Wow… just wow. I'm surprised I made it through this film, let alone the first 30 seconds! Night of the Creeps (1986) was far beyond what I would consider a bad horror film. The aliens in the beginning of the movie are so extraordinarily cheesy it's painful. As they waddle/run through the spaceship we see pink padded suits that are supposed to be something like naked flesh – though I still don't know what this scene is all about. Their faces are fixed plastic masks with no lip or eye movement. We get alien subtitles when they speak, but not in english text, in alien characters! WTF? The plot is pretty bad with loosely tied narrative elements and a more or less random sequence of events. The acting is worse – the main character, Chris, is wimpy and annoying – and the supporting roles all have their moments of failure. The zombies are less than convincing – encouraging a couple of really good laughs. There are several moments in this film where everything just falls apart. At least it's clever enough to make fun of itself a few times, my favorite of which is when Ray says, "What is this? A homicide or a bad B movie?"
As JC says, "Captain, detective. I mean we're not your fraternity types. I personally would rather have my brains invaded by creatures from space than pledge a fraternity." This pretty much sums up the film, but allow me elaborate. Night of the Creeps is an alien-zombie-teen themed hybrid, which is not my first choice of creative combinations. When I skimmed back through this movie to review some scenes I noticed more continuity in the plot that I totally missed the first time. This isn't what you want your viewers to experience. Sure, there is often some new value gained with a second watch, but this film isn't deep enough to warrant such a need. Maybe I was laughing too hard the first time to catch all the nuances. If I can even call them nuances. The narrative is so blatantly obvious that the important plot connections shouldn't have been hard to miss. But they were. The fact that I missed them makes me hope it's not me but just that they are not presented conherently. Again, I may have been laughing too hard to notice. I think this film is somewhat self conscious of its total failure, but that doesn't convince me that they couldn't have done a better job. It scores one brain for effort but that's about it.
This film doesn't have much deep meaning, if any, making it difficult to extract any sort of intelligent analysis, but I'll try my best. We kind of know where the zombie slugs come from but the explanation is so loose that we unfortunately just have to take it for granted. Aliens shoot the slug parasites down to earth. But why? This is totally unexplained and a major disappointment. Plus, they seem to be engaged in some sort of internal battle over releasing the brain slugs on earth. But why? Sadly we never get to know which I think is really a shortcoming in the story. At the end of the film we see a shot of the alien spaceship returning to earth thirty or so years later but their motivation is still completely unexplained. This pisses me off. The catalyst of the plot has no apparent motivation which makes the entire story basically meaningless. The characters each have their stories and individual agendas but there is little or no consistency. Sure they all work together to defeat the zombies but that's about it. The cop, Ray, has to face his past and the guilt of revenging his ex-girlfriend. Or is it the guilt of letting her die? Chris has to man-up and face his insecurities about his past relationship and his fear of female rejection. And Cynthia has to overcome the fact that she is a shallow ditz (which she does, thankfully). We get to see each of these transformations by the end of the film but the story leading up to them makes me just flat out not care about the characters.
All in all, Night of the Creeps doesn't have much going for it besides a few topless girls and some humorous costume makeup jobs on the zombies. Personally I could have done without the whole alien portion of the story. It just doesn't make any sense! I feel like they just threw in the aliens as an after thought when they asked themselves, "why are these slugs zombifying people? Oh, of course! Aliens sent them earth!" What? No! The aliens have no explanation in the storyline and just kind of fill a gap. Ray's dream is kinda cool where we see the zombie attack foreshadowed, replacing the axe murderer at the beginning of the film with a zombie. Unfortunately that just exaggerates the discontinuity between the murderer and the zombies. Sure, the axe murderer comes back as a zombie, but I find that a pretty weak connection between the two storylines.
So, If you are looking for a painfully funny 80s zombie movie to make fun of with your friends this Halloween, I say look no further! Night of the Creeps has it all; bad acting, a loosely thought out narrative, mediocre costumes, and of course the quintessential frat boy zombies, not to mention some of the worst alien costumes I have ever seen! If you can make it through the first 30 seconds, discard any expectations, and buckle down for a few hours of 80s splendor, you may just enjoy the blatant stupidity this film has to offer as much as I did.
Not much of note here. Standard eye-level camera angels and typical framing that consistently centers the subjects within the frame is about all you get. Pretty much the whole film is chest up shots of the characters. We barely get any closeups or interesting camera angles, making the cinematography for Night of the Creeps rather bland. It follows basic film form to maintain spacial continuity, which it unfortunately does too well. I expect unsettling shots and confusing applications of filmic space in my horror flicks to make me truly experience a horror film's mise-en-scene. Furthermore it cuts back and forth across the 180 degree line during dialogue all too predictably. Finally everything is so well lit! Where are all the dark spooky shots? For a horror film there is little to no cinematic creativity resulting in a rather visually boring film.
Hmm… where to start? How about the really bad alien costumes at the beginning of the film? I've seen better home made alien Halloween costumes! The faces look plastic with almost no movement and their bodies look like pink spandex jumpsuits padded with some extra pillow stuffing they had lying around the set. The aliens are a strange naked chubby race of hairless pink blobs that somehow resemble a humanoid form. It's probably the arms and legs that give it away because there is not much else to these costumes. There is some cool lighting and explosions during this scene at the beginning but nothing to write home about. Next we have the black slugs. The slugs are actually the winners here. Most likely claymation I think. Surprisingly, the squirming black slug blobs are actually the best special effect of the film. I especially like how they can shoot straight into your mouth, burrowing into your brain. We get to see a few good shots of people with the slugs sticking out of their mouth which is pretty fun. Then we get fresh zombies, most of which are the frat boys, and the old soiled axe murderer zombie. The fresh zombies are rather humorous because they are pale-white frat boys with blank white eyes, all dressed up in their finest clothing and primped out hair for a night on the town. Not your typical zombie outfit so it scores one point here (but just one). The axe murderer zombie is pretty fun too because he is a skeleton of a zombie with a hollowed face, decaying flesh, boney arms, and tattered clothing. At the end we get to see some nice bloody zombie head explosions and flaming corpses. Oh goodie! Although the zombie costumes in Night of the Creeps are fun I wouldn't consider them anything special as far as zombie flicks go. I feel bad knocking the special effects in this film because they probably took a ton of time to create, but unfortunately they fall short of my 80s horror film special effect expectations.
What we have here is a bad case of poor acting combined with a mediocre script. We do get to see some character transformations though. At the end Cynthia, played by Jill Whitlow, is no longer attracted to the alpha-male-frat-jock and is instead attracted to the wimpy, but more emotionally in-touch dweeb, Chris. Chris, played by Jason Lively, also changes a bit by the end (though he isn't any less annoying) as he proves his masculinity, fighting to protect Cynthia and the sorority girls. Also Chris gets Cynthia which indicates he is no longer so pathetic in his romantic endeavours, granting him semi-stud status. I think Chris is my least favorite character and actor, probably because I want to identify with the protagonist but find him so pathetic I simply just can't. This of course reduces my submersion into the film's world which is not typically what you want your viewers to experience. I think Steve Marshall who plays JC actually does an ok job with his supporting role (at least he is less painful to watch than Chris) as the crippled college student. Ray does ok as the hard-ass cop but is obviously fighting the bad script the whole time. In an attempt to capture the character's persona I think a lot gets overacted, as his character comes out forced. Finally I think Cynthia does alright at her role. She is certainly an attractive actress (especially since they didn't 80s her hair too bad) which is unfortunately one of the only redeeming qualities of the film. Again, nothing special in the acting. In fact I would call it the opposite of special. I tried to ignore how bad the acting was and focus on the other crappy aspects of Night of the Creeps.
Narrative Summary & Analysis
Here we go. Aliens engaged in internal conflict shoot brain slugs down to earth in 1959. Then cut to parking and making out in black and white – because the world was black and white in the 50s of course. The cop, Ray, tells his ex-girlfriend and her date, who are in a parked car, that there is a nut job on the loose and to get inside, but instead the frat boy takes the girl to go investigate a meteorite that landed down the road. Alien slugs zombify him while his girlfriend is waiting in the car. She gets hacked up by an escaped convict with an axe. So far I'm not seeing any consistency in this story but let's continue. Jump ahead to the 80s. The protagonist, Chris, wants an attractive sorority girl, Cynthia. His buddy, JC, who has crutches, tries to get Cynthia to notice Chris because he is so sick of hearing Chris' bellyaches about his failure with girls. Chris and JC try to join a frat to impress Cynthia. The frat hazes them, making them steal a dead body from the morgue. Instead they find a frozen cadaver in a cryogenic stasis system. Oh! Fun! They thaw the body out but then run away like screaming banshees after it awakens and grabs one of them on the arm. It spits a black slug into the mouth of a lab worker infecting him and releasing the alien zombie virus on the town.
Skip to the cop from 1959, Ray, dreaming of a tropical beach with sexy ladies when his murdered ex from his past rises out of the water. The dream cuts to the escaped convict hacking away at the girl. As the convict turns around it's not a human but a zombie! This makes no sense but typically dreams don't so we ride with it. Ray awakens from his nightmare and gets called in to investigate the crime scene at the morgue. Following this, zombies start to show up at the sorority adding to the body count. Cue a flashback to 27 years ago of Ray burying a body right behind the sorority house.
The next day JC and Chris are confronted by the frat boys about the incident the night before and the alpha male of the frat, Cynthia's boyfriend, knocks JC down, resulting in Cynthia not feeling too good about her relationship. Following that, Ray interrogates Chris and JC about the morgue incident, introducing the protagonists to Ray. Then we see some deaths and Chris getting all soft and mushy around Cynthia while JC gets eaten by slugs in the dorm bathroom. Next the audience gets to see the introspective scene where Ray tells Chris about what happened to him in the 50s – how he found his ex-girlfriend hacked to pieces by a nutcase with an axe and how he took his revenge on the axe murderer with his trusty 12 gauge during his off hours. Showing us Ray's dark side and really freaking out Chris. Again I don't know what this has to do with the zombie aliens but we'll let it slide. Ray explains that the sorority house was moved to the empty lot above the grave and finally some sort of connection is made between the zombie slugs from the beginning and the homicidal maniac, although it's still rather shaky. Lucky for us in the next scene we see the convict's corpse re-animated and hacking through the floor of the sorority house. Ray is called to the murder scene and with his suspicions rising he takes his 12 gauge.
The end of this movie is rather ridiculous. After Ray blows the axe murderer zombie's head off and loads of the alien slugs escape his brain, the audience buckles down for a series of hack and slay zombie fights involving a shotgun, a flame thrower, and more black alien brain sucking slugs. As the students dress up for a formal dance the alpha male gets brain slugged by a zombie dog. Good one! The frat boy's party bus crashes and they are all zombified. As the frat zombies descend on the town and Chris grows some balls (finally), he takes out the alpha male frat boy with the flamethrower. Then he gives Cynthia the flamethrower and takes over with the 12 gauge while Ray hides inside the sorority house "protecting" the ladies. Surprisingly Cynthia becomes super bad ass with the flamethrower while keeping her sexy dress perfectly clean. Awesome! Finally at the climax of the film Ray sacrifices himself to blow up the sorority house along with all the zombies and alien slugs. Chris gets a nice big smooch from Cynthia (saw that one coming from a mile away). In the final scene we see Ray, burnt and zombified (yet somehow still smoking a cigarette), fall over and spill out brain slugs who slither away into the night. This leaves the film open for a sequel which we can only hope will never be made.