One day, I’ll leave the eighties, I swear. But that day is not today, so say ‘hello’ to Night of the Creeps, one of the few select films by cult director Fred Dekker (Monster Squad). The film, Dekker’s debut at a mere (get ready to vomit) twenty-seven, is a gory, over-the-top homage to B-movie horror. The characters’ last names – Chris Romero, John Carpenter Hooper, Cynthia Cronenberg, Detective Landis – are even homages to famous horror and sci-fi directors.
Be forewarned: the first scene of this movie is the absolute worst. One of the worst in any movie ever. The movie would be improved a billion times without it, and it’s all the worse because you know they built a separate set and costumes just for it alone. But if you power through it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the rest of the movie. Chris Romero and J.C. Hooper are two loserish students at Corman University (J.C. requires leg braces, Chris is the kid from those Lampoon Vacation movies, so they both have their personal handicaps), and are mainly concerned with what obsesses all university students in movies: getting laid. At least, Chris is. (We later learn that J.C. just wants Chris to be happy, which is just adorable.) Chris has his eye on the lovely Cynthia Cronenberg, who is unfortunately dating bleached-blond frat boy supreme, Brad. But our heroes have bigger problems ahead than your standard love triangle; worm-like alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, are turning their fellow students into murderous zombies.
Things start to go awry when Chris and J.C. in an attempt to impress a fraternity – after all, in the 1980s, going Greek was apparently the only way to get a date – break into the university medical centre to place a corpse on a rival frat house’s steps. But they wind up in a secret room and thaw out a cryogenically frozen corpse by accident. (We’ve all been there.) By sheer coincidence, that corpse also happens to contain one of those alien parasites that crash-landed on earth in 1959. But Chris and J.C. chicken out as soon as the guy thaws out (and grabs them), and so, never learn this key fact when his head explodes with more brain parasites (gross!). Note: If watching people’s heads explode and spew out slug-type things seems unpleasant to you, you probably won’t enjoy this movie.
From here, all hell breaks loose. Grad students, custodians and eventually even undergrads have worms jump into their mouth and become zombified. No one is safe. Luckily, hardassed and mustachioed policeman, Detective Ray Cameron is on the case. Fond of pulp magazines and answering the phone with ‘thrill me’ (which will surely become my new voice mail greeting), Cameron has a past with the brain parasite. His high school sweetheart was killed in 1959 by an ax-wielding maniac the very night the parasite came to earth. Coincidences abound! And while skeptical at first, he can’t deny the dead bodies roaming the city or the worms racing all about.
Unfortunately, (spoiler alert!), J.C., like his namesake, is sacrificed to the parasites in a harrowing sequence in the men’s washroom (where erroneous ‘Stryper rules’ graffiti is quite prominently displayed. But before he completely turns zombie, he leaves a tape recording for his friend Chris (now busily scrawling ‘Mr. Chris Cronenberg’ in hearts all over his Trapper Keeper), revealing the parasites’ weakness: fire. Chris realizes this information is important, but even more important is that he’s got a date to the big dance with Cynthia! High five!
Anyway, the frat guys are going to the dance, too. Or at least they plan to until a horrible bus accident (perpetrated by a zombified dog) that leaves them all undead. The zombie frat boys then march, in blood-stained tuxedos, to pick up their dates at the sorority house. To paraphrase Detective Cameron, ‘I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is they’re dead.’ Luckily for the sorority girls, Chris and Cynthia have got a pretty wicked one-two punch going with Chris on the pump-action shotgun and Cynthia handling the flamethrower (stolen from the police station, which had a flamethrower for some reason). Detective Cameron is not to shabby himself with his Dirty-Harry-grade revolver and an aerosol can. The final showdown takes place at the sorority house, with enough heads shot and set aflame to satisfy most zombie film enthusisasts.
Worth watching: yes,. Were you even paying attention?
Best line: ‘Detective, other than confessing to a murder, is there a point to this conversation?’
Memorable Cameos: Dick Miller (Mr. Futterman from Gremlins)