The underground horror masses screamed, “Thrill me!” Hollywood delivered, with the DVD release of one of cult horror’s best kept secrets, Night of the Creeps, from Fred Dekker, the director/writer who brought you The Monster Squad.
The first time I saw The Monster Squad was an odd time in my life. I was barely double digits in age, and the only horror movie I remember having seen in its entirety was Carrie. However, I knew of, and had seen, the iconic movie monsters of film: Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy, Liza Minelli. I knew of these monsters, yet never saw them as being in “horror movies.” Horror movies, to me, was about a lot of blood and guts and some nut running around in a mask and a machete.
Director Fred Dekker seemed to play with this generational problem in The Monster Squad by making a comedy/action movie surrounded by a horror element. It worked. Granted, he hasn’t done much of anything since RoboCop 3, but at the time, it worked.
So why am I chatting about a totally different movie than my focus, Night of the Creeps? To explain how I even found this movie, for one, but also to explain why I like this movie as much as I do. Yes, it’s campy. Yes, the actors aren’t amazing, except for Tom Atkins (or is that my bias talking?) Yes, it is goofy with its one-liners. It is all of that, and I loved every minute of it.
The story starts out with some weird-looking aliens chasing each other around a spaceship in some of the most obnoxious latex costumes ever created. Think Ghoulies, but five times bigger, and in space. With some fantastic subtitled translation of alien-speak, we learn one alien is running around with an experimental virus, and jettisons it out of the spacecraft. Luckily for us, the module finds its way to earth, circa 1959.
On Earth, we have gone to a faded film color, almost black and white, and meet a fledgling young playboy on a date. The guy sees what appears to be a meteor fly through the sky, and crash some distance away. Being an adventurous young chap, he drives to the crash site with his date. He finds the module, which we learn is the home of some space slug that jumps into the guy’s mouth, apparently killing him. Back at the car, the date is killed by a random ax-wielding maniac who escaped from an insane asylum and who just happened to enter into the movie. *Shrug*
Fast forward to 1986, in ’80s “in your face” neon film color. Chris and his friend J.C. are in college, and like all college guys, are trying to pick up women. To impress one particular girl, Cynthia Cronenberg (Dekker’s tribute to David?), Chris and J.C. go to the science labs to get a dead body for a fraternity in the hopes of joining. Coincidentally, they find that young chap from 1959 that ate a space slug in a cryogenics lab. The boys de-thaw the body, which naturally comes alive again, kills a scientist, and returns to where he picked his girlfriend up 59 years ago. Upon arriving there, his head explodes, letting loose a pile of space slugs which begin hopping into other people’s mouths, turning them into zombies as their brains help multiply the space slugs, etc. etc.
I know how it sounds. Cheesy. Odd. Ridiculous. It is all of this, just how it was meant to be. From seeing the latex aliens, to zombies trying to do what they would be doing if they were still alive (bringing girls roses, mopping floors, smoking, hacking people up with axes), the movie is just fun. Fred Dekker takes the horror genre and almost does a spoof of it, while keeping enough gore to make it seem like a horror movie.
The star of the show is Tom Atkins as Detective Cameron. As a broken down homicide detective trying to make sense out of bodies whose heads blow up and release a bunch of space slugs, he seems to fare pretty well. Well enough to entertain us with some of the greatest horror movie quotes in history:
Detective Cameron: I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here.
Sorority Sister: What’s the bad news?
Detective Cameron: They’re dead.
Detective Cameron: I suppose Rip Van Winkle would be the other body; where is it?
Sergeant Raimi: The other body isn’t here, sir.
Detective Cameron: What? Did he have a date? Whaddya mean it isn’t here?
[answering phone] Detective Cameron: Thrill me!
Sergeant Raimi: Detective Cameron?
Detective Cameron: No! Bozo the Clown!
Detective Cameron: Corpses that have been dead for twenty-seven years do not get up and go for a walk by themselves!
So, rating the movie for what it is, I have to give this move 4 out of 5 Wolfman Nards. Yes, another reference to The Monster Squad.