Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #9
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: 22 August 1986
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $591,366 (USA)
Running Time: 88 minutes
Director: Fred Dekker
Producer: Charles Gordon
Screenplay: Fred Dekker
Special Effects: David B. Miller, Robert Kurtzman
Cinematography: Robert C. New
Score: Barry De Vorzon
Editing: Michael N Knue
Studios: TriStar Pictures, Delphi V Productions
Distributors: Tri Star Pictures, CBS Fox Video (UK)
Stars: Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Wally Taylor, Bruce Solomon, Vic Polizos, Allen Kayser, Ken Heron, Alice Cadogan, June Harris, David Paymer, Dick Miller
Suggested Audio Candy
C-Spot Run “Nightmares”
Picture the scene. It is the mid-eighties. Horror is in vogue like never before and any half-talented wannabe director with a small pot of cash can knock out a swift return on their investment. Roger Corman, who is oblivious to the term financial loss and whom I believe still hasn’t ever lost money on one of his many features, has paved the way for budding B-Movie filmmakers to climb the first rung of the ladder. Fred Dekker was never the most prolific director and, despite following this up with the much-loved fifties throwback, The Monster Squad, he only ever directed three full-length features. However, he sure picked a doozy to start with. Okay then, with that in mind, let’s make a B-Movie! Nah, just kidding. I got one right here.
Night Of The Creeps is so much more than merely a B-Movie. It is a proud beast which pays homage to its creature feature forefathers and Dekker makes the inspired choice of casting none other than Tom Atkins. Come on ladies, admit you don’t fantasize over being in his brogues for just one day. Kind of like Kurt Russell’s randy uncle after one too many cognacs, this man is a legend in his own bathroom, and every budding Gillette model surely admits to having a picture of this man tacked to the rear of their locker door. Here he plays… drum roll… a bitter wise cracking cop, sleep deprived and still concealing a faint odor of last night’s bourbon and the whiff of at least one woman’s sex all up one side of his pleated slacks.
Now, in the same way that Russell was born to play Elvis, Atkins was born to deliver the classic one liner. Arnie, Sly and Bruce were all doing it so why not he? It’s a no-brainer right? Thrilling you is what he does best and he’s on mouth-wateringly deadpan form here as grizzled detective Ray Cameron. With his serpent-like quips and meticulously slicked back hair, complimented by a whole campus full of highly sexed teenage girls to make eyes at, (with no attempt to conceal the fact I feel compelled to add), here he is the proverbial junkie in a pharmacy. He revels in every moment and is ably supported by a young cast who do their utmost not to ejaculate in their own breaches at the prospect of standing besides the man and dreaming that some of that sex appeal will rub off. It doesn’t! They are likable however and are thankful enough just to share screen time with this sexual rhinoceros.
The plot is literally all over the place but in a good way as it shoehorns in all manner of different genre staples and somehow it all jells effortlessly. Nobody Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and his hamstrung pal J.C. (Steve Marshall) unwittingly unleash a deadly brain munching parasite when allowing one of the campus cadavers to thaw out after attempting their pledge week duties. The stiff was responsible for some brutal axe murders back in 1959 and has been kept on ice ever since but, the moment he defrosts, it’s straight back to business. Worse still, this parasitic plank has been incubating evil the whole time and it isn’t soon before Corman University has one helluva bug problem on its hands. We’re talking rotting dead, demented dogs, laser-toting aliens and of course there is the small matter of blood sucking leeches to top off proceedings. There’s even a black and white prologue for any old-timers.
Had I mentioned that prom night is approaching fast? Chris is desperate to punch above his weight and clamber inside the lingerie of his proposed sweetheart Cynthia (Jill Whitlow). With her brain-dead boyfriend Brad (Allan Kayser) tripping at every hurdle and the fate of the free world at stake; it appears as though Chris may be in with a shot of bagging his babe without it being necessary to douse his handkerchief with chloroform. The problem is that he lacks any discernible back bone, which is ironic considering poor J.C. could do with a new spinal column himself and would probably have a better idea of what to do with his junk should that moment arise amidst all this bloody chaos.
Night of The Creeps is one long ninety-minute roller coaster which Dekker crafts with a kitchen sink mentality which serves it ably throughout. If John Hughes had been bitten by a zombie in the mid-eighties, I believe this is the film he would likely have made. It’s all about the homage and makes no attempt to hide that either. SFX gurus Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger pop up as beta zombies, as do fellow maestros David B. Miller and Robert Kurtzman. As well as Corman University, several other famous horror/sci-fi directors’ names are used for characters in the movie; Romero, Cronenberg, Cameron, Carpenter, Landis, Raimi and Miner. Oh and Plan 9 From Outer Space is playing on the house mother’s TV set for good measure. How’s that for paying reverence?
If you haven’t before sampled the pleasures that Dekker’s feature has to offer, then I urge you to go in cold. It will grab you by the short and curlies from the moment it starts and won’t loosen its grip until the last credit has rolled, of that I offer guarantee. No, it’s not high art but it never set out to be high art. However, it is art and of pretty high-caliber no less. Plus it has Atkins in it. It shouldn’t take any more convincing than that. Night of the Creeps deserves every last one of its plaudits and was easily one of the most enjoyable film experiences I had in 1986. It may not have you “screaming like a banshee” but it will definitely have you howling with delight. I leave you with the words of carnal carnivore, Ray Cameron. Thrill me!
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: This flick has plenty of what you seek Grueheads; that being a schlock-filled splatter spread of many different flavors and varieties. Blood sucking leeches, axe-wielding zombies, regular zombies, contaminated kittie zombies, the lot. There’s a lot of love in the practical effects and Miller and Kurtzman are clearly having a ball with the monstrous creations on exhibit. They’re not the only ones. If you’re still searching for a spot in the archives for Night of The Creeps then allow me to throw you a bone. File under F for FUCKING AWESOME!
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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