"Thrill me!" - Det. Ray Cameron
Shout! Factory brings cult favorite Night of the Creeps home in a new Collector's Edition package that should appeal to fans of the entertaining genre film. The action begins aboard an alien spacecraft, where two aliens attempt to stop a third from shooting some nefarious material into space. They fail, and the item later falls to earth, where it lands near a make-out spot popular for teens. One man is unprepared for the slug-like creature that soon appears leaps into his mouth. Night of the Creeps then moves forward 27 years to 1986, when nerds Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall) pledge a fraternity at Corman University. Beta Epsilon president Brad (Allan Kayser) tells the men he will consider letting them join if they steal a cadaver from the school's medical center. Chris wants in to impress hot girl Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), so he and J.C. do attempt to steal a body, but things go very wrong. Detective Ray Cameron (Tom fucking Atkins) responds to the lab break-in and discovers one freed body is that of the man infected by the slug 27 years earlier.
Fred Dekker directs from his own script, and Night of the Creeps is one of only three films he shot for theatrical release; the others are The Monster Squad and Robocop 3. This film was not met with open arms upon its 1986 debut, but soon earned a cult following. In the accompanying special features, cast and crew reveal the marketing for the film was weak, gave too much away, and was too similar to previews for recently released films like Fright Night and Day of the Dead. The plot is not necessarily similar to those films, and sees alien slugs infecting the brains of college students and turning them into zombies. Something that strikes me about Night of the Creeps is how well the humor would play today. The Chris/J.C./Cynthia triad reminds me of the youthful characters in current popular entertainment like the remake of IT and Netflix's Stranger Things. Much of the film hinges on their missteps, and douchebag Brad's goading, and Creeps is often very charming and funny.
Atkins, who will always hold a special place in my horror-fan heart because of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, is over-the-top great here. A psychologically damaged alcoholic clinging to the past, Det. Cameron shakes off his hangover to settle old scores amid snarky one-liners and an extended monologue about the unfrozen man who would bring back the alien terror. Creeps lovingly blends elements of horror, science fiction and comedy, and Dekker nods to some of his favorite directors by naming his characters "Romero," "Cronenberg," "Cameron," "Carpenter," and "Landis." Lively and Whitlow are also charming, and love blossoms amid the zombie terror and squishy body-horror thrills. Night of the Creeps is not the best or most memorable horror comedy of the 1980s, but its good-natured, coming-of-age undercurrent is surprisingly ahead of its time. Fans of the film will enjoy the inclusion of both the theatrical version and director's cut in this release, as the latter offers Dekker's preferred ending.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is likely the same transfer from the 2009 Blu-ray release, which holds up fairly well. Although a fresh scan might have improved fine-object detail and tightened the grain structure slightly, what we get for both cuts is more than acceptable. Details are largely impressive, and the film is often quite colorful, with bold, well-saturated primaries. Black levels are good, though some crush appears in nighttime scenes. Skin tones are occasionally a bit warm, but highlights remain steady. The film looks good in motion, and I noticed no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix expands on the original stereo soundtrack, which is also included in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, and highlights the effects, directional dialogue and score appropriately. Dialogue is clear and without distortion or crowding; ambient effects waft through the surrounds; action effects call upon the subwoofer and are fairly immersive; and the score is given appropriate weight. English SDH subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set is packed in a standard case with two-sided artwork. A slipcover replicates the classic key artwork. The theatrical cut (88:13/HD) appears on Disc 1, as do the follow extras: "Thrill Me!" - The Making of Night of the Creeps, which is a five-part, making-of piece that includes segments "Birth of the Creeps" (10:42/HD); "Cast of the Creeps" (15:58/HD); "Creating the Creeps" (11:05/HD); "Escape of the Creeps" (11:35/HD); and "Legend of the Creeps" (10:59/HD). This is a fairly informative documentary, and it touches on the effects, the movie's initial failure at the box office and its subsequent cult following. Tom Atkins: Man of Action (19:55/HD) offers an overview of the actor's career, and the first disc also includes Deleted Scenes (7:39/SD) and a Theatrical Trailer (1:32/HD).
Disc 2 includes the director's cut (89:52/HD) and a number of new and recycled extras: You get a Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Dekker and a Commentary with actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow. Real Good Plan (10:46/HD) is a new interview with Lively; The Bradster (7:42/HD) sees Kayser reminisce about his frat-president character; and I Vote for That One (10:12/HD) offers remarks from Ken Heron, who is infected in the film's opening sequence. Worst Coroner Ever (6:28/HD) is an interview with Vic Polizos, who recalls the shoot and working with Atkins; Answering the Door (4:00/HD) is a quick sit-down with Suzanne Snyder about the climactic scene; Final Cut (11:21/HD) is a chat with editor Michael N. Knue; and Horror's Hallowed Grounds (10:56/HD) also visits the film's locations today.
With humorous undertones that would play well today amid hits like "Stranger Things" and the remake of It, Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps is an enjoyable blend of horror, science fiction and comedy. Shout! Factory's new Collector's Edition offers both the theatrical and director's cut of the film and plenty of bonus features. Highly Recommended.