Night of the Creeps
Combine alien parasites with zombies, a tough-as-nails cop, sorority girls, and numerous sci-fi homages and you end up with Writer/Director Fred Dekker's masterpiece. When two college roommates decide to rush a fraternity they are tasked with finding a corpse and dumping it onto another fraternity's front steps.
What they find is a cryogenically frozen corpse infested with slugs from outer space. Upon a second reading, that needs some unpacking. The corpse isn't from outer space, the slugs are from space. Well, they're an alien race's bio-weapon. Admittedly, it's complicated. But what matters most is that the corpse reanimates while the boys carry it out of the lab. They panic and run, dropping the corpse, and all hell breaks loose when the slugs start leaping into people's mouths, turning them into zombies.
Night of the Creeps is another favorite of mine from when I was younger. It only just recently found it's way onto DVD perhaps a year or two ago. There's just something about this movie that works -- as strange as it is.
Tom Atkins is phenomenal as Detective Cameron. We first meet him in his dreams, in which he sits on a sandy white beach, surrounded by babes in bikinis. Out of the water comes a gorgeous, buxom blonde, who quite clearly wants him. He wakes up in his squalid bachelor pad, however, when he's called by the precinct in regards to the frozen corpse being found (the one the boys dropped).
Night of the Creeps has held up relatively well, considering it was made in the 1980's. What makes the film so unique is that it has a little dash of everything, as though the director took all his favorite cliches from a bachelor's barren refrigerator, tossed them into a casserole dish, baked it, and by some miracle it's actually delicious.
How many movies have some T&A, aliens, mutant slug monsters, zombies, axe murderers, a cryogenically frozen corpse and an unbelievably kickass cop? And if that wasn't enough, the film even features some decent dramatic moments as well. And the dialogue is competent, even snappy at times! The characters are shockingly well-developed. Our unlikely hero is Chris, a dorky, sweater-wearing college freshman who wants to be with sexy sorority girl Cynthia. But he's sure that the only way she will ever notice a self-deprecating nerd like himself is if he joins a fraternity.
His self-assured (and paraplegic) roommate J.C. can just barely stand his company, and sets up his friend to meet Cynthia. Chris is still so sure that he must be in a fraternity that J.C. arranges a sit-down with the coolest fraternity on campus. The frat brothers are right out of Revenge of the Nerds -- pompous idiotic jocks. They task Chris and J.C. with dumping a corpse onto a neighboring fraternity's steps.
The duo head to the medical laboratory on campus, find the corpsicle of a man from the 1950's in a tube, and manage to release him from his freezer. When they try to move the corpse, Chris feels it move, freaks out, and they drop it and run away screaming. They run past the lab technician who has been studying the corpsicle in the hallway. The researcher walks back into the lab and is immediately attacked by the corpse, whichs spits a space slug into his mouth.
The police arrive and wake up Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins, who is great here) from the aforementioned great dream. He arrives on the scene and immediately establishes himself as a great character.
Det. Cameron: "The radio said there were two corpses."
Police Officer #1: "Well, I think there were two corpses, but..."
[Det. Cameron stares both cops into an embarassed silence.]
Police Officer #2: "It was probably just one --"
[Det. Cameron grabs finger of P.O. #1]
Det. Cameron: [forms fingers of PO#1 into a 'one'] "See, it's real easy... that's 'one'."
Det. Cameron: [forms fingers of PO#1 into a 'two'] "And see, that would be 'two' -- two corpses."
He's caustic, suicidal, and funny all at once.
And he always answers the phone by saying, acidly, "Thrill me."
I wasn't joking about his being suicidal, either. In one scene we can hear him talking on the phone about the case, as the camera remains focused on his gas stove, lit, with the door open. He grumbles and closes the over door before leaving! Don't you just hate it when people interupt your suicide attempts?
The exchanges between Chris and J.C. are funny too. They have a kind of bro-mance, but it doesn't stop J.C. from berating Chris about being such a lame, wimpy idiot. Their friendship is so believable that when J.C. is finally infested by the space slugs, Chris' loss (and eventual anger) feels equally believable. J.C. leaves a surprisingly heart-wrenching audiotaped final message giving Chris the hints he'll need to defeat the slugs and the zombies they create.
It all leads to a dramatic final showdown with Chris and Cynthia taking out zombies and slugs at a sorority house, on the eve of the college's annual formal. The budding romance between Cynthia and Chris is cemented by their shared zombie ordeal, but even during the battle Chris has already loosened up a bit. For example, when they are outnumbered by zombified frat brothers (director trying to say something here?) Cynthia leads Chris into a garden shack made of latticed wood.
Yeah, can you imagine a more flimsy zombie barrier? I guess you could roll yourself up in bubble-wrap as a defense, but 'garden lattice' comes out pretty high on the list of least effective zombie barriers. Chris, realizing Cynthia has lead them into a deathtrap looks at her, looks at the zombies reaching through the gaps in the balsa wood and says, "Real good idea." Cynthia shrugs. A day or two ago he was afraid to talk to her, but now Chris feels comfortable enough to criticize her escape plan decisions.
In the end, Night of the Creeps is a fun sci-fi/horror romp that packs in as many homages to sci-fi tropes as possible. Director Dekker tips his hat to numerous film directors by naming characters: "Sgt. Raimi" and "Detective Landis" -- possibly after directors Sam Raimi and John Landis? The main character's name is 'Chris Romero' -- c'mon now! And his love interest is named 'Cynthia Cronenberg'. There are also some fun digs at the fraternity and sorority systems.
Favorite scene is when Det. Cameron flips out and performs his 'Epic Death Spin' maneuver! Yargh!!!
I challenge you to watch this film and resist answering the phone by saying, "... thrill me."