Title: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS
Year of Release—Film: 1986
It's 1959 and two young lovebirds are stargazing in Lover's Lane when, suddenly, a blazing meteorite falls from the sky. Intrigued, the young man drives closer to the site and, leaving his frightened date in the car, goes to investigate. He finds the crash-site and leaning over it, the mysterious object suddenly opens and spits out an over-sized black garden slug right into the young man's mouth! Meanwhile, back at the car, the young woman is becoming increasingly alarmed when she hears on the radio that an axe-wielding lunatic has escaped from the asylum nearby. And, as if on cue, he appears behind the car, swinging the axe with deadly accuracy. Roll credits.
Fast-forward to 1986. It's springtime at a Southern college campus and two social out-casts yearn to belong to a fraternity... mainly because one of them, Chris (Jason Lively), has fallen hard for the girlfriend of would-be frat brother, Brad (Allen Kayser) who's in charge of the new membership drive. Chris' friend, cane-using smart-mouth JC (Steve Marshall) approaches the frat brothers to introduce himself to them and Chris to Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) and learns that, in order to join the fraternity, he and Chris will have to steal a corpse and leave it on a rival frat house's doorsteps. After the duo leaves, a frat brother asks Brad if he's going to let these dorks join and, laughing a no, Brad drives off with Cynthia.
Later that night, Chris and JC break into a secret lab and discover a corpse in a liquid-filled glass tank. Turning off the room-sized computer that controls the tank, they release the body inside, only to discover, to their horror, the body begins to twitch as the eyes open. Terrified, they flee the building without the required frat entry fee. Back in their shared dorm room, they discuss the night's events, unaware that the re-animated corpse is wandering around Campus, seeking victims. His first would-be victim turns out to be Cynthia as his head splits open, spilling out hundreds of alien slugs! Cynthia's cat has its face eaten off!
Enter Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) who begins every conversation and investigation with the words "Thrill me.” Thrilled he's not at discovering a headless naked corpse on the doorstep of a sorority house. After interrogating a janitor at the Lab where the body was being held, the Detective brings in for questioning Chris and JC. But, upon hearing from the janitor that the two ran from the building "screaming like banshees" but corpseless, he lets them go. And, the next day, The Brad-ster is equally not thrilled when he hears of the body being left at the wrong house! Confronting Chris and JC, he demands an explanation and when JC replies, "It's as funny as a crutch,” Brad kicks JC's crutches out from under him. Cynthia, seeing this, flips Brad off and leaves with Chris and JC, unaware that the Campus is being over-run with outer-space alien, brain-eating garden slugs!
The next day, Cynthia tells Chris and JC about her faceless zombie cat and about a rumor about a body buried under the House Mother's cabin. As Chris walks Cynthia back to her sorority, they run into Det. Cameron who's over-heard the entire story. Det. Cameron tells Chris that back in 1959, he broke up with his girlfriend to go into police work. This is the same girl who was killed by the axe-wielding escaped lunatic in 1959. He tells of how he tracked down the killer, killed him and buried the body on the same spot where the House Mother's cabin now sits. Just then, a phone call informs the detective that the House Mother has just been killed by a body crawling out from under her cabin floor. The killer is cornered and Cameron blows off its zombie head, releasing hundreds of slithering slugs.
The next night as Chris is getting dressed to take Cynthia to the spring formal, he spots a tape recorder with a sign "listen" taped to it. It's a message from JC who tells Chris that his brain is being used as an incubator for the alien slugs and the only way to kill them was by fire. Running to Cameron's house (where he unknowingly thwarts the detective's suicide attempt), he tells him about the taped message. Turning off the gas oven and grabbing his gun, the detective with Chris in tow, rushes down to the police station and "commandeer" a flame-thrower. Remembering that Cynthia had told him about a dorm-mate storing jars of brains in the basement, they rush to the sorority house. Ordering everyone out of the house, the detective goes to the basement, armed with a filled gasoline can. Meanwhile, outside, the zombies are coming! Handing Cynthia the flame-thrower, Chris takes careful aim and shoots each zombie through the head, at which time Cynthia cooks their brains with the flame-thrower! Spotting more slugs racing into the house's basement, they run downstairs to discover Detective Cameron with tape over his mouth, splashing gasoline around a mountain of slithering slugs while counting down from 20. Chris and Cynthia rush from the house with seconds to spare. Then KABLOOEY! The house explodes! Chris and Cynthia share a kiss as the camera pans down to the House Mother's dog who coughs up an alien slug. The End!
The original ending showing Chris and Cynthia standing in front of the burning house while the charred body of Det. Cameron shambles down the street and stopping, only to have his head explode and the alien slugs slither into a nearby cemetery wasn't shown theatrically but is included on the official 2009 DVD release by Sony Pictures.
Fred Dekker had a short career as a director, making only three movies and directing one episode of Tales from the Crypt. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS was his debut effort. Shot in only seven days on a budget of $5,000,000 it pulled in a paltry $600,000 at the box office. Maybe if Try-Star had put some effort and time behind advertising it, this movie would have been better received. It deserves better. NIGHT OF THE CREEPS shows Dekker's love of old 50's sci-fi movies by paying homage to THE BLOB in several scenes. He also has several characters named after directors such as Chris Romero and Cynthia Cronenberg. His writing style is witty and clever. But, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS isn't just comedy. Its horror is effective and quite gory for the time. The plot line flows effortlessly from 50's homage to zombies, to alien invaders, to a suicidal detective with a dark secret. The humor is both laugh out loud and subtle. The acting is outstanding with Jason Lively giving a fine performance as the sometimes-bumbling Chris and Steve Marshall plays his wisecracking friend JC with believability. Jill Whitlow as the girlfriend is adorably cute! But, it's Tom Atkins as the over-the-hill detective that steals this. Typecast as a police officer in many of his movies, he brings the same poignancy to this as he did in the MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake and LETHAL WEAPON. I am very pleased that this, along with Dekker's follow-up movie, the superb THE MONSTER SQUAD, now both have official DVD releases. Now, raise your hands and repeat after me "I solemnly swear to toss my bootlegged copies in the trash where they belong and to buy the newly restored official copies.” Thrill me!
Enjoy! And you will!