31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #11: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Posted: October 11, 2018 in Movie Review

11. Night of the Creeps (1986)

Director: Fred Dekker

Starring: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins

How do clichés get started in the first place? They don’t appear out of thin air. It means that someone at some point came up with a great idea, one so great that dozens of copycats have tried to recapture that magic. Once you’ve gotten to that point, it is now officially ripe for parody. This occurs frequently within the horror genre, a fact that was as widely recognized in 1986 as it is today. Do you like slasher films? Zombie movies? Alien invasion stories? How about teen comedies with the “geek falls in love with the prom queen” angle? If the answer is yes to one or all of these, “Night of the Creeps” has got you covered.

The movie starts off in 1959, a time when everything was in black and white and people listened to Paul Anka on the radio. On board an alien spacecraft, one of its occupants outwits his two crewmates long enough to jettison a canister down to Earth, where it lands near a popular parking spot. A boy sees the crash and goes to check it out, leaving his date behind to get axe murdered by an escaped mental patient. The boy is then attacked by some kind of slug-like alien parasite which enters his mouth.

Cut to 1986, where it’s pledge week at Corman University, the same school which had been attended by the two unfortunate kids in that scene from 27 years earlier. Your main character, Chris Romero (Jason Lively, older half-brother to actress Blake Lively), is your typical 80s geek. He’s managed to spot the most beautiful girl on campus, Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow), who is of course dating the school’s #1 dickhead jock. Chris figures that the best way to impress Cynthia is to pledge a fraternity. With his disabled buddy J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall) in full-on support mode, the pair manages to pick Beta House, the very frat that’s headed by Cynthia’s dickhead boyfriend. They are told that they must steal a cadaver from the school’s medical center as their initiation prank. Against their better judgment, Chris and J.C. go through with the prank, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

The cadaver turns out to be the young man from the 1959 scene. Several slugs come out of his head and find new hosts. Cynthia has seen this thing in action, but can’t convince anyone at first… not even Chris. Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins), the ex-boyfriend of the dead girl from 1959, believes that somehow the axe murderer has returned after seeing several bodies with their heads split open. He is unable to rationalize this, since he personally put the murderer down in an act of vengeance and buried the corpse 27 years earlier. A taped message from J.C., who has been killed by the slugs, reveals that fire is the best weapon against them. Armed with this knowledge, Chris and Det. Cameron team up. They arrive at the sorority house just in time to rescue Cynthia, who joins them in battling the zombified, slug-infested Beta fraternity.

After some of the crap that I’d been exposing myself to as of late, “Night of the Creeps” was a breath of fresh air. Granted, I’d already seen it once before so I knew that relief was coming, but this makes it no less welcome. What I really appreciate about the movie is the affection that it shows toward horror movie clichés and how it lovingly melds each of them together into a tight little package of fun. Yes, this movie is cheesy as hell, but it wouldn’t work if it were otherwise. You might have picked up on the fact that all the characters in this movie have the same last names as horror film directors. That alone should show you the amount of love that went into this project.

Jason Lively and the stunning Jill Whitlow are great fun as the leads, but it’s Tom Atkins who sends this movie into maximum overdrive. Detective Cameron has a ton of one-liners. The one he seems to be the fondest of is “Thrill me!” as he uses it every time he comes up on a crime scene or answers the phone. My favorite scene in the movie is when he’s recounting the tale of how he tracked down the axe murderer. You can see the pain in his eyes at the same time as you can see that the experience has left him unhinged.

Despite the terrifically nutty ending presented by the Director’s Cut (which is the DVD/Blu Ray version), “Night of the Creeps” never got a proper sequel. I’m okay with this as I can’t imagine a sequel giving us anything that this one doesn’t. However, if one is not enough for you, a film similar to “Night of the Creeps” is 2006’s “Slither.” Also featuring a plot based around alien slug monsters which enter through the mouth and take over your brain, “Slither” is another light-hearted ode to the B-movies of the past, this time relying on the 1980s for inspiration. In many ways, “Slither” is a spiritual sequel to “Night of the Creeps.” I actually saw “Slither” first, which was why I was kind of surprised when the song “Every Woman in the World” by Air Supply did not show up on the soundtrack to “Night of the Creeps.” Watch the two together as a double-feature some time. You’ll be glad you did.

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