Night of the Creeps [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Eureka
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (3rd October 2018).
The Film

Deep in space, an experiment goes awry and a rogue alien launches a capsule from the ship before it can be destroyed. The projectile is mistaken for a shooting star by lovers at make out point, including preppy Johnny (Ken Heron) and his date Pam (Beverly Hills Cop's Alice Cadogan) who drive off to investigate after a run-in with cop ex-boyfriend Ray (Rampage's Dave Alan Johnson) she has spurned. On a lone stretch of road that night, Pam falls victim to an escaped mental patient with a fire axe while Johnny ingests a parasite that escapes from the capsule. Twenty-seven years later, straight-laced Chris (National Lampoon's European Vacation's Jason Lively), still reeling from the breakup with his high school sweetheart, hopes to impress from afar Cynthia (Twice Dead's Jill Whitlow) by joining her sorority's brother fraternity along with equally misfit friend J.C. (Steve Marshall). Although he has no intention of admitting the pair, fraternity president Brad (Mama's Family's Allan Kayser) tasks them with an initiation prank to steal a body from the morgue and leave it on the lawn in front of their rival fraternity. Sneaking into the morgue, they stumble upon a cryogenic vault and extract Johnny's preserved body but are frightened off when he appears to move. Hardboiled detective Ray Cameron (The Fog's Tom Atkins), still haunted by memories of Pam's murder and his showdown with the killer, responds to a report of two bodies in the morgue but finds only the corpse of a student intern (Get Shorty's David Paymer). When Johnny's body turns up at the sorority house with his skull split open, it takes Ray little time to finger Chris and J.C. but he must grudgingly release them since the janitor (Ghost Warrior's Robert Kino) who identified them fleeing the morgue did not see them lugging the body; however, Brad's confrontation with them backfires when girlfriend Cynthia learns that he put up them up to the prank in the first place. Befriending Chris and J.C., Cynthia also swears that the body was alive when she saw it and it disgorged several large slugs from its split skull, which is easier for them to believe than her story of the house's recently dead pet cat that came back to worm-eaten life. Having tailed Chris and J.C., Cameron does not believe Cynthia's story either, until the body of the axe murderer he blew away and buried unearths himself and resumes his killing spree. Distracted by their burgeoning relationship, Chris and Cynthia are as oblivious as the rest of the campus preparing for the formal dance while alien parasites are slithering around the campus and reviving the recent dead in which to reproduce themselves.

The directorial debut screenwriter Fred Dekker (The Predator) and unfortunately just one third of his feature directorial output alongside the fun The Monster Squad and the so-so Robocop 3 Night of the Creeps is one of the most "infectiously" fun horror comedies of the eighties, sending up the likes of The Blob before the technically proficient but uneven 1988 remake. The arch staging of the fifties monochrome flashback gives way to a then-contemporary eighties college comedy of pretty girls, nerds, comedic straight men, and fraternity douchebags who are quick with the quips but given depth of characterization by the script which manages to maintain momentum even during exchanges conveying underlying character flaws and backstory and by the engaging lead performances that are on equal footing with that of Atkins who drags the past into the present with him in the form of his flatfoot persona, vintage car, and equally vintage insults. While the film is a self-described "stew" of elements, influences, and homages virtually every character is named after a horror director and even Roger Corman favorite Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood) makes a welcome appearance as a day player Dekker deftly bounces back and forth between laughs and scares. The jump scares are startlingly effective and the parasitic invasions pack a visceral punch, but the real chills come from Cameron's monologue about the axe murderer and his fate as prelude to his horrific mummified return. The climax is another skillful balancing act of shrieks and chuckles, only stumbling with two imperfect endings on the theatrical version and director's cut (which sort of has one ending on top of another). Night of the Creeps is easily a cut above other eighties horror comedies, and there's plenty of such dreck on which it can perch itself (hello Teen Wolf Too!, Saturday the 14th...)
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Video

Theatrically released by Tri-Star Pictures in the United States and Columbia-Cannon-Warner in the United Kingdom, it was this theatrical version (~88 minutes) that was also released on tape, by HBO Home Video and CBS/Fox respectively. When the film was finally released to DVD and Blu-ray in the United States by Sony, it was in the film's preferred director's cut (89:47) with the alternate ending as seen on television prints of the film. Unreleased before on DVD in the United Kingdom, Eureka Video's Blu-ray/DVD combo utilizes the same master which is nearly a decade old but still quite strong looking with richly saturated colors and a level of detail that both increases ones queasiness in assessing some of the effects while also making the artifice of a couple animatronic bits all the more apparent (poor Gordon). Fine detail can suffer in a couple of the night exteriors but the warmth of the skintones appears to be a deliberate choice to contrast the living with the living dead.
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Audio

Audio options include the same lively DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix of the original Dolby Stereo soundtrack which is active from the first space scenes to the slithering of the creeps rushing with directional accompaniment in depth and width. The scoring seems to have a bit more umph than the song selections (appropriate for the fifties scenes but the music during the eighties party scenes can seem a bit more recessed than the spoken dialogue requires). An LPCM 2.0 Stereo track is included but, as a 2.0 track was not included on the Sony Blu-ray, one wonders whether it actually is a two-channel version of the matrixed Dolby Stereo original or a downmix of the 5.1. Optional English HoH subtitles are also included.
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Extras

Extras start off with an audio commentary by writer/director Fred Dekker, moderated by Michael Felsher in which he cops to the film as a grab bag of things he wanted to see in a movie along with all of the shots he wanted to do (including a Hitchcock dolly/zoom shot by way of Jaws). He also points out more subtle touches like Chris' first sighting of Cynthia being shot at 48 frames-per-second and the contrast in visual style and performance between the fifties and eighties scenes. He also reveals that he wanted to do the aliens in the opening sequence as stop motion, and that the unintentional laughter at the little people in suits had the effect of giving audiences license to laugh, while the 1986 title card actually helps keep the film contemporary by contextualizing the more garish markers of its era of production. A second audio commentary by actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, and Jill Whitlow is a lively affair with the trio of younger actors recalling their friendship and comradery on the set while Atkins soon finds his footing on the track (as much due to the others' love of his character onscreen, his genre reputation, and his offscreen persona). The younger trio reveal that they pretended to be college students and hung out at the real fraternity and sorority row parties on campus, while Lively and Whitlow joke about their chemistry and their subsequent roles together in Roland Emmerich's Ghost Chase which was shot in Germany the following year. While there are plenty of behind the scenes stories and ribbing between the commentators, the track is most entertaining as they react to onscreen action and dialogue. An optional trivia subtitle track also helps highlight touches that pass by quickly as well as background information on some bit players (the track notes the brief appearance of Robert Kerman as a cop and his reputation as the star of such films as Cannibal Holocaust with no mention of his extensive porn career).
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"Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps" (59:46) is a five-part documentary with each part accessible separately on the Sony Blu-ray but not here where it is s single chapter file in which Dekker, producer Charles Gordon (Die Hard), editor Michael Knue (The Hidden), composer Barry De Vorzon (The Exorcist III), actors Whitlow, Lively, Marshall, and Atkins along with effects supervisor David B. Miller (A Nightmare on Elm Street) and crew members Robert Kurtzman (It Follows), Howard Berger (Kill Bill), and Todd Masters (The Haunting in Connecticut) discuss the origins of the project, casting, performance, the effects work, the post-production woes including pacing problems and the endings, as well as its reception upon release and more recent revival screenings. "Tom Atkins: Man of Action" (19:55) is a career-wide interview with the actor providing anecdotes on a chronological rundown of titles in his filmography, including non-horror titles like The Ninth Configuration and the TV movie A Death in Canaan. The interview with director Fred Dekker (31:07) was not on the Sony set and was ported over from the Australian Blu-ray which covers some of the same material from the commentary and documentary but also focuses more on his earlier career including the story of how he conceived House as the film to start his directorial career but did not develop it to a full script and was working on an American version of Godzilla for Steve Miner (presumably before House distributors New World Pictures imported and reworked Godzilla 1985) when fellow UCLA writer Ethan Wiley asked for permission to run with the idea. The deleted scenes (9:17) consist of scenes that were included in the TV version of the film while the original theatrical ending (0:29) is separately accessible. The disc closes out with the theatrical trailer (1:33). Not included for review is the limited edition O-card slipcase and booklet featuring a new essay by critic Craig Ian Mann included with the first pressing.

Overall

 


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