Night of the Creeps
August 22, 1986
Jason Lively as Chris
Steve Marshall as J.C.
Jill Whitlow as Cynthia
Tom Atkins as Ray Cameron
Wally Taylor as Detective Landis
Bruce Solomon as Sgt. Raimi
By JC Richardson
The whole frat house system is something of a mystery to us Brits. Yes, we go away to study and end up joining the ‘Beer Appreciation Society’, but we clearly have far more relaxed membership requirements for such ventures. When I joined the ‘University Dungeon Masters Guild’ I was made to wear a wizard’s hat and sink a pint of lager and lime, so I genuinely pitied Chris and J.C., the stars of Night of the Creeps when they were made to (a) steal a corpse and (b) dump it on a rival frat’s lawn. This just isn’t done here in England. Indeed, I nearly dropped my monocle.
Chris and J.C.’s exploits result in a cryogenically frozen stiff being awoken from its slumber in a secret lab – but this is no ordinary stiff. It’s host to alien parasites, which rapidly cause more trouble on campus than a crashed Mexican prison bus. Naturally, the police put their best man on the case. The superb Tom Atkins is the neurotic Detective Cameron, a character with experience of high-strangeness. His high school sweetheart was chopped up by a bogeyman, if you were curious.
Between them, the excellent leads cut a swath through zombie frat boys and slug-like parasites, resulting in one of the best flamethrower massacres committed to film. I simplify, of course. The characters are well-rounded, likeable and Fred Dekker gives them superb dialogue. Tom Atkins steals scenes with one-liners like there was a prize for it, and if movie trivia is to be believed, this was his career-favorite horror movie. It really shows.
Horror fans will have a ball spotting the nods at various genre luminaries, even amongst the characters’ names (Cynthia Cronenberg, Sgt. Raimi, etc). I really can’t overstate how much fun this movie is for horror lovers. The film never mocks the genre, though – it merely kids because it loves – and even bit-parts in the movie are filled with an eye on the fans, with Joe Dante favorite Dick Miller even getting a few lines.
Disappointingly, Fred Dekker only created a handful of horror movies before moving onto the giddy heights of RoboCop 3 and TV work. It’s a darn shame that horror and humor so rarely mix these days, as Dekker was truly in his element here.
Night of the Creeps is a true Saturday night special, made in the heady days of the 80’s when horror movies were still allowed to provoke laughs. ‘Thrill me’, demands Tom Atkins. And it does.