivals even Sir Bruce Campbell in its dry delivery and inventive punch. A fun entertaining little ride with some truly outstanding scenes, but as a whole, one that maybe hasn't aged quite as well as some might have us believe. It's never going to be my favourite eighties horror spoof but thrill me, it did, 7/10.



  1. I'm one of those people who saw it 28 years ago - when it was good, probably even better than average, but not quite great. Even then, the cutesy name checks were a little twee. Tom Atkins owns it, though.

    Thanks for posting the Pre'Ween badge. I'm glad to have you joining the celebration this year. My ultimate goal is to have "Pre'Ween" enter the common vernacular so it doesn't get flagged as a misspelling every time I type it.

    1. Tom Atkins does own it; he's truly amazing. We Also need to get #preween active on twitter. I'll get on it.

  2. I also saw it once upon an 80's and at the time I had thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. Back then, I didn't yet have the working knowledge of horror and I didn't know the names yet, so my pre'teen (see what I did there, Brandon?!?!?) mind just focused on space slug parasites, zombies and I thought Tom Atkins was just about the coolest guy ever.


    1. I think if I'd seen it in the eighties, if I'm honest, the boobies and exploding heads alone would have done it for me.