Night of the Creeps (1986) / Horror-Comedy
MPAA rated R for violence, gore, scary images, nudity and language
Running time: 88 min.
Cast: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Allan Kayser
Cameo: David Paymer, Dick Miller, Shane Black
Director: Fred Dekker
Screenplay: Fred Dekker
Largely ignored during its initial theatrical run in 1986, Night of the Creeps has gained a minor cult following among b-movie horror aficionados, particularly for the ones who enjoy lots of in-jokes and a multitude of references to prior films in the genre. Characters and places share the names of famous directors, dropping such monikers as Corman, Cronenberg, Romero, Raimi, Landis, among others.
First-time writer-director Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Robocop 3) blends a mish-mash of popular low-budget horror and science fiction staples in the script, including alien invasions, zombies, parasites, axe murderers, and gratuitous cheesecake. It is a film made by an obvious movie buff, starting off with a lengthy scene from 1959, shot in the popular black-&-white photography of many films if its time.
Jason Lively (European Vacation, Brainstorm) and Steve Marshall (Justice Denied, Sleeping in a Dream) are the primary stars as Chris and J.C., a couple of nerdy college freshmen fraternity pledges who must steal a corpse as part of their initiation. They accidentally end up releasing a small army of leeches, jettisoned from an alien spacecraft, dormant in the cryogenically cadaver they find in the university's research facility. These leeches jump into the mouths of any humans they can and proceed to consume their minds, controlling their bodies like zombies with only one mission: to kill and infest the bodies of others they can find. Also starring is Tom Atkins (The Fog, Lethal Weapon) as the town's hard-nosed but slightly cracked disgruntled cop, Detective Ray Cameron, who has seen these events before, nearly three decades in the past, when his ex-girlfriend had been viciously murdered with an ax-wielding psycho.
Night of the Creeps is a fun movie for those who enjoy the campy b-movie horror and sci-fi genres, particularly those familiar enough with the films that Dekker pays a great deal of homage to throughout. Though the film lacks big name stars, the casting is quite good, with Tom Atkins in particular standing out as the old-fashioned, burnt-out cop, whose main dryly humorous (and often ironic) catchphrase is, "Thrill me." Equally quotable one-liners are interspersed throughout, many of them quite droll.
It may have a limited target audience, but if you enjoy the works of Roger Corman, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and others of their ilk, this is a satisfying homage that does their legacies proud.
©2012 Vince Leo