05th Sep2019

Rewind: ‘Night of the Creeps’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Wally Taylor, Allan Kayser, Ken Heron, Alice Cadogan | Written and Directed by Fred Dekker


Fred Dekker, writer and director of this fun-loving and enjoyably-daft B-movie homage, had a strangely short career as a director. Oddly though, he is responsible for two films that I, and many others, really love. Night of the Creeps being one of them, and the other one being a Halloween-staple for me, 1987’s The Monster Squad. Dekker wrote the script in just a week for this film, and it is a good script that in many ways feels ahead of its time. It’s quite unusual how little credit Dekker has received for his work (his only other feature film is Robocop 3) because two of his films are cult favourites, and truly entertaining slices of horror fun. A definite inspiration to many similar films that would follow through the years, such as Slither (2006), this is one of those movies that is always a total joy to revisit. So I did. Again.

The story begins in a spaceship with some scrotal-looking alien beings dropping some sort of tube out of their craft before it explodes into bits. We then head down to earth and find ourselves in the 1950’s, a section of the film that is shot in black and white. A couple of youths are smooching on the cliched “lovers lane” where apparently all high-school and college kids in the 50’s would park their shiny convertible’s to lock lips and tangle tongues. When the guy hears a noise, he wanders into a forest area (well, it wouldn’t be a horror film without someone wandering into the woods, would it?) only to discover the tube from the aliens laying in the dirt. He kneels beside it and suddenly something jumps from the tube and right down the his throat. We then see an escaped mental patient deliver an axe to the head of the girl who is sitting alone in the convertible, killing her. Not a good night for young love.

We now jump forward to the 80’s and meet two college freshmen, Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C (Steve Marshall). Chris is the normal, slightly-nerdy young guy who is your typical 80’s teen horror protagonist who is easy enough to root for. J.C is his more care-free best buddy who isn’t afraid to piss into the wind. Chris immediately falls in love when he glances upon sorority girl Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) who is (kinda) dating Brad (Allan Kayser), the college jock villain douche-bag, played as the stereotype that he is. He’s a bully with platinum blonde hair and sweater vests. You know the type. In order to win the hand of Cynthia, Chris decides his best shot is if he becomes part of a fraternity, and so he and J.C try to get in to one. They are given a frat-challenge of finding a dead body and dumping it outside of another fraternity’s house. Well, why wouldn’t you say “sure, that sounds fine” So, Chris and J.C (who spends the film on crutches, by the way) head to the college medical research building and stroll into a room containing a cryogenic freezing chamber containing the body of a well-shaven lad with surprisingly tidy hair. Instead of leaving, like you or I might, J.C pushes some buttons on a computer and thaws the scientifically chilled cadaver, only to find that it grabs his arm as he tries to carry it out. J.C and Chris freak out and flee the scene, but so does the body, who runs around campus (well, maybe he doesn’t exactly run) and infects people.

We see that the infection is released by slug-leech type creatures that fly out of the mouths of the infected and, well, infect the desired victim. Like body snatchers that turn the unwitting hosts into zombies by latching onto their brain and laying eggs. Nice. The remainder of the film involves Chris trying to win over Cynthia, the infection spreading across campus and Detective Landis (Wally Taylor), who has flashbacks related to the events that happened in the 1950’s involving his girl being axed in the cranium, attempting to find closure and stop the infected from spreading their slug-germs around town.

There is so much silliness and light-hearted fun to this film that I find it hard to imagine anyone could not enjoy it. The writing and direction from Dekker is on point and he plants his tongue, like one of his slug-aliens, firmly in his cheek throughout, delivering dialogue and characters that are genuinely funny and completely bonkers. The effects are enjoyable and splattery gory, and I really liked the way he encapsulated the 80’s, as well as the 50’s, in the film. Much-like Night of the Comet, this could never have been from any other decade. The story itself, and the parody nature of the humour is what makes Night of the Creeps ahead of its time though, feeling modern in the way it presents itself and has a self-aware grin on its bright and slimy face. Hell, just look at the surnames of many of the characters here and you will see that it is a homage to b-movies from the past. Landis, Raimi, Cronenberg, Carpenter and Romero are among them, and it doesn’t stop there, with nods to films like Night of the Living Dead and Re-Animator, among others, it was bound to bring a knowing grin to the face of horror fans.

The performances were good in what they did. They were cheesy and the delivery of the script was over the top in the best way, especially from Taylor’s Detective Landis, who answered the phone with the phrase “thrill me” each time. You get the picture. It’s a low-budget movie and it does plenty with what it was afforded. Dekker is responsible for two films I enjoy a great deal, and it’s a shame he didn’t do more films like this, because his sense of humour and ability to do a lot with a small amount of money is commendable. If you like creature features that are sillier than they are scary, and homages to the days of b-movies, then this will surely tickle your fancy.

It might make you laugh, it might make you snort with derision, or you might just scream like a banshee, but I’m sure you’ll have fun here if you allow yourself to accept this as a comedy horror flick that doesn’t intend to be anything else. Night of the Creeps is a cult classic that has become a favourite of mine over the years.


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