Movie Reviews 399 – Night of the Creeps (1986)

Nostalgic cinematic moments are usually times when one rewatches old favorite films to relive fond memories or at least now fondly remembered regardless of what we felt during that first viewing. As I had never watched Night of the Creeps until this week I had no such expectations and yet this film managed to make me feel right at home and it was like revisiting an old friend.

While this was marketed (more on that later) as a zombie movie long before the zombie mania of recent years, it is only so in the barest sense. What it is is a cross between a cheesy alien invasion and a high school coming of age story tied in by a cryogenically frozen “patient zero” corpsicle.

The invasion (of sorts) begins in 1959 as a rogue alien ejects a cylinder above Earth as he is chased by his equally diminutive pudgy looking alien companions. The forces unleashed by the contents results in the brutal slaying of a young couple whooping it up at a secluded lovers’ lane.

Now, thirty years later, two outcast buddies Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and J.C (Steve Marshall) are frat pledges and their hazing challenge has them breaking into the secure basement lab of the local morgue where they accidentally unfreeze the body of a teen, a victim of that night long ago. But unbeknownst to the boys they have unleashed the slithering worm-like invaders that were dormant in the body. Soon people are behaving oddly and cadavers are piling up everywhere and it is up to the boys and former cop Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), who happened to be on duty that night thirty years ago, to save humanity all while Chris tries to charm the lovely Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow) a girl he deems out of his league into going to the prom with him.

This film oozes more than the wriggling crawlers which can be seen coming out of heads and orifices. The characters are solidly built up from Atkins’ trench coat and his signature ‘49 Merc to daring to impart J.C. with a physical affliction that has him walking on forearm crutches. In case you haven’t noticed yet (shame on you!) all the character names (Romero! Cameron! Cronenberg!) are homages to great cult directors and if you’re vigilant you’ll pick on other references to films like Jaws, Dead Alive and Plan 9 from Outer Space to name just a few. But more importantly as silly as some of the plot gets there are a number of genuine poignant moments that elevates this film above the din of other films in this category.

IF you can lay your hands on the director’s cut DVD I highly recommend checking out the extra features from which contains interesting recollections and reunions from the stars and writer-director Fred Dekker as well as commentary from one of the producers. The one common thread through all these interviews is how the studio bungled the marketing which resulted in the release being a flop. More unfortunate is how that sting ended up being particularly damaging to Dekker’s career which explains his lack of directorial efforts in the years that followed. A crime if there ever was one if you ask me.

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