NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)
Fred Dekker wrote and directed 2 of my favorite 80’s guilty pleasures, the underrated The Monster Squad (our second feature) and this B-movie blast, Night of the Creeps. A fun sci-fi/ horror that is not only a homage to the drive-in flicks of the 50’s, but is nostalgically 80’s now, too. Creeps starts out with a desperate chase inside an alien spaceship where a fugitive releases a tube from the ship carrying an “experiment” before being gunned down by his fellow crew members. The tube lands on earth in 1959 where two college students are on a date at a make-out point. The young man sees the tube land and heads into the woods to find it. His pretty date remains behind and is killed by an escaped ax murder while her date gets a face full of alien slugs when he finds the tube and it opens. We then move forward almost 30 years later where dorky college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and handicapped bud J.C. (Steve Marshall) are desperate to join a fraternity, so Chris can impress beautiful sorority girl Cindy (Jill Whitlow). A little too anxious to accomplish an initiation prank they are assigned to carry out at the morgue, the two wander into the wrong room and wind up letting loose a frozen corpse from suspended animation…that of the young man infected by the alien slugs in the opening sequence. Now with fellow students being infected by the freed creatures and zombifying, the two team up with Cindy and a detective with a past linked to the 1959 ax murder (a great Tom Atkins) to try to stop the alien invasion from spreading through the entire campus and then the world.
Night Of The Creeps is a lot of fun. The whole thing is tongue in cheek from the campy dialog to every major character having the last name of a horror movie director. And, best of all, the audience is in on the fun. Dekker does take his material seriously to a degree so not to make a complete joke out of it and so it does have some suspense and tension, but in the spirit of the drive-in movies of the 50s, lets the deliberately absurd material, bathed with homage, deliver the fun. The cast also play their parts straight and are all good with Atkins’ cynical and grumpy Detective Cameron stealing the show with his one liners and our three leads giving us some very likable heroes and heroines to root for. Whitlow also makes for a fetching flame thrower wielding sorority girl. The entire cast seems to get the tone of the material and it really makes this work. The FX are really good too and there is some nice and abundant gore to go along with the slimy critters and their army of co-ed zombies.
A real fun homage to the sci-fi horrors of yesteryear, as well as a great slice of fun 80s horror, too. How can you not like a movie with the line “I’ve got good news and bad news, girls… the good news is your dates are here…’what’s the bad news?’… they’re dead!”
MONSTERZERO NJ TRIVIA: Keep an observant eye out as Dekker gives a little shout out to his next movie The Monster Squad in a scene with J.C.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) infected aliens!
THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
Practically ignored when it first came out, this overlooked gem written and directed by Fred Dekker and co-scripted by Shane Black, is now recognized by many as a classic. I saw it when it was first released in 1987 and have loved it since and I am very proud to be among those that championed this fun monster movie from the very beginning. The film tells the homage filled story of group of young monster movie fans who call themselves ‘The Monster Squad’. They acquire a diary…at a garage sale no less…that is allegedly from none other than the great Dr. Van Helsing (Jack Gwilliam) who tells of an amulet that keeps evil at bay. But once every hundred years the amulet becomes vulnerable to harm and at that time the forces of evil may seek to destroy it…and that time is soon approaching. And evil does come looking for the amulet, which is stored beneath an old house in their very town. Now this band of monster movie fans must quickly become a band of monster fighters to do battle with the most famous monsters of all time as Dracula (Duncan Regehr) has come to destroy the amulet and unleash great evil upon the world. And with him are Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan), The Wolfman (Jonathan Gries in human form, Carl Thibault once transformed), The Mummy (Michael MacKay) and The Gill-Man (Tom Woodruff Jr.). Left on their own by disbelieving adults, can these suburban kids stop the greatest monsters in horror film history?
A lot of fun, the flick plays it serious when it needs to but, also provides plenty of laughs and has a genuine love for the monster movies it pays tribute to. The monsters are all well represented by Dekker, the make-up FX team (headed by the legendary Stan Winston) and the actors portraying them with Regehr making a very sinister Count, Gries a sympathetic victim of lycanthropy and Noonan a monster who may still have a heart when treated with kindness. Dekker also gets great work from his squad of wannabe monster fighters, with Andre Gower as leader Sean, Robby Kiger as his best bud Patrick, Brent Chalem (who sadly passed away in 1997) as the bullied fat kid, Horace, who wants to prove himself, Ryan Lambert as tough rebel Rudy, Michael Faustino as the young Eugene and Ashley Bank as Sean’s little sister Phoebe, who steal’s the Frankenstein monster’s heart. Round out nice work from Stephen Macht and Mary Ellen Trainor as Sean’s concerned parents and Leonardo Cimino as ‘Scary German Guy’ and you get a movie filled with endearing characters and fearsome fiends.
The Monster Squad is a very entertaining little movie made with a lot of heart and has far more warmth and charm then a lot of the soulless blockbusters that pass as entertainment today. A fun nostalgic 80s blast that also gives a lot of love and respect to some of the most famous monsters of all time. Finally recognized as the classic it is. “Wolfman’s got nards!”
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) wolfmen complete with nards!