I had not, until tonight, actually seen Night of the Creeps.
And it's glorious.
B-movie aficionados know this, of course. They've been telling me for years. When Monster Squad came out on DVD in 2008, reviewers frequently pointed to Creeps as the quintessential Fred Dekker film. I'm not sure that I know what that means, exactly, other than that Dekker's track record with me is pretty good. I don't think I can wholeheartedly recommend the House movies to anybody, but Night of the Creeps? Definitely a classic!
Night of the Creeps begins on a spaceship. An alien carrying a canister is racing down corridors, while two others pursue him. He makes his way to an airlock and releases the canister. One of the other aliens bemoans the loss of "the experiment" in two sets of subtitles--alien and English. The canister speeds toward earth, and a couple of teenagers, parked on Lover's Lane, stop necking long enough to watch it streak across the night sky. The scene is shot in black and white, and the subtitles tell us that it's 1959.
The boy runs off in search of the shooting star, and while he's gone, the girl gets killed by an axe murderer. He doesn't get much time to worry about it, though, because as soon as he finds the steaming canister, an alien mind-control slug leaps into his mouth.
Cut to the present day, or as we've called it every day for the past 27 years, 1986. Chris and J.C. are freshmen at Corman University (get it? Corman? Huh? Huh?) and know there's no way they'll have a good time unless they can con their way into a fraternity. One of the Brothers decides to have a little fun with our heroes, and tells them they can join if they'll steal a cadaver from the campus medical school and dump it on the steps of their rival frat. Chris and J.C. aren't thrilled about they idea, but they go ahead anyway, get lost in the maze of hallways beneath campus, and find themselves staring at a body in cryogenic stasis. Well, it's a dead guy right? Good enough for who its for? They pull him out and start take him back to Fraternity Row, and are naturally surprised when he turns out not to be quite as dead as they'd hoped, and also full of alien mind-control slugs.
The alien mind-control slugs incubate inside their hosts' heads, and (apparently) can reanimate dead bodies. The cops get called in, including Detective Ray Cameron who was there on that fateful night in 1959...
My summary doesn't go into much detail, but everything connects and ties together, and I don't want to spoil it because I actually want you to watch this one.
Night of the Creeps might be my best discovery in this year's edition of "31 Days of Halloween". It's an homage to the B-movies of the '50s and '60s made by someone who obviously loves the genre. Some of the satirical elements are a little on-the-nose; consider that most of the characters are named after directors (Hooper, Raimi, Romero, Landis, Cronenberg...). For the most part, though, this is very solid sci-fi horror. Dekker walks a very difficult line because it's hard to do this kind of satire effectively. It's a very funny movie, too, but the in-jokes are dry enough that they don't interfere; if you're unfamiliar with the genre, they'll sail right over your head. I've seen so many movies that try to do this, and most of them--even my favorites (hello, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavera)--fail by piling it on a bit too thickly. It's tight, it's funny, it's well-made, and it's effective. And if it's a little dated, well, in a movie like this, that's part of the nostalgia, if inadvertently so. See it.
Just as a side note--we previously discussed alien mind-control slugs when I reviewed Slither... If you asked me whether slugs would make a good movie monster, my answer would be no, but clearly I don't know what I'm talking about. Slither, Shivers, Night of the Creeps...all three movies are fantastic. See 'em.
Click here for the trailer.