Classic horror: ‘Night of the Creeps’

night of the creeps poster

If I hadn’t seen it in theaters in 1986 – and numerous times on stone-age VHS tapes in the years that followed – I might think that “Night of the Creeps” was a modern-day spoof of low-budget 1980s horror/sci-fil flicks.

That’s because director Fred Dekker’s movie is so sarcastic, so canny, so knowing that it feels like a modern-day retro pastiche of cliches from movies of the time.

“Night of the Creeps” is very much an “everything plus the kitchen sink” kind of movie. The opening sequence, set in the 1950s, shows both a meteor landing and a homicidal maniac on Lover’s Lane. In black and white, yet.

Of course, the two calamities coincide and slug-like aliens from the meteor infect a body that is cryogenically preserved until it’s accidentally thawed out in 1986.

Before you can say “Nightmare on Frat House Row,” the alien slugs are turning people into zombies.

“Night of the Creeps” has even more than zombies and alien parasites. There are exploding heads, flame throwers, college nerds suddenly turned marksmen, topless coeds … even future Oscar bait David Paymer in a brief role as a morgue attendant who ends up slug infested. Yes, David Paymer.

There are so many funny moments in the movie, but maybe the first LOL moment – 20-some years before anybody knew what LOL meant – is when a young lover in the 1950s hears the beginning of a report on his car radio about an escape from the local institution for the criminally insane .. and clicks off the radio before the germane information.

night of the creeps tommy atkins

Tommy Atkins, well-remembered for his roles in classic John Carpenter films like “The Fog” and “Escape from New York,” is great here. As student zombies head for the sorority house, Atkins – as a tough cop whose “thrill me” catchphrase is a wee bit overused – turns to the girls and says, “The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is … they’re dead.”

Dekker pays tribute – and provides Easter eggs for fans – in the names of his movie’s main characters, who bear the last names of such directors as David Cronenberg and George Romero. Heck, the university where all the creepy hijinks ensue is names after Roger Corman.

“Night of the Creeps” is a funny, clever horror spoof that’s got just the right amount of spoofery and just the right amount of horror.

 

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