MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and SLITHER

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Haven’t done one of these in a long time! These two features are paired up for obvious reasons, but let it be known that James Gunn sights David Cronenberg’s The Shivers as an inspiration for his gooey creature feature and not Night of the Creeps!…though they pair a bit better being both horror/comedies.

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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.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 infected aliens!

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Slither

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SLITHER (2006)

Slither is a really fun sci-fi/comedy from writer/director James Gunn who helmed Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy flick. This creepy, gooey story is set in the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina where a meteorite crash lands in the woods and is happened upon by two-timing husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) while out messing around with a local girl. Grant is stuck in the chest by some kind of organic dart from within the object and immediately starts to change physically and behaviorally. At first he tells his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) it’s an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but as Grant starts chowing down on the local pets and begins transforming into something otherworldly, Starla turns to Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) for help. As fate would have it, Starla Grant has also been the apple of Sheriff Pardy’s eye since they were kids and as the two former school sweethearts try to figure out why Grant is transforming into a ‘squid’. Meanwhile Grant impregnates local girl-toy Brenda (Brenda James), who then gives birth to hundreds of slug-like creatures who set upon the town entering their victims through their mouths and turning the locals into zombies at alien infected Grant’s command. Can Bill, Starla and whoever is left stop this extraterrestrial threat and save Wheesley and the world from this slimy alien incursion?

Gunn directs this fun flick with tongue firmly in cheek. The film doesn’t make a joke out of it’s homage filled story, but never takes itself too seriously either. And while it is light in tone, it is not without it’s share of suspense and chills. The cast are all having a good time with Fillion once again showing he can play comedy and be a charming leading man. Rooker is delightfully over the top as the infected Grant. The actor is having a blast as he transforms into an alien creature who seems to enjoy some of the side benefits of being human, such as his host’s pretty wife. Banks is quite feisty as Starla and makes a fun combo of damsel and heroine and has a great chemistry with both Rooker and Fillion. Also in the cast is Gregg Henry as the obnoxious ass of a Mayor who goes by the name of R.J. MacReady (a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing) and The Office’s Jenna Fischer in a small role as Sheriff Pardy’s sassy receptionist Shelby. The make-up FX are excellent with Grant going through numerous stages as he transforms and of course the activities of his slug-like minions and their carnage are well portrayed. It is a mix of practical and CGI, but it appears mostly practical with some very well done CGI in support, the way it should be. The production value is high on this modestly budgeted film and there is an effective score by Tyler Bates to add atmosphere.

Whether it’s paying homage to The Thing, The Shivers, Night Of The Creeps or The Blob to name a few, Slither is just a real fun, gory and very entertaining night at the movies with a great cast and it’s heart in the right place. Much like some of the films it pays tribute to, Slither was sadly overlooked when it first came out, but seems to have now found it’s audience and developed a bit of a cult following. A highly recommended and delightfully gooey movie.

3 and 1/2 disturbingly shaped alien slugs.

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COOL STUFF: SLITHER SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY!

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SLITHER (2006) Blu-Ray

Slither is a fun and delightfully gory horror/comedy from Guardians of the Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, that is sadly overlooked and underrated…until now! Once again the awesome folks at Scream Factory have given a flick the respect and treatment it deserves with this new special edition. This title in particular has always been a personal favorite and this disc was obviously anxiously awaited. Let’s find out if it delivered…

On a technical level the film image is clear and sharp with some nice contrast, while maintaining the original color palette that Gunn filmed it in. The flesh tones, both human and in-human being the most vibrant colors aside from the gore. The movie is presented in the original 1.85.1 aspect ratio, preserving the film’s original dimensions. The sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with alternate 2.0 DTS-HD for those without home theater sound systems. The original extras from the DVD are presented in the video format ratio of 1:33:1 that they were filmed in. Remember it was 2006 and the TVs those extras were made for still came in the square format.

Now on to the extensive extras which make this disc so worth having!…

Scream Factory has added some new features in addition to including all the fun extras from the initial DVD release. We get new commentary from James Gunn with Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker, aside from the original commentary with Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion. We also get new interviews with both writer/director Gunn and actor Gregg Henry and it is interesting to hear Gunn reminisce about the flick now that he’s had such success with the Guardians of the Galaxy films. From there we get deleted and extended scenes with optional James Gunn commentary. We get a step by step of some of the film’s visual FX. We get a fun tour of the set with actor Nathon Fillion, followed by an amusing profile of his character Bill Pardy. There’s a documentary from the original release called The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of Slither. One of the FX crew humorously gives us a fake blood recipe in Brewing The Blood. There is another FX documentary about how the slimy critters were brought to life and a short video diary with Troma creator Lloyd Kaufman on set for a cameo, which sadly was cut from the final print. The extras wrap up with a fun gag reel and the original theatrical trailer. A nice batch of extras for a movie only now starting to get the notice it deserves.

This is a personal favorite and a flick that is finally finding an audience after being overlooked upon initial release. It’s a fun horror/sci-fi flick that pays homage to many of it’s influences, yet not without having it’s own identity. (my full review HERE) If you’re a fan of the film, it’s a must have disc. If you are just discovering James Gunn through his Guardian’s movies, than this is definitely an item you may want to check out. Another great disc from Scream Factory.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

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just before dawn

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JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)

“Keep breeding in the same family and something’s bound to snap.”

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

 After revisiting Jeff Lieberman’s Squirm I decided to check out his 1981 slasher Just Before Dawn. I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen it before and as I watched it, nothing rang a bell, so, this may be the first time watching this flick for me. The film follows the late 70s’ early 80s slasher formula and adds a hint of Chainsaw Massacre, as it tells the story of 5 youths who travel up to some recently inherited property deep in the remote Oregon mountains. Despite the ominous warnings of old park ranger, Mr. McLean (George Kennedy) and the appearance of a drunk and quite frightened hunter (Mike Kellin), they enter the woods to enjoy the great outdoors. Obviously there are some local inhabitants who are not exactly thrilled at the intrusion and have a violent way of showing it… of course had the warnings these kids received been less vague…

Co-written… with Mark Arywitz and Jonas Middleton… and directed by Lieberman, this backwoods slasher is moderately paced much like his Squirm and generally most of the horrors of this era. The body count is fairly small and despite a gruesome opening scene kill, a lot of the carnage occurs offscreen. But the film does have a nice atmosphere and there is something just a little off about the film to make it interesting despite being fairly routine on the surface. I wouldn’t say it’s a strange movie outright, but there is something a bit odd about it that I can’t quite put my finger on and this slightly unsettling aspect did give it some extra points. The film is well shot by Dean and Joel King and the music by Brad Fiedel is creepy and adds some atmosphere to it as well. Throw in some 80s nostalgia and this was a decent enough 80s horror flick to pass the time.

The cast are a bit livelier than Lieberman’s Squirm. George Kennedy is solid as always. Gregg (Slither) Henry is our lead male and he is fine as the cocky Warren who actually surprises us a bit by loosing some of that swagger when things start to go wrong. Cutie Deborah Benson is Warren’s girlfriend Connie who also surprises us when this fish out of water rises to the occasion against the serrated machete wielding mountain folk. Rounding out our young vacationers are Jaime Rose as the promiscuous Megan, Chris Lemmon as Jonathan and Ralph (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure) Seymour as Jonathan’s photographer brother, Daniel. They are all suitable in their roles as potential mountain folk fodder and are an attractive cast, as is the custom with these flicks. The rest of the supporting cast are appropriately creepy playing various mountain locals including pretty Katie Powell as Merry and big John Hunsaker as the deranged blade carrying killer. Hunsacker also gives his loony a bit of an off-putting sense of humor to add to his imposing size and inbred looks.

I liked this flick. On the outside it is a routine backwoods slasher, but there was enough atmosphere and odd touches throughout to keep me entertained despite the low body count and lengthy stretches between kills. There wasn’t much suspense, but the film had enough of the traditional elements to keep my attention and a few off-kilter moments, too. Not a bad flick to throw in with the more renown classics especially when watching some 80s slashers during the Halloween season!

3 serrated machetes.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SLITHER (2006)

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Slither

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SLITHER (2006)

Slither is a really fun sci-fi/comedy from writer/director James Gunn who helmed Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy flick. This creepy, gooey story is set in the small town of Wheelsy, South Carolina where a meteorite crash lands in the woods and is happened upon by two-timing husband Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) while out messing around with a local girl. Grant is stuck in the chest by some kind of organic dart from within the object and immediately starts to change physically and behaviorally. At first he tells his wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) it’s an allergic reaction to a bee sting, but as Grant starts chowing down on the local pets and begins transforming into something otherworldly, Starla turns to Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) for help. As fate would have it, Starla Grant has also been the apple of Sheriff Pardy’s eye since they were kids and as the two former school sweethearts try to figure out why Grant is transforming into a ‘squid’. Meanwhile Grant impregnates local girl-toy Brenda (Brenda James), who then gives birth to hundreds of slug-like creatures who set upon the town entering their victims through their mouths and turning the locals into zombies at alien infected Grant’s command. Can Bill, Starla and whoever is left stop this extraterrestrial threat and save Wheesley and the world from this slimy alien incursion?

Gunn directs this fun flick with tongue firmly in cheek. The film doesn’t make a joke out of it’s homage filled story, but never takes itself too seriously either. And while it is light in tone, it is not without it’s share of suspense and chills. The cast are all having a good time with Fillion once again showing he can play comedy and be a charming leading man. Rooker is delightfully over the top as the infected Grant. The actor is having a blast as he transforms into an alien creature who seems to enjoy some of the side benefits of being human, such as his host’s pretty wife. Banks is quite feisty as Starla and makes a fun combo of damsel and heroine and has a great chemistry with both Rooker and Fillion. Also in the cast is Gregg Henry as the obnoxious ass of a Mayor who goes by the name of R.J. MacReady (a nod to Carpenter’s The Thing) and The Office’s Jenna Fischer in a small role as Sheriff Pardy’s sassy receptionist Shelby. The make-up FX are excellent with Grant going through numerous stages as he transforms and of course the activities of his slug-like minions and their carnage are well portrayed. It is a mix of practical and CGI, but it appears mostly practical with some very well done CGI in support, the way it should be. The production value is high on this modestly budgeted film and there is an effective score by Tyler Bates to add atmosphere.

Whether it’s paying homage to The Thing, The Shivers, Night Of The Creeps or The Blob to name a few, Slither is just a real fun, gory and very entertaining night at the movies with a great cast and it’s heart in the right place. Much like some of the films it pays tribute to, Slither was sadly overlooked when it first came out, but seems to have now found it’s audience and developed a bit of a cult following. A highly recommended and delightfully gooey movie.

3 and 1/2 disturbingly shaped alien slugs.

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