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Dustin Putman

Night of the Creeps  (1986)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: June 25, 2019) – "Night of the Creeps," writer-director Fred Dekker's buoyant 1986 ode to the horror and sci-fi genres, is a mishmash in the best way. Leech-like alien creatures dropping down to Earth from outer space. An axe murderer, newly escaped from the local asylum, on the prowl in a college town. A long-frozen body reanimated. Unsuspecting people zombified by extraterrestrial body snatchers. Most of the characters, by the way, have last names like Carpenter, Landis and Romero (side note: if these monikers do not ring a bell, this movie is probably not for you). Overstuffed as these spare parts may seem, they come together to make an entertainingly inviting, even charming free-for-all.

27 years after an alien experiment crash-landed on the planet, nice-guy college freshman Chris (Jason Lively) and best pal and roommate J.C. (Steve Marshall) run afoul of an outbreak of slippery, brain-latching leeches while pledging a fraternity. As detective-with-a-death-wish Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) investigates the disappearance of a missing cryogenically frozen body, Chris sets out to save his crush Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), the girlfriend of jerky frat brother Brad (Allan J. Kayser).

Watching "Night of the Creeps" in 2019, it is impossible not to assume this film inspired James Gunn's similar 2006 horror-comedy "Slither." Mixing sincere melodrama with gallows humor, it's a stylishly creative, well-paced, mid-'80s lark. It also, in certain ways, feels ahead of its time. While the romantic subplot between Chris and Cynthia effectively intermingles with a blood-strewn fight for their lives, it is the relationship between Chris and J.C. that proves most winning. J.C. may dutifully act as Chris' wingman as he attempts to get closer to Cynthia, but it is obvious he's the one truly in love with his friend—something he basically tells him, in the only way he knows how, during an especially touching scene near the end of the second act. Meanwhile, Tom Atkins (he of 1980's "The Fog" and 1982's "Halloween III: Season of the Witch") turns in another one of his signature cool performances, the kind impossible to resist, as a no-nonsense detective with a personal tragic connection to the picture's attention-grabbing 1959 black-and-white prologue. "Thrill me," indeed.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Night of the Creeps" slithers its way to Blu-ray in a new spiffy Collector's Edition from Scream Factory. While the 1080p transfer appears to be identical to the one on the 2009 Sony release, the good news is that it still holds up splendidly. This is a vibrant and colorful film in spite of its predominant nighttime settings, with plenty of primary colors and '80s gloriousness popping up (as in the scenes set in Cynthia's sorority house and during the frat party). Blacks are beautifully deep and inky, while print damage is virtually nonexistent. Detail and clarity are terrific, revealing blemishes and lines on faces and a textural quality to surfaces. A few shots are softer than others, but this is inherent to the filmic source. The black-and-white prologue (complete with in-color opening credits) is additionally clear and lovely. Two audio options are offered: a fuller, more robust 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Surround track and the 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo offering. Action scenes come to life during the 5.1 track, while dialogue is always intelligible and well-defined. Scoring and music source cues are richly incorporated into the mix.

Blu-ray Features
Disc One (Theatrical Cut – 88 minutes)
  • "Thrill Me! - The Making of Night of the Creeps" Documentary (59:47, HD)
  • "Tom Atkins - Man of Action" Featurette (19:55, HD)
  • Deleted Scenes (7:39, SD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:32, HD)
Disc Two (Director's Cut – 90 minutes)
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Dekker
  • Audio Commentary with Actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
  • NEW "Real Good Plan - Interview with Actor Jason Lively" Featurette (10:46, HD)
  • NEW "The Bradster - Interview with Actor Alan Kayser" Featurette (7:42, HD)
  • NEW "I Vote for That One - Interview with Actor Ken Heron" Featurette (10:12, HD)
  • NEW "Worst Coroner Ever - Interview with Actor Vic Polizos" Featurette (6:28, HD)
  • NEW "Answering the Door - Interview with Actress Suzanne Snyder" Featurette (4:00, HD)
  • NEW "Final Cut - Interview with Editor Michael K. Knue" Featurette (11:21, HD)
  • NEW "Horror's Hallowed Grounds - A Look at the Film's Locations Today" Featurette (10:56, HD)
Bottom Line
Fresh, goopy and unsuspectingly sentimental, "Night of the Creeps" came and went in theaters back in August 1986 (such, alas, is the fate of most horror-comedies), but through cable and home video has found a passionate cult audience of fans in the thirty-plus years since. Scream Factory's two-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray is the best home-video release yet of this oft-overlooked gem, with outstanding picture and audio, two cuts of the film (including the theatrical cut with the original ending, never before released on Blu-ray), and a bountiful collection of both carryover special features and brand-new bonus content. Highly recommended.

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© 2019 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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