Why oh why have I not seen this wonderful film before today? I’ve made an effort to watch many beloved “cult films”, but Night of the Creeps always fell through the cracks. Even going back to my youth, this film wasn’t in heavy rotation at the house (we were more of a Monster Squad family). Night of the Creeps is, to me, a classic example of the “cult” genre.
There are countless books, articles, blogs about the term “cult film”. For me, there are two types of films that should be classified as a “cult film”. 1) The “so bad its good” film that is ridiculously entertaining, despite its obvious shortcomings. Then we have 2) a film that is incredibly unique and has an overall percentage of awesomeness, yet, doesn’t manage to cater to the mainstream and is all-too-slowly triumphed by a niche audience. Guess which category Night of the Creeps falls in?
The film starts in 1959 an alien experiment containing vile, sluglike organisms that possess their hosts crashes to Earth, where one of the slugs takes over a young Lover’s Lane habitué; flash-forward to 1986, when hapless nerds Jason Lively (brother of Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively) and Steve Marshall discover the corpse, cryogenically frozen in their college lab, and accidentally free it as part of a prank. The body unleashes its extraterrestrial passenger, which proceeds to infect the student population at a breakneck pace.
There are a lot of 80’s and 90’s movies that have a huge eye-rolling ratio upon recent viewings, but Creeps is so upbeat and so cleverly written that the overall cheesiness works in its favor. This film, like The Monster Squad, has some of the sharpest and funniest dialogue of any horror film, ever. The cast certainly helps bring things to life as well. My one complaint is that the hero/nerd should’ve been the character J.C., brilliantly played by Steve Marshall. From the start of the film, you fall in love with the guy. He’s almost too charismatic and is given all of the best lines. There was a moment where I actually thought Cynthia would fall in love with him instead of Chris. “Would these filmmakers have the balls to trick us into thinking that Jason Lively’s Chris wasn’t the hero/protagonist and it was actually his awesome handicapped sidekick?”
Sadly, the film steers itself towards a more obvious narrative (gotta reach the largest audience possible, right?) and we’re stuck with pig-vomit…er Chris. However, Dekker and co. have an ace up their sleeve. That ace, of course, is the enigmatic Tom Wilkins. His Detective Ray Cameron is a fucking revelation. The best lines are evenly shared between he and J.C., but Wilkins absolutely nails it (no wonder half his filmography is cop roles). Thrill me, indeed.
Make no mistake, this is a very well-made horror film. I love the 50’s b/w prologue (great crane shot and music selection). They pull off some cool tracking shots as well. From the deliberately cheesy aliens in the opening chase, to the slimy slugs, to the zombies and the sudden barrage of headshots towards the end, the FX have a timeless quality to them. I also fell in love with all the references they throw in. In today’s world, where pop-culture references in film feel forced, Night of the Creeps seems precursory. Obvious references like Detective Ray Cameron’s house, littered with Ray Chandler books and other pulpy crime novels. Or all the characters’ last names based on famous horror directors. I loved it!
I watched the Blu-ray of this, so in regards to the actual transfer, this will probably be the best this film is going to look. Since its a “Director’s Cut” there is a slight drop in quality with the alternate ending, but its barely visible to an untrained eye. At the moment, the blu-ray is about $10 to buy, and the film with its supplements are well-worth the purchase.
Overall, Night of the Creeps put a huge smile on my face. Its clever, fun, and surprisingly delightful. It’s kind of a perfect movie.