Thursday, November 05, 2009

Thrill Me

Zombies, slugs, spacemen, exploding heads, flamethrowers, and Tom Atkins (THE FOG) playing a badass, no-nonsense, pulp-reading police detective—what more could you ask from an amusing and affectionate paean to 1950s sci-fi movies? Writer/director Fred Dekker, who made the similarly themed MONSTER SQUAD a year later, throws everything into the stew as though he were afraid he’d never be able to make another film, starting with a b&w prologue set in 1959 featuring E.T.s on a spaceship and a deranged axe murderer.

The film proper finds college nerds Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) pledging a frat in 1986 and attempting to steal a corpse from the university morgue. They chicken out, but not before reanimating a body infected by an alien parasite that then stalks the campus turning the student body into dripping zombies. Before long, only the two nerds, cute sorority girl Cindy (dreamy Jill Whitlow), and Atkins’ cop are left to defend mankind from the rampaging horde.

If the younger actors had been able to perform with the same zeal as Atkins (“It’s Miller time!”), CREEPS might have been a real classic, rather than fondly remembered fluff. Dekker’s love of the genre is evident (the characters are named after famous horror directors), and there’s wry humor both above and below the surface (his equation of fraternity life and zombieism isn’t deep, but it’s witty). Direction is not slick, but it’s effective, showcasing some slippery special effects on a low budget and capturing a spirit of old-fashioned fun missing from most modern zombie flicks. Like MONSTER SQUAD, it’s easy to see why NIGHT OF THE CREEPS captured a rabid cult audience.

Sony has packaged NIGHT OF THE CREEPS as a deluxe DVD and Blu-ray with plenty of extras to make fans happy. Almost everyone, including the makeup effects guys and composer DeVorzon, is interviewed in the hour-long documentary about the making of the film, which also details its disappointing release by Tri-Star and its revised studio-mandated ending. Dekker has put his original ending back onto the film—the first time it’s been released in this manner—but the theatrical ending is available as an extras, as well as the trailer. Tom Atkins receives his own 20-minute documentary, which is a fun profile of a fan favorite and apparently a nice guy. Wrapping up the extra features are a pair of audio commentaries—one with Dekker and moderator Michael Felsher (definitely worth listening to) and another reuniting Atkins, Lively, Marshall, and Whitlow.


Adam Ross said...

Finally saw this after years of waiting. In a lot of ways it resembles MONSTER SQUAD, particularly in its back-loaded structure (when Atkins goes into his twirling pistol And it's fun to see Dekker's go for broke thinking -- zombies! aliens! dreams! boobs!

I appreciate both endings, but in some ways Dekker's doesn't make sense -- why would the aliens decide 30 years later to go looking for the experiment?

Max Allan Collins said...

This looked great on Blu-Ray and is a lot of fun. I actually liked it more than I did back in the day -- I remember being put off by the fannish director names and so on. But I wasn't bothered this time around.

Dekker had real potential. The film is full of real characters, is genuinely funny and scary, plus any film that shows the detective reading Mickey Spillane's ONE LONELY NIGHT is okay by me (my fannishness coming through now).