Happy Halloween, jerks!
That’s right, guys, gals, and enby pals. It’s my favorite time of the year. There’s something to that time of the year in which things get a little grayer, a little colder, a little more rainy, and the smell of decomposing leaves filling the air. It just makes everything a little creepier and a little more fun. It all culminates with today, the spookiest day of the year – Halloween!
Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere. It may still be Halloween for you, but it’s also spring and things are coming to life instead of dying off.
But, hey! That actually kind of fits today’s featured movie, 1986’s Night of the Creeps! I’ll come back around to that in just a moment. First, let’s talk about Halloween as a tradition in these parts. Way back in the very early days of B-Movie Enema, the final Friday of 2014 was Halloween and that saw the release of the bottom of the barrel Jess Franco Oasis of the Zombies article. Then, in 2016, I did an impromptu Halloween special article after watching the infuriating Halloween: Resurrection. In 2017, it was another trip to the Halloween franchise with Halloween III: Season of the Witch. I cheated a bit in 2018 and gave Halloween day to Film Seizure was covered the new Halloween movie that came out that year, so on the 30th, I did the remake of Night of the Demons just days after doing the original. In 2019, it was the rock and roll horror Trick or Treat. Last year, it was the conclusion of of a very personal set of movies when I covered The Slumber Party Massacre.
So with that, Night of the Creeps joins a pretty elite group of movies in the history of the (now) 294 articles of B-Movie Enema. As it now slithers onto the blog with a whole bunch of zombie-making parasites, it comes with quite the pedigree. First up, we have our grizzled cop played by Tom Atkins. We’ve seen him in Halloween III. Atkins is awesome. He mostly lived in the realm of character acting. Sure, he was the experienced actor in this movie, and he was the star of Halloween III, but aside from being part of the large cast of both The Fog and Creepshow, Atkins mostly was the recognizable guy in featured supporting roles throughout his career. I’ll likely have much to say about how Atkins tends to command his roles. In the meantime, look at the awesome actor posing for a picture with some douchebag with a blog.
So, let’s talk a little bit about our lead actor in this movie, Jason Lively. Lively is the brother to Robyn Lively who appeared in Teen Witch, and Blake Lively who is enjoying quite a career for herself currently. While he didn’t exactly have the longest of careers as an actor, he did have a couple pretty solid credits. He was Rusty Griswold in European Vacation. He also got a leading role in one of Roland Emmerich’s earliest films, the horror comedy Ghost Chase. I am a bit curious why he didn’t stick with acting, choosing a relatively obscure life working for a computer company and the owner of a mobile roasted corn business, because he’s really likable in this movie as the nerdy underdog shooting for a really cute and popular girl to begin dating and take to the college dance.
Speaking of the really cute popular girl, she’s Cynthia and is played by Jill Whitlow. Whitlow, like Lively, didn’t have a super long career either. She did have a couple small parts in big movies. Her first on screen appearance was as a bit player in the massively popular Porky’s. She then also got a small part in the Peter Bogdanovich heavy drama Mask which starred Cher, Sam Elliott, and Eric Stoltz. Not a bad little career, but a short one nonetheless, however, she does have a 2020 credit in a low budget indie horror film called Naked Cannibal Campers (hmmm… I should maybe remember that one for later).
Another significant name, as you look at the full filmography and the titles that appear in it, is writer and director Fred Dekker. Dekker pushed hard for the chance to direct his own screenplay. The reason for this is he threw in a ton of classic B-movie and classic horror/sci-fi conventions as possible and he didn’t want that stuff to fall into the background under the direction of another guy. He only has six director credits. Night of the Creeps was his first feature film that he directed. He would follow this up with The Monster Squad. This guy knows the things I like an awful lot. Classic monsters and sci-fi/horror. Love it. But he’s got a whole bunch of story and writing credits too. Godzilla 1985 (based on a Godzilla 3D project he tried to get started in the early 80s), House, If Looks Could Kill (a young man’s James Bond style light hearted action romp), Ricochet with Denzel Washington, a handful of episodes of Tales from the Crypt, and some episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. His most recent credit is as a writer of The Predator an unevenly received sequel in the series that can’t seem to find its footing anymore.
Alright, let’s get a move on, eh? I think we need get into this throwback creepy crawler zombie flick. Let me flick my lighter to light up a smoke, give a smoldering glare toward the computer, and say, “Thrill me.”
By the way, you have no idea how iconic and sexy that was when I just did that. I maybe made at least 3 girls and 2 and a half guys pregnant with the heat I just emanated when I said that.
I’ve talked about it before… You know, the whole thing with the 80s and the nostalgia for it and how it, itself, had a nostalgic take on the 50s. You know what I’m talking about, right? Well, Night of the Creeps has both of those things! It’s like the literal chocolate and peanut butter in the sci-fi/horror genre. The movie opens in 1959. But not directly in white bred America. Nope, it starts with these little naked alien guys up in space. The 1959 of space.
I don’t know what this little grumpy fleshy dude is doing, but he has other grumpy little fleshy dudes chasing him and shooting at him. He takes the container that he’s carrying and ejects it out of their spaceship into the vastness of space. Where does it land? Why in the 1959 of college where The Platters sing about smoke and eyes. While the kids party on Sorority Row, it appears someone has broken out of an insane asylum.
Combine the dreamy music, the black and white photography, and then space alien sending something out to space with the escaped mental patient and I am fully into this movie hook, line, and sinker.
On top of all this, Hottie McBlondie here has just started dating this Chad McCoolsby and the beat cop who happens to come by to tell the kids to heed the radio warning about the mental patient and make like a tree is Ray. Ray was Hottie McBlondie’s old flame. The couple see a big ball of light in the sky and Chad McCoolsby here decides to go check out what possibly crashed in the woods. Meanwhile, the escaped dude is on his way down Route 66 toward Corman University wielding a large fire axe. Where are Chad and Hottie currently parked? Three miles outside the Corman campus on Route 66.
While the creepy killer creeps up on Hottie, Chad finds creepy crawlies squirming around in the crashed tube from the space ship. A slimy wormy thing flies into Chad’s mouth as Hottie gets her head cut off by the axe-wielding escaped maniac. Smash cut to Pledge Week 1986. It’s time to meet the current cast of yahoos at Corman University.
We meet Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and his friend J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall). J.C. has a disability that not only makes him have to walk with crutches but also makes him a little more of a sympathetic character than he comes off in this introductory scene. You see, Chris is a bit of a romantic. J.C. is a bit more of a pragmatic pessimist. J.C. says they are going to have a hard time getting laid because they are kind of dorky and terminally uncool. Chris catches sight of angelic beauty Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow). Chris asks J.C. if he knows her. J.C. does not, so he decides to yell over to her from across the street to try to find out more about her much to Chris’ chagrin.
They discover that Cynthia is going into the Beta house – these are guys they just hate. That’s for good reason. The Betas are a bunch of assholes. They are jocks and general preps that would give people like our heroes here all kinds of trouble. However, Chris will not be deterred. He and J.C. go into the Beta house looking for Cynthia. They find her enjoying a nice, refreshing Pepsi.
But, uh oh Spaghettios… She is at this party with a boy. A big dumb football type with a single eyebrow kind of boy. J.C. tells this guy, Steve, there is a phone call for him, and when Steve goes away, J.C. finds out what her name is so he can tell Chris. She’s not completely against the idea of getting to know Chris. Besides, J.C. is cool and funny. J.C. goes back to Chris and tells him that the only way she’ll take him serious is for Chris to, you know, get off his duff and talk to her. However, Chris seems to think it will be easier and better for them to pledge Beta house. I guess he thinks Cindy will only like him if he’s in a cool frat.
So they inquire about pledging. They aren’t going to get in, but the president says maybe they can get bonus points if they perform an act of devotion to the frat. Chris asks if they have to have sex with a farm animal. That was not on the president’s mind – at least that we know of. Instead, he wants them to break into the school medical center and steal a frozen cadaver. After Chris and J.C. go on their way, we learn that Cynthia’s actual boyfriend is the head of the Betas.
The boys go to the medical center and just so happen to guess the right last number that the medical grad student looking after the place had to leave to call a guy to find. When they walk into the oddly fortified room that needed a crazy security system to keep the door shut and secured, they find something they weren’t quite expecting to see…
What I love about this movie is how loose everything is. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all. We have naked little grumpy aliens that chase another grumpy naked alien who ejects a capsule that happens to land on Earth. The weird slimy worms inside the capsule happens to fly into a guy’s mouth, and that guy is now frozen in the lab’s tube. All the while, in the present, Chris and J.C. are looking to get laid like an 80s boner comedy. Chris finds a girl he really likes who happens to be dating a huge douchebag and head of the frat that he thinks he needs to get into in order to impress the girl he likes. This girl, I might add, Chris has not talked to yet. Also, remember the Hottie McBlondie chick from earlier? She had a cop ex-boyfriend? We find out later that cop grows up to become Tom Atkins.
Why do all of these things just so happen to converge at this small college town? I’ll tell you why… It doesn’t fuckin’ matter, that’s why. As I said, this movie is so easy breezy that it doesn’t take anything seriously. Sure, the coincidences are a little silly, but you know what? It’s a silly movie. It combines so many wonderful little elements from the various genres it is tipping its cap to. You have the weepy 50s music as if to be looking fondly back on that more innocent time when people are still just playing grab ass and pledging frats and sororities and such. You have that part in black and white. You have a cool alien ship and adorable little alien dudes that have something terrible on board the ship. You have frat pranks, parties at school, and an upcoming prom. Later on, you get zombies who have funny scenes and people not really even paying attention to them the way you’d expect. All of these things can be incredibly charming on their own in movies. In this movie, each thing is charming as hell as an individual thing or all combined together. Mix in the incredibly likable Chris, Cynthia, and J.C. (and the bad assery of Tom Atkins) and you’ve got a real winner here.
Okie dokie… Chris and J.C. are less weirded out by the crazy machinery around them than they are the guy in the cryogenic tube. Chris initially just wants to leave as to not mess up this experiment. J.C. says there aren’t any other corpses around to take so they might as well take this guy. J.C. explains the whole thing about cryogenic studies and stuff, but as much as he thinks it is cool, he doesn’t care that much to not disengage the thing and try make off with the body. When they are carrying the body, the dude’s hand grabs J.C. and they freak out and run away.
This leaves the poor post grad guy to investigate what the hell was going on when the two boys run past him and knock him over. He goes up to the thawing dude and gets his throat grabbed and a slug monster spat into his mouth. When Chris and J.C. get back to their dorm room. Chris gets a little mad at J.C. when he makes a joke about what to do about what happened. J.C. retaliates by saying that Chris can go fuck himself because he’s such a bummer and everything that just happened was his fault for trying to impress a girl he couldn’t even speak to himself. J.C., I should remind you that he’s got physical disabilities, says he is always joking around because if he’s like Chris and takes everything so damn seriously, he’s just going to be depressed all the time because life sucks. He’s got a point about everything he said.
Anyway, Act I is over, so it’s time to meet every day bad ass hero, Tom Atkins.
Yes, we meet him as he seems to be drinking booze from a coconut while in a white tux, cool guy shades, and bikini clad babes everywhere. He sees his old girlfriend rising from the water. That’s when the dream turns into a nightmare and he’s back in his beat cop days watching the crazy guy hacking the shit out of her, but when the maniac turns around, he’s a weird zombie looking guy. He wakes up to a call to go check out the lab that got broken into and investigate the missing body and the dead guy. Twice in one minute, once when he answers the phone, and the second time when he arrives at the crime scene, he says, “Thrill me.”
By the way, every main character in this movie has a name of someone who has done something in the horror genre – Chris (George) Romero, J.C. (Tobe) Hooper (also the J.C. stands for James Carpenter for John Carpenter), Cynthia (David) Cronenberg, Detective Ray (James) Cameron, Detective (John) Landis, Sgt. (Sam) Raimi, Officers (Wes) Craven and (Mario/Lamberto) Bava, and Mr. (Steve) Miner. This movie has more caps to tip than it does heads in the production to put caps on.
So Cameron is confused. He was told there were two bodies. When he gets there, there is only one body. The original cops that showed up to the scene of the crime were rookies so they had to go and leave the thawed out body to take a shit. When they came back, the other body was missing. Cameron is thinking there is some extra shenanigans going on. After all, people who have been dead for 27 years don’t just get up and walk away.
So this zombie dude used to throw pebbles at Hottie McBlondie’s window to let her know he was there for them to go out. Now, Cindy is in that room, so he does the same thing, but also decides to just go ahead and use the fire escape to peer into her room while he’s naked and looking pretty much worse for wear. Also, he head splits open and a bunch of the slug worms spill out and take off into the night. The cops come and discover that, indeed, it was the missing body from the lab. The face is all split open from where the worm slug things spilled out. Detective Cameron has some flashbacks from when he buried the body of the escaped mental patient that he hunted down and killed for killing his girl. He thinks the face of the corpse looks like it was split by an axe.
The next day, the word hits the street of the body showing up at the sorority. Brad, the head of the Betas confronts Chris and J.C. about delivering the body to the wrong house. J.C. tells them they chickened out and didn’t even do it. Brad kicks one of J.C.’s crutches out and makes him fall to the ground. Cindy starts to befriend the two boys because, you see, Brad’s a dick…? This nice little moment ends when Detective Landis shows up to bring the boys downtown to answer questions about why they were seen at the lab the night before by the janitor, Miner.
Immediately, Cameron realizes that everything lines up too perfectly for these boys. Cameron knows it was likely a sick prank from a frat. Chris owns up to everything, but also says they didn’t take the body and they were too scared because the body twitched and opened its eyes. Cameron seems to recognize that, for as crazy as the story is, it seems somewhat plausible. Meanwhile, the post grad student from the lab gets up from the slab and leaves. It goes back to the lab and attacks the janitor.
Things are slowly escalating. Those who get a slug in the mouth come back to life or transform into a zombie. The slugs are starting to get out across the campus and has even started attacking animals and pets. We find out that one of the girls in Cindy’s sorority has a black cat that she takes care of. It’s been missing for a bit it seems, but when she finds it again, it’s got a crazy monster face now.
Immediately after seeing a monster cat, we go back to Det. Cameron’s place. He’s looking over crime scene photos from the night his lady love was killed by a maniac. He’s also doing what most of Tom Atkins’ characters are know for doing… Drinking. Heavily.
That same night, Cindy shows up at Chris and J.C.’s dorm and asks to go for a walk. She tells them about the cat and how strange it is because she saw the girls bury the cat after they found it dead. She also reveals that the body from the lab literally came to her window. As Cindy seeks comfort in Chris’ arms, Chris kind of motions for J.C. to get lost. J.C. says he’s gotta go to the bathroom. While he’s gone, Cindy tells Chris that she was pretty sure the guy was a zombie and she saw slugs spill out of its head. J.C. goes to the bathroom in one of the buildings that the zombified Mr. Miner is shuffling around in.
While J.C. is taking a shit, he hears someone come into the bathroom. He also hears the guy collapse and a bunch of slugs come out of his split open head. He reaches for a book of matches. There is only one left but he uses it to light the book on fire and discovers that fire pretty much kills the slugs on impact. Unfortunately, one crawls up his pant leg and he tries crawling out of the bathroom but one comes right at him from the floor.
Chris takes Cindy home and she asks him to the formal the following night. They were followed by Cameron who doesn’t exactly seem too put off by the things he heard from them about creepy crawlies and zombies and such. So he decides to take Chris, who he now has dubbed “Spanky”, back to his place for a drink. He also reveals to him the secret that we already basically know – he totally murdered the murdering crazy guy who cut his girlfriend up.
We also learn that the escaped maniac was buried under where the house mother’s place is now behind Cindy’s sorority. We’ve also seen slugs heading in that direction too. The house mother and her dog are dozing off while watching Plan 9 from Outer Space. We hear what sounds to be banging from under the floor. Up through the floor comes the reanimated corpse of the axe wielding maniac from 1959. He decides to hack up the old lady.
A couple uniformed cops looking for the old lady’s murderer find him, but are a bit surprised to find out it is a monster guy. They corner him in an alley. Cameron tells the monster he already killed him once. When the guy turns toward the cops, they start blasting holes in him that glow awkwardly. Seeing he is literally a walking corpse, Cameron shoots him in the head and a whole bunch of slugs come flying out to the confused cops’ surprise.
Act II comes to an end and it’s time for the thrilling (heh, get it? “Thrill me”) conclusion. Chris is a little confused that J.C. hasn’t been home since the night before. He’s got his tux for the formal. The slugs are zooming around town all over the place. Most importantly, there’s rad 80s music playing while the girls of Cindy’s sorority are all getting ready for the formal in their undies, in the shower all boobs out, and just about every single possible way you could expect to see gratuitous femoid skin bits!
The guys at the Beta Epsilon house are also getting ready but, uh oh… a whole bunch of slugs are headed their way. But back at Chris and J.C.’s room, Chris is still curious where his friend is. J.C.’s left a recording for Chris to listen to that is as haunting as it is heartbreaking.
Chris runs to the boiler room to find his friend’s body with the toasty scorch marks of the slugs that shot out of his head. His friend may be gone, but at least there’s an answer to the slug problem. The Beta house gets ready to take the bus to Cindy’s sorority to pick up their dates. Brad, pissed off that Cindy blew him off, is drunk and stalking the sorority. The house mom’s dog shows up to shoot a slug into his mouth. Later, as the bus with the Betas are headed to get their dates, the rowdiness of the frat boys makes it so the bus driver doesn’t notice until too late that the old lady’s dog is in the middle of the road. The bus crashes which allows for all the frat boys to get infected by the slugs.
Chris goes to Cameron and tells him that the slugs get in through the mouth. They essentially kill the host and allow them to still walk around. This is to allow for the incubation period for the slugs to reproduce. However, heat is good. So Cameron and Chris get ready to go which includes Cameron having to begrudgingly turn off the stove he was using to gas himself to death. This moment is simultaneously dark as shit and funny when Cameron gets pissed that he can’t kill himself tonight.
We get another great tip of the cap. Cameron and Chris go to the police station to get the flamethrower. The requisition guy is none other than Roger Corman stalwart Dick Miller. On top of that, he’s playing a guy named Walt. Walter Paisley was his name in Corman’s A Bucket of Blood – itself a dark comedy.
At Cindy’s sorority, the zombified Brad shows up. In one of the classic comedy beats of the movie, the girl who answers the door to see the messed up Brad takes it as a joke. She even kind of scolds him for being kind of immature to show up for the formal looking like this. Without missing a beat, she turns to tell Cindy that Brad’s here.
I’m a big fan of the little things in movies. Sure, the big, broad strokes are great too. Yes, the big prat fall or a giant action scene or special effect or even a gory kill. Yet, when you can land little things, you know, things that the tone of the movie has set up with the small brush strokes of detail… That’s when the movie can stick its technical grades. A soft zoom in when someone is commanding a scene. A small detail that just before the zombie cat shows up, we learn that the girls are worried the cat’s owner will find out it died at some point earlier and they buried it instead of breaking the news to her. Brad showing up and the girl calling to Cindy and not even paying attention that he looks like a scary monster man. To punctuate this even further, without even looking at him, Cindy breaks up with zombie Brad without seeing that he’s a ghoul.
These are the things that elevate this movie above and beyond a fairly solid, fun horror monster movie.
The zombified Betas exit the wrecked bus and head toward the sorority house to get their dates. Meanwhile, Chris and Cameron arrive at the sorority ahead of the zombies and plan to make their last stand there. Chris roasts Brad before he can infect Cindy. Cameron goes inside to deliver an iconic line from just about every trailer and clip you’ll see from this movie by telling the girls there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that their dates are there. The bad news is they’re dead.
Outside, Chris and Cindy are seeing the Betas converge on the house. Chris is begging Cindy, who is equipped with the flamethrower now, to do something. Hoping she’ll snap out of her shock of watching her old boyfriend get roasted by her new boyfriend, Chris tells Cindy to shoot when he does. So he blows a guy’s head up which unleashes slugs and Cindy does her thing.
Now, I don’t know exactly what it is, but holy crap do I love a woman with a flamethrower. That shit is, no pun intended, super hot. Yes, a babe with a gun, that’s great. But a flamethrower? There’s something even more primal and viciously delicious about it. Maybe it’s the illumination on the face, thus allowing you to see her concentration as she roasts a motherfucker. I dunno, but I like it. I really like it.
Chris and Cindy deal with the zombies outside while Cameron helps the girls inside. It’s a lot of head shots and fire and zombies busting into the sorority house and it’s awesome. Even one of the sorority girls, the girl who owned the cat, gets infected, and starts to attack Cameron. Eventually, Chris and Cindy get overrun and have to hide in a gardening shed. This isn’t exactly great because it’s a small, easily smashable enclosure. She blows one guy’s head up with the flamethrower. He uses the lawnmower to destroy another guy’s head. They realize that the slugs are headed to the basement of the sorority house. Why? One of the girls’ biology projects is being stored there… That project deals with jarred up human brains.
Chris and Cindy tell everyone to get out of the house while they go to the basement. There, they find Cameron, with his mouth taped and a can of gasoline. They see a whole bunch of slugs in the corner. Cameron plans to light the place up with the gas and his lighter. Chris and Cindy leave the house. Just as the slugs plan to lunge at Cameron, he lights his zippo and blow the place up but good.
Problem over, right? Well, not exactly. There are two endings to this movie. The theatrical which has Chris and Cindy celebrate their victory by making out. She sees the house mother’s dog come up and when she bends over to pick the dog up, it shoots a slug out at her. The other ending has the cops and the firetrucks and all that rush toward the sorority house with a crispy, zombified Cameron shuffling the other direction down the street. He falls over, the slugs come rushing out of his body toward a cemetery. However, searchlights come down from the sky indicating that the aliens from the beginning have come to clean up the mess.
Either ending is a classic downer ending but also gives you a bit of a sting to go out on. Honestly, the other ending with the aliens could turn out to be worse. It’s possible they have to blow up everyone to deal with the slugs. So they could turn out to be angels or demons.
Regardless of the ending of your preference, Night of the Creeps is wonderful. It has all the right atmosphere and light hearted fun you want from a monster movie. It also has a multi-seasonal atmosphere too. It can be watched at any time of the year and be able to draw you in. I’ve watched this during the summer, during Halloween season, during winter. It’s a movie that has the right creeps and spooks to be enjoyed whenever you want to watch it. Which is also to say you should watch it again soon, or, if you haven’t watched it before, fuck it, get it on your TV as soon as possible!
That should bring this Halloween to a close. I hope you trick and/or treat safely tonight and fill your day with as many ghouls, ghosts, and monsters as you can. Next week, you can come back here for another, regularly scheduled, Friday review. I’m going to keep with the more light hearted fare with The Invisible Maniac. If you have not yet, be sure to like and follow B-Movie Enema on both Facebook and Twitter so you can be kept in the know when new stuff is released.
In the meantime, also go over to the B-Movie Enema YouTube Channel and subscribe there. This week’s episode of B-Movie Enema: The Series is the Halloween episode. Nurse Disembaudee and I watch Hollow Gate and get some surprise visitors from the stars as we celebrate the best of all holidays. Go over there and check it out, won’t you?
Until next week, watch out for alien mouth slugs, but, most importantly, thrill me.
One thought on “Night of the Creeps (1986)”
Do visit to my blog and follow it if you like…