Fred Dekker’s sublime horror pastiche comes to Shout! Factory Blu-ray
If you haven’t seen Night of the Creeps, my recommendation is to stop reading, buy it, and thank me later. An unabashed love letter to horror (and horror filmmakers), it’s the directorial debut of Fred Dekker (Monster Squad). A film that feels both familiar and fresh, providing entertaining thrills from start to finish.
Thrill me! When an alien experiment goes awry, it crashes to Earth in 1959 and infects a young college student. Twenty-seven years later, his cryogenically frozen body is thawed out by fraternity pledges … and the campus is quickly overrun by alien creatures whose victims turn into zombies! Fred Dekker’s thoroughly enjoyable throwback chiller deftly mixes all sorts of genres while simultaneously having fun with them (the college and all the leading characters are named after famous horror movie directors).
An infectious agent is carried in an alien ship that crash lands on Earth in 1959. A young college student is infected and dies. Hijacked from cryogenic suspension nearly thirty years later, the parasites within him spread through a sleepy college town, killing its residents and reviving them as zombies. When you read that synopsis, you kind of get the sense for the pace, tone, and energy that drives this film forward. A mish-mash of genres, familiar tropes, and tons of opportunity for entertaining horror, Night of the Creeps delivers in every way. It’s an audacious debut feature from Fred Dekker. Part creature feature, part zombie flick, part high jock/nerd school comedy/romance, with hints of grizzled action fare. It feels like a labor of love, where every cherished B-movie moment in Dekker’s mind was worked into the film, his one shot to declare his love for the genre. It’s not overstuffed but still brimming with everything you’d want, everything you’d expect, and more. It’s infectious fare, easy to adore, unlike Dekker’s more well known feature Monster Squad, which in my mind is far too cutesy, slathering on nostalgia.
The young actors give it their all, adding dimension and affability to their stereotypical roles and offering some surprises along the way. It adds weight to the relationships that end and begin in the film, as well as the various losses suffered during the attack. The real star of the show is Tom Atkins (Escape from New York, Halloween III: Season of the Witch), gloriously introduced in a dream sequence featuring a white tuxedo and tiki drink. As hard boiled detective Detective Ray Cameron, he’s a man haunted by his past, and this invasion might just be the thing to give his life purpose again, another instance of the emotional weight worked into the film. Atkins chews the scenery, barks orders (along with his catchphrase, “thrill me!”), and unfurls his magnum alongside a flamethrower-wielding sorority girl in the final act, as the zombies assault a sorority house. If that isn’t enough of a selling point, then I really can’t help you.
There’s no advertising of a updated restoration or transfer here. But what is offered is a solid representation. Detail and texture is good, color palettes look natural, while reflecting that ‘80s tone. There are a few issues with contrast and black levels in darker scenes, but nothing too egregious. Extra features are where the release really impresses, especially with the inclusion of two cuts of the film.
- Theatrical cut
- Thrill Me! — The Making of NIGHT OF THE CREEPS: A lengthy doc (broken into 5 chapters) that features interviews with writer/director Fred Dekker, producer Charles Gordon, special makeup effects creator David B. Miller, makeup effects artists Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman, and stars Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, and Jill Whitlow. A nice addition that conveys a lot of warmth for the feature, details about an early test screening, issues with studio interference, and how it has achieved cult status over the years.
- Tom Atkins — Man of Action: A great little celebration of Atkins, his career, and his often enthusiastic fanbase.
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Director’s Cut
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Fred Dekker
- Audio Commentary with actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
- NEW Horror’s Hallowed Grounds — A look at the film’s locations today with host Sean Clark, director Fred Dekker,and actor Jason Lively: Tour of the set locations.
- NEW Real Good Plan — An interview with actor Jason Lively: Pretty in depth, covering the actor’s experience auditioning for the film, enthusiasm for the script, relationships with cast and crew during production, hardships during filing, and the box office failure and later cult status of the film.
- NEW The Bradster — An interview with actor Alan Kayser: Shares some interesting on set details, notably addressing some of the criticisms about him by other cast members, which are made in other interviews here.
- NEW I Vote For That One — An interview with actor Ken Heron: The film’s first victim talks about the period setting for his scenes, as well as some of the special effects work, and how his character is so fondly remembered.
- NEW Worst Coroner Ever — An interview with actor Vic Polizos: The coroner scenes are amongst the most entertaining in the film; the actor talks about his props, eating habits, as well as his other acting job on St. Elsewhere that took him away from set from time to time.
- NEW Answering the Door — An interview with actress Suzanne Snyder: Very short, but Snyder reflects on the film and (her dislike of) the horror genre too, relating both to her personal career
- NEW Final Cut — An interview with editor Michael N. Knue: A really great feaurette that showcases the difficult task of balancing humor and horror in a film such as this, as well as the various missteps along the way to the final product.
The Bottom Line
Night of the Creeps is a B-movie creature feature, brimming with a youthful exuberance and reverence for the horror genre. Dekker pays homage, but adds his own energy to a familiar tale, aided by a standout performance from Tom Atkins, chewing the scenery every chance he gets, as well as a superb cast of young actors that give the film a surprising amount of emotional depth. Night of the Creeps proudly stands alongside those films it pays tribute to, rather than suffer in comparison. An absolute treat for horror fans, given a stuffed release by Shout! Factory.
Night of the Creeps Collector’s Edition is available via Scream Factory from June 25th, 2019.