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When you craft a story meant to entertain people, it is already tough to mix genre elements and make them work together while still telling a cohesive story. Imagine how hard that could be when making a movie with the mentioned creative mix?
Back in the mid-1980s, a young film enthusiast named Fred Dekker not only pulled it off but actually made a feature-length film titled Night of the Creeps which was his cinematic directorial debut. Before making that science fiction/horror/comedy movie, Dekker grew up watching movies of horror, science fiction and fantasy and developed a passion for movies (and movie production eventually).
After much learning through UCLA, Dekker broke into Hollywood and started a professional career in film and eventually got his dream project in the form of Night of the Creeps.
“Night of the Creeps is very much a first feature with the attitude of many first features. The I-may-not-get-to-do-another-movie-so-I’m-going-to-do-everything-I-want-to-do-in-this-movie attitude. It’s an attitude that often backfires, but in this case, it’s exactly what makes Night of the Creeps so much fun,” Dekker stated.
With the short film history lesson done, it’s now time to take a look back at Night of the Creeps written and directed by Fred Dekker, and released in 1986 by TriStar Pictures.
The story begins inside a space ship where one alien creature (carrying a canister) is running away from two armed personnel. With the two chasers delayed, the creature manages to shoot the canister into the realm of space.
On Earth, the year is 1959. In a typical American suburb, a college student visits a sorority house to pick up his date. Together, along with a few other pairs in cars, they spend time at a parking spot with a nice night view. A young police officer, who is aware of the news about a potential killer on the loose, approaches the pair and recognizes the lady from the sorority house. He tells them to go home for their safety, and then leaves them.
Shortly after, the canister from space arrives and crashes nearby causing the college student to drive the car (with his date with him) and find the spot of the crash. He parks the car by the woods and moves into woods leaving the sorority girl alone, sitting and waiting. He finds the canister and decides to look at it closely. Through an opening, an alien slug suddenly jumps from the canister and into his mouth. Meanwhile, the lone lady in the car hears the news about the loose killer and realizes the details about their location (being the destination of the killer). Slowly creeping up on her is a man with an axe.
In 1986, at the same locality, college students party around and engage in lots of activities in relation to pledge week being organized at a local university. Among the students walking down the sidewalk are Chris Romero and his handicapped friend J.C. Chris spots a pretty girl from a distance and instantly falls for her at first sight. With the help of J.C., he decides to pursue her…
Even with a low budget, Night of the Creeps is very creatively done and comes with a good amount of fun for viewers who enjoy elements of horror or sci-fi, 1950s romance, 1980s teen comedy and even detective story. What made this movie a cinematic gem is that Fred Dekker and his creative team combined their strengths with the talents of their cast members specifically Jason Lively, James Marshall, Jill Whitlow and Tom Atkins.
At its core, Night of the Creeps is a zombie horror flick that had sci-fi elements of UFOs and the 1950s as a strong foundation (in addition to serving in the background of the plot). Those combined genre elements alone (backed with a plot that is cohesive enough thanks to Dekker) made this movie solid and yet, the implementation of detective/crime storytelling and 1980s teen comedy (specifically college culture) further added more punch and variety in making the film really engaging and fun.
That being said, the actors delivered the goods with their respective performances. Jason Lively and Steve Marshall have excellent chemistry together as the 1980s college boys Chris Romero and J.C. They started their acts as typical college guys trying to achieve something when it comes to campus achievements and winning the girl’s heart. They also delivered strong performances on the comedy and they pushed their dramatic limits further when the film’s tone shifted to horror. Jill Whitlow is interesting as sorority girl Cynthia who has that girl-next-door charm. She proved to be talented with acting as she had convincing romantic chemistry with a certain jerk and Chris.
The standout performer among them all, unsurprisingly, is Tom Atkins as detective Ray Cameron. Before making this movie, Atkins worked in horror movies and a few cult movies, and got involved with the legendary John Carpenter. As such, playing the veteran detective Cameron here was a natural fit for the actor. As the aging and troubled detective, Atkins portrayed him dramatically and because of his very rugged touch, the actor really looked like he actually lived through decades of police work in the fictional town. Atkins also proved to be very good with quotes, specifically with “Thrill me!” It should be noted that this is Atkins’ personal favorite role in the horror genre.
When it comes to telling a cohesive story to emphasize the mixed genre elements, I should say Fred Dekker and his team succeeded. The pacing ran at a medium pace for the most part and even during the slower scenes, there was never a boring moment. More on storytelling, Night of the Creeps’ concept made sense for the most part (about how a slug from outer space would gradually cause zombification on people and even animals, in the midst of college-related events happening) and still had room for suspense, spectacle (note: Jason Lively and Jill Whitlow themselves used dangerous weapons near the end of the film) and, yes, character development! All of that pulled of nicely in roughly ninety minutes and the viewing experience was ultimately fun and engaging.
It should be noted that, in terms of presentation, key scenes were very well directed and strong performances from the actors were realized. The scene where detective Cameron and Chris had a private talk was intriguing to watch, and that one had the strongest act Tom Atkins made in the film. I should also mention that, apart from the dramatics and performances, I enjoyed the cinematography done by Robert C. New especially with the way the camera moved as the actors delivered their lines in key sequences. There were closeups that perfectly captured the moments when the actors delivered their strongest acts. Last but not least, the music by Barry De Vorzon fit the film’s tone and concept smoothly.
I really love Night of the Creeps and I want you – my readers and fellow film buffs and pop culture geeks – to watch it from start to finish. I never saw this movie in the cinemas in the 1980s but was fortunate enough to watch it on cable TV on a late night in 1998 (twelve years after its cinematic release). That was a night I’ll never forget because Night of the Creeps delivered the fun and exceeded my expectations. Then years ago, I finally acquired the Sony Pictures Blu-ray disc release which I replayed from time to time at the comfort of home with my Xbox One console as the disc player. The film looks even better in high-definition!
The best thing I love about Night of the Creeps is its big mix of genre elements which was supported by solid storytelling and performances. When it comes to spectacle or shock moments, it should be stated that the practical effects used (note: no CGI or computer-generated images here) in the movie still stand up strongly until now although I must say that the aliens creatures in the early part of the story were just not convincing enough.
Even by today’s standards, Night of the Creeps is enjoyable and gripping to watch, and the fact is nobody in Hollywood is making anything like it, nor are there any filmmakers willing to do a big mix of genre elements and tell a cohesive story with good performance from hired talents. This alone makes Fred Dekker’s directorial debut a cinematic gem that has been overlooked by too many people
In light of modern society and its norms, I declare that Night of the Creeps will give you a good dose of escapism not only from real life but also from the corrupted and highly politicized culture of Hollywood which points to the Political Left (whose central figure Barack Obama supports Iran, the terrorists and illegal immigrants) and its trouble makers (examples: social justice warriors or SJWS, the socialists, the radical feminists, the LGBTQ) who managed to infiltrate the American film industry and even the American media (note: you can tell if a movie review was written by an SJW who only writes something to fit his/her social justice agenda). This old movie was made to deliver fun without any political garbage whatsoever. That being said, it will make you wish that Hollywood would just focus on making their movies truly entertaining and be free from political poison at the same time. Movies that carry political overtones or emphasize identity politics are major turn-offs.
Overall, Night of the Creeps is highly recommended! That being said, I urge you to order a Blu-ray copy of Night of the Creeps now at Shout Factory and Amazon. Whichever Blu-ray version you acquire (note: the Shout Factory version has newer and more extra stuff), you can’t go wrong with Night of the Creeps in high-definition.
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