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Night of the Creeps (1986)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/20/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/25/2009

Ah, youth. The 80s were the heyday of movie-going for me, and I spent a lot of time at the cineplex soaking up everything that I could. I spent a lot of that time seeing as many horror movies as possible. Because of this, there are some 80s mainstream stalwarts, such as Top Gun, Pretty Woman, and Ghost, which I haven't seen. But, few horror movies slipped through my grasp. One such exception is Night of the Creeps. I don't think that it played in theaters where I lived, and despite the fact that I constantly saw it at the video store, I never checked it out. I even recorded off of HDNET last year, and never got around to watching it. Now, with Blu-ray Disc in in hand, I'm ready to check out this film which some consider to be a classic.

Night of the Creeps takes place on the campus of Corman University. Chris (Jason Lively) and his buddy, J.C. (Steve Marshall) are wandering sorority row during rush week, when Chris spots Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) and is immediately drawn to her. Learning that Cynthia has a boyfriend who is in a fraternity, Chris decides that he must join one as well. Chris and J.C. are told that if they want to rush the fraternity, then they must steal a corpse from the science lab and dump it on the lawn of a rival frat. They go to the science building and stumble upon a corpse which has been cryogenically frozen. They open the cryogenic chamber, but when the body falls out, they flee. However, the body (which belongs to a character which we saw in an opening sequence set in 1958) isn't exactly dead. It wanders to sorority row, where the body's head splits open, releasing slug-like creatures. These slugs possess people, turning them into zombies while more slugs incubate inside of them. As Chris and J.C. begin to realize that something odd is happening, they are joined by police Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins), who dealt with the slugs many years ago. Can they stop the slugs and zombies before the big formal?

As noted above, I'd never seen Night of the Creeps, but I'd heard good things about it. Some have even gone as far as to label it a "classic". But, I usually know when I'm missing a classic, and nothing had ever pushed me to watch this movie. Thus, I had no idea what to expect. (Part of me thinks that I'd never watched Night of the Creeps, because I was let down by what I'd seen of Director Fred Dekker's second film, The Monster Squad.)

What I found was a movie which resembles The Monster Squad in the sense that it has no idea what it wants to be. We've basically got three movies happening at once here...possibly four. The movie wants to be a homage to the sci-fi B-movies of the 1950s. The film opens with a black and white segment which feels as if it came from a real movie which would have played at drive-ins back then. Then, we have a college comedy, with Chris and J.C. exploring the social ladder of the fraternity system. Much of the film plays as a zombie gore movie. Those infected with the slugs resemble the familiar undead and when they are shots, scores of slugs erupt from their opens melons. And, there's also really fake looking aliens.

Due to these factors, the movie never gels, and thus, never excels in any one area. First of all, you're either going to be on-board with Detective Cameron's catch-phrase "Thrill me", or not. I wasn't. The movie had some mildly humorous scenes, but it was never funny. Truth be told, any film where a character's suicide attempt is interrupted by an alien emergency isn't exactly a laugh-riot. I really didn't get much of a 50's B-movie vibe from most of the film, mainly due to the fact that it was loaded with modern special-effects. The area where the movie does succeed is that it becomes quite clear about half-way through the movie that no one is safe from the slugs. This does create a sense of tension during the second half of the movie. The film's highlight comes during a scene involving a tape recorded message. This moment is not only poignant, it's downright creepy. Perhaps if Dekker had made a straight-ahead horror movie instead of dabbling in other genres, Night of the Creeps could have been more satisfying. If nothing else, the movie deserves kudos for having a primary character who is physically challenged. When was the last time you saw that in a movie?

While I wasn't bowled over by Night of the Creeps, it's nice that the film is finally getting a proper home video release. While still relatively obscure, in recent years the movie was mentioned as a clear influence for the 2006 film Slither. In all honesty, I think that Slither was able to solve many of the problems found in Night of the Creeps. And now, fans can compare them side-by-side.

Night of the Creeps shouldn't let the cat in on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no overt defects from the source material. However, in closeups, the actor's skin is very muddy and lacks in detail. The colors are OK, and, for the most part, the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is somewhat flat, not showing the depth which many Blu-rays exhibit. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I have to assume that this is a newly created 5.1 track, and unlike most of its brethren, it works. The stereo and surround sound effects are very good, and take full advantage of stereo range. Anytime the slugs move across the screen, the sound either travels from right to left or from front to rear, adding to the creepy effect. The subwoofer effects are OK, but not as strong or noticeable as the other effects.

The Night of the Creeps Blu-ray Disc contains many extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Fred Dekker. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with actors Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, and Jason Lively. The film can be viewed with a TRIVIA TRACK, which provides pop-up info. The Disc contains the "Original Theatrical Ending" (30 seconds), which I prefer to the Director's Cut ending. The Disc contains seven DELETED SCENES which run about 8 minutes. These are simply incidental dialogue scenes. Oddly, Tom Atkins is in a lot of these scenes. "Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps" (60 minutes) is a nearly feature-length documentary which explores the making of the movie. The piece contains modern interviews with those involved with the making of the film. We begin with Fred Dekker describing where the ideas for the film came from. There is then a discussion amongst the cast members about the production. Next, the effects and gore make-up are examined, which contains some archival stills. Dekker and Editor Michael Kune then discuss the fact that there are two endings for the movie. Finally, there is a chat about the fan's reaction to the film. "Tom Atkins: Man of Action" (20 minutes) is a mini-documentary which examines the career of the actor. The final extra is the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long