Night of the Creeps (or just Creeps for short) straddles the line between what I feel is too popular to review, and what is under the radar enough to write about. If you haven’t noticed, I rarely write anything about movies that already have established a strong set of fair and thorough reviews online. Creeps however, has seen a boom in popularity and visibility in the Internet era, mostly due to the fact that it has yet to be released on DVD so many turn to the web for info and access to rare cinema. But thanks to endless efforts of the piracy generation, Creeps remains watchable in many places on the web, which is very fortunate considering that this movie is easily, and beyond any shadow of a doubt, one of the best movies not only of 80’s, but of the entire genre as a whole.
Fred Dekker, who both wrote and directed this gem, seamlessly combines unbridled appreciation for the genre as well as mixing in elements that “spoof” the many trends he saw being beaten to death by the explosion of horror clones and cliches that erupted during the 80’s. In modern times, spoof has become a dirty word (thanks for ruining the lineage, Scary Movie), but Dekker shows that poking fun at something doesn’t mean you can’t, yourself, make a great movie full of heart and homages to the icons of the very film community you are lampooning. This is nowhere more obvious than in the names of many of the characters in the film, which range from Cynthia Cronenberg, Christopher Romero, to Detective Sergeant Raimi.
Speaking of the characters, these may be some of the best, and funniest, of the horror class. Dekker has balanced the two accepted methods of character development, the first of which being back story and character to character exposition. The second, and the more difficult to pull off, is letting the characters actions and behaviors define and legitimize them. Of course, without good acting, this is nigh impossible. Genre vet Tom Atkins shows up as the haunted and disgruntled cop and does a great job at adding levity and back story to the nameless college town. Much credit must also be given to Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, and Jill Whitlow, who turn what could have easily been flat, two dimensional college kids trying to find themselves into likable, mature, and often deep on-screen persona’s who help to drive home both the surface action and events, and the messages that Dekker has implanted within his wildly efficient script. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job of bringing to life the more stereotypical characters, with the two noteworthy bit parts being played by David Paymer and Dick Miller. It’s rare that good to great acting and rapid fire, natural feeling dialogue come together in something as unsuspecting as a “horror movie”, but Creeps is proof positive that movie class limitations are never all enclusive, and that exceptions exist and can still hold up to its past contemporaries, as well as its modern day ones.
Dekker, in his first voyage behind the camera, makes amazing use of every bit of his ephemeral 1 hour and 28 minute run time. Creeps never gives you a second to become bored, and Dekker manages to cram a ghost story, a slasher story, a love story, a coming of age story, a friendship story, a parasite alien story, and a zombie story into one movie without losing sight of any of the many strands of narrative he has weaved. Normally, when a movie tries to do this much, it winds up finding itself lost trying to fuse together too many different types of pacing and thematic motifs. Dekker however, seems to have viewed this as little more than an old wives tale, as he masterfully throws together all the major brands of genre film into one pot, deriving the best that each has to offer, while keeping some of the charming flaws intact in order to either use them for a comedy piece, or just as a humble and loving tribute to the flicks that he himself must have been very fond of. Dekker’s directing comes off as a delicate mid-point between being both a fan of the groundbreaking and popular films and filmmakers that came before him, as well as being a student of what made those pictures so legendary and appealing to both himself and the masses. Lighting and pacing are of the highest order, and Dekker never falls victim to bad nighttime shooting or lingering on scenes or shots that just don’t require that much focus. His lens is mainly an observer, but there are moments when he uses a bit of flash to put emphasis on a particular scene. Dekker also shows great understanding on how to shoot an action sequence, of which Creeps has a few, and he also knows how to built up to and deliver a satisfying payoff to his audience without leaving them feeling cheated in the slightest. I could go on and on about how Dekker really knocked this one out of the park, but I will instead just say that he indeed did shoot a great looking film that has no glaring flaws and moves like a speeding train.
The technical package from Creeps is nothing short of sublime. The already mentioned lightning is superb, but alongside this are some dynamite effects and tight audio. The soundtrack doesn’t really stand out, besides clever use of some 50’s pop standards like “Smoke Gets in your Eye” to set the mood in the beginning and also forewarn of more danger during the final few scenes. I am fine with the fact it doesn’t stand out, since the dialogue is so snappy, witty, and razor sharp that it would be a shame for music to overshadow that strength. Visually, the picture is very crisp and clean, obviously aided by Dekker’s careful eye in framing and presenting shots that show the audience in crystal clarity everything you need to see. The blood, gore, and special effects are entirely of the practical variety, meaning those of us who love rubber, latex, and Karo syrup can rejoice. Thankfully, the R Rating means that exploding heads, heads blown up by flamethrowers (has to be seen to be believed), grisly bullet hits and like are all unhampered by the crutch of modern day computing technology and other such bullshit, cop-out wankery. Creeps looks spotless, boasts some awesome special effects that don’t shy away from the more hardcore gore, and music knthat ows when to move to the forefront, and when to stay in the back and subtly do its job.
Night of the Creeps may have a devoud, cult-like following, but I feel if even one more person read this review and hunts it down and watches it, then it is a success. Dekker and company have crafted film(s) within films here, with clever jokes hidden throughout (see if you can spot the Monster Squad reference and always look at posters and books in the main characters living spaces) and a breakneck pace that is always busy assaulting the viewer with something worth paying attention too. It manages to coral many subplots and thematic devices, while telling two main stories (The “two geeks” story and the detectives story), each so good and thorough they could have been separate movies. The acting seems otherworldly it’s so good, and the special effects and visuals all feel as comforting as the cool side of the pillow, striking a balance between campy and homely, and professional and impressive. Night of the Creeps is something of an enigma, a missing link, and if nothing else, a silent legend in the annals of our beloved genre. If you have yet to experience what all the hub-bub is about, it is about fucking time. If you didn’t know what Night of the Creeps was until now, consider yourself enlightened.
Here are 2 links to watch the movie for free, in its entirety. Both links tested and confirmed working, Veoh requires you sit through a short ad, and Youtube is broken into parts, but they both work!
P.S. There are two endings to this film, I have included the Wikipedia page and a fan based page that explains the differences. Both are good, although the original, longer ending that Dekker wanted to use is definitely better. Worth a read only after you see the film, as it does contain some spoilers.