Written by: Tera Kirk
Directed by: Fred Dekker
Cast: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, Wally Taylor
“What is this, a homicide or a B-movie?” – Detective Ray Cameron
Chris Romero (Jason Lively) has a problem: he has the hots for the pretty girl he met at a frat party. Obviously he can’t just talk to her, no matter what his friend JC Hooper says. He has to join a fraternity he hates before she’ll even give him a second glance.
Long story short, a pledge prank leads to an invasion of brain-eating space slugs, as pledge pranks do.
Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps is a rare bird–that horror comedy that’s the perfect balance of funny and scary. Yes, you’ve got your heads exploding into meaty chunks and a weaponized lawnmower (the cartoony blood that hits the camera is my favorite effect in the film, not least of all because the movie itself is cartoony and knows it), but you also care about the people involved. Some horror movies want to develop their characters but also don’t want the audience to miss them when they die, so they force us to spend the first act with complete assholes. (Looking at you, Hostel.) But Night of the Creeps isn’t afraid to make us care.
Night of the Creeps knows where it came from—there are B-movie references all over the place. The kids attend Corman University, and many characters are named after horror movie directors: Cronenbergs, Landises and Romeros, oh my! But the film’s real strength is in its characters. Chris and JC are genuinely likable–they seem to belong in something like Animal House rather than a horror film. (Likable characters are a Fred Dekker specialty. See: Monster Squad.) One of my favorite scenes is when, after playing wingman and going along with Chris’s stupid fraternity pledge even though “I’d rather have slugs from outer space eat my brain than join a frat!” JC finally tells Chris off for moping. JC walks with arm crutches, but he isn’t The Disabled Character. He could slow everyone down during the brain-slug invasion (like, oh, Franklin from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—a film by one of JC’s namesakes) or exist merely to bestow life lessons on non-disabled people, but he doesn’t. To be fair, he does try to make Chris see sense, but it has more to do with JC’s personality than his disability. Treating disabled characters like people is rare in movies, B-movie parodies or otherwise.
Another standout is Tom Atkins as the haunted Detective Cameron. (Not gonna lie: Season of the Witch is my favorite Halloween next to the first, in no small part due to him.) His speech is full of one-liners worthy of Ash Williams himself. And his ultimate decision in the film is understandable, even if I’d rather he not have made it.
In the end, Fred Dekker and company have made something truly original: a parody of B-movies that’s actually scary. It’s a testament to the acting and writing that we love these characters as much as we do.
About the author: Tera Kirk has loved horror movies since before her mom allowed her to watch most of them. (One of her fondest childhood memories is being terrified of the trailer for Stuart Gordon’s Dolls.) She has written for Monsters At Play, and reviews video games forGameCritics.com. Her more-or-less personal website is Sweet Perdition.