Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Night Of The Creeps DVD Review

Hide your cats and dogs and shield your girlfriend's mouth (sorry). The creeps are here! Fred Dekker's directorial debut hit the theaters back in 1986 to a lukewarm reception, but it has grown a reputation and following in its out-of-print afterlife. Rights issues marred any chance of DVD release for years, and now finally, here in the age of HD, a Blu-ray and DVD special edition are finally seeing the light of day on Oct 27th. We've been waiting for this one for a long time. I can finally say that I've watched Night of the Creeps on DVD and didn't do anything illegal to do so. The days of watching this on Sunday morning on WPIX are over, as are sitting through a beaten up VHS dub. To top that off, poor Fred Dekker finally got his way.

Night of the Creeps is a throw back to the "radioactive cinema" days of b-movie sci-fi and horror. As a post-modern horror love letter to the '50s and '60s, it stands the truest test of time: an '80s horror movie that doesn't look or sound completely like it should be left in the '80s. It also predates the rush of the post-modern horror movement by about 10 years. When you've got places and people named after Roger Corman, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Steve Miner, James Cameron, John Landis, and David Cronenberg you know you're dealing with a self-referential, tongue-in-cheek script. Thankfully, 1986 doesn't show up too much on screen, even when it shows up in the soundtrack.

The film starts off in 1959 on an alien ship where a fleshy,seemingly infected, pygmy alien unleashes a canister full of black slug-like parasites into space. From there it falls to Earth where some unsuspecting teens witness it falling into the forest. Naturally, they go and check it out, and while one falls victim to the slug parasites, his girlfriend falls victim to a psychopathic axe murderer. Huh? Yeah, at first it seems like that was thrown in there  just to be kitschy but later it serves as a device to explain the actions and mentality of Det. Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins). The film then surges 27 years forward as we follow the college plights of Chris and J.C. as they  make their way through a raging frat party.

The witty banter starts flying, and is surprisingly still funny 23 years later. The characters have a refreshing attitude, especially the disabled J.C. who explains that life is too hard and too short to not make everything into a joke. Too true. As Chris swoons over the not-single Cynthia Cronenberg he fumbles his words, drinks, and everything else he can't wrap his hands or mouth around. The friendship between him and J.C is both believable and heartfelt, as they also manage to rag on each other quite a bit. In order to try to impress Cynthia, Chris decides to pledge to a fraternity, and J.C. comes along for the ride. They are ordered to place a cadaver on the doorstep of a rival frat to show their dedication. Shit like this never goes right.

As they wander into the college science and medical facility, they manage to gain entrance to a secret lab that had a cryogenic tank with the 1959 dude, complete with alien slug. Of course they don't know this, try to steal the corpse, and when he moves they run out of there "screaming like banshees." When the corpse shows up at the sorority house and has a cranial explosion, of course they are blamed for it. This is where some awesome back and forth starts to happen with Det. Cameron and the two boys. The snappy words are pretty funny and prove that smart asses don't take time off during times of duress. As the story progresses there are some sad moments as J.C. is overcome by the parasites. On a tape he leaves Chris he is petrified, sad, and also a little bit happy at the same time. He knows that he is going to die but he seems happy to have been able to walk again. That little touch reminded me of the genuine feeling relationship between David Kessler and Jack Goodman in An American Werewolf in London. While this isn't quite up to the same par, there is still a nice authenticity to their relationship.

As the slugs hit the fan, we get classic one-liners, gory gross-outs and plenty of exploding heads. The makeup and special effects don't suffer that much from age, though you do see a wire attached to the running slugs from time to time. The picture is crisp and colorful and the 5.1 mix is clean and clear. The original ending is also included in this director's cut of the film, and now Dekker can breathe easily! His film stands a decent test of time, and with this director's cut manages to offer both the rare origin and closure that most zombie or alien genre films shy away from.

The special features are plentiful, with amusing and informative commentary tracks, deleted scenes, two featurettes, a trivia track, and the capability of watching the theatrical ending. This is the first single disc special edition in a while that really feels to have given all that they have to give. I'm fairly certain I'll be getting repeat viewings of this one, and will actually watch all the supplements again as well. Hell, the two commentary tracks alone are worth sitting through, and why not? It has been stuck in bootleg hell for quite the while. I might as well make up for some lost time. Fun like this doesn't come everyday.

Movie: A-
Special Features: B+
Overall: A
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