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Night of the Creeps

Giant alien babies, zombies, parasitic slugs, and Tom Atkins are the ultimate ingredients to a perfect “so bad it’s good” horror movie.

Night of the Creeps

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Night Of The Creeps is a 1986 sci-fi horror comedy from director Fred Dekker in his first film debut, with practical effects by David B. Miller, who famously worked on American Werewolf In London. The script was written by Dekker within a few weeks. What this film lacks in any continuity, with its outright bonkers plot, it makes up for with its considerable charm.

Upon initial release, Night Of The Creeps was met with a lot of negativity due to severe violence and heavy censorship. But it has slowly earned a mass cult following. Some devoted fans even host a yearly festival to celebrate their love of the film.

Night of the Creeps seeps with nostalgia; this is truly Dekker’s love letter to the genre and our well-loved horror greats.

The plot begins in 1959, opening in outer space where aliens are racing around as one of their own, seemingly possessed, has sent a canister containing an experiment hurtling to Earth. At a typical lovers’ lane, a couple, Pam and Johnny, are parked on a romantic date when they spot a falling star. Wanting to investigate, they find a lot more than they were bargaining for. An escaped mental patient who seemingly comes from nowhere attacks the young teens, killing Pam. Johnny then discovers an alien canister full of slugs, which slither into his mouth.

Ray Cameron, a young cop who had warned the young couple to go home earlier, finds Pam’s body, and her death haunts him forever.

Night of the Creeps

“The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is…. they’re dead.”

Several years into the future, the year is 1986, and we are joined by our main cast: Chris Romero (Jason Lively), Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow), and James Carpenter aka J.C (Steve Marshall).

Horror fans will be quick to note that every key character shares a last name with a famous horror director (George Romero, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter, as well as James Cameron, Tobe Hooper, and Sam Raimi).

Chris is in love with Cynthia, a love just out of reach to him. He decides how to get her attention by joining a fraternity where he and his friend J.C. are tasked by the brothers to steal from a rival fraternity. Upon sneaking in, they come across a thawed corpse. To everyone’s surprise, the supposed corpse is still alive, thus starting a killing spree, with those killed suddenly reanimating.

This is where we are reunited with the present-day version of our guilt-stricken cop from the opening, Detective Cameron, played by genre icon Tom Atkins (Escape From New York, The Fog, My Bloody Valentine 2009).

I want to take some time now to talk about this depressed, gruff, alcoholic — and frankly iconic — cop. Whenever I see the name Tom Atkins attached to a horror film, I know I am getting myself into some outright cheese. When his famous mustache enters the scene, I can’t help but laugh to myself. This is a man that really contributes to a lot of those so bad it’s good films. Atkins always puts 110 percent into his acting, even when it’s not called for. He really just lights up the screen in any movie, significantly elevating even questionable material.

Just like Night of the Creeps as a film, Atkins as an actor has gained a cult following with his iconic performances in films such as Halloween III, Creepshow, and Maniac Cop. He really is one of horror’s greats.

Night of the Creeps

“Thrill me.”

Soon, our core cast figures out that zombies possessed by alien slugs are taking over the town, just in time to ruin the formal dance. Eventually, they figure out how to eliminate the slugs, following the tragic death of a main character, and must go toe-to-toe with these outer space parasites in a fight to save their small town… and the world.

While horror has always been known to address important social issues of the time, you may not expect an earnest attempt at a sci-fi B movie to have much to say. However, there is potentially an interesting queer subtext in this film that 80’s audiences might have easily missed — and that is still open for debate in 2024. Fred Dekker himself posted an open query on his Facebook page, after Bloody Disgusting wrote a tribute to J.C. as the gay best friend, asking if fans agreed that the character was meant to be queer.

The evidence stems from the depth of the love J.C. has for his best friend, Chris. In one scene, he tells Chris that he will gladly help him get the girl of his dreams because he just wants to see Chris happy. In another scene, he confesses his love for his friend via a heartbreaking audio message.

It can be argued that this is just an example of a meaningful platonic relationship. Regardless, it’s portrayed as tender and selfless, stripped of the type of heteronormative masculinity and gay panic so prevalent in the era. J.C. is never overt in his sexual orientation; he’s just allowed to exist, without judgment or ridicule.

 

When viewed as a subtle tale of unrequited love, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful.

Upon rewatching, I was surprised by how well Night Of The Creeps touches on sensitive subjects without ever making it obvious, and that’s the charm of it. I consider it a progressive film and appreciate that kind of representation being present in an 80s horror film, even if it does fly under the radar.

Famously, this film has two endings. One of them was used in the theatrical release, but the other is Dekker’s true vision of an ending. I highly recommend checking this version out, as the original ending is much more punching. It will make you giggle at how silly it is, but it also ends on a climactic event, leaving room for a sequel. The theatrical release also teases a sequel but in a far less wonderfully over-the-top way.

Check out the film’s alternate ending right here.

Compare that to the film’s original theatrical ending.

It’s hard to put this film into words or do it any sort of justice. You really need to sit back and experience this 88-minute shrine to all things horror. It’s the perfect yearly Halloween rewatch and should be on everyone’s list. You’ll laugh and be incredibly confused, bewildered, and horrified in the best way.

There is so much passion shining from this film from all the cast and crew involved, making it the perfect throwback film you can rewatch over and over, always finding things you never noticed before.

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