Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 4: Night Of The Creeps (1986)
Fred Dekker only has four directorial credits, all of which arrived before 1994. He’s responsible for Robocop 3, a beloved cult favorite in The Monster Squad, and one single episode of Tales From The Crypt, which aired during season two in 1990. Predating all of this, however, was his directorial debut in 1986, arriving just four months before I was born. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t until the summer of 2014 that I finally made the time to experience Night Of The Creeps.
In anticipation of Halloween, I went on a much-needed and long overdue cult horror bender during that year’s hottest months. The binge included great flicks such as From Beyond, Popcorn, Basket Case, and Tales From The Dark Side, but over two years later, I find myself reflecting on Night Of The Creeps the most out of the bunch.
The film opens on a space craft, in 1959, with three of the strangest looking aliens I’ve seen to date. One appears to be running for its life as it guards something close to its body; a canister of some sort. Once safely behind a locked door, in desperation, it launches the canister from the ship into space and we see it rapidly hurtling downward, presumably toward Earth. This of course sets off an unusual chain of events, one that’s actually soon suspended for some 27 years before it’s finally set fully in motion.
10 minutes into the film, we jump to 1986 where we meet our charismatic leads, college students and self-proclaimed “lame-oids” Chris and J.C. After some segments that feel wonderfully akin to a John Hughes film, the two accidentally expedite that aforementioned unraveling madness, which throughout the course of the 90-minute film includes cryogenics, axe murders, zombies, and super-fast, creepy-crawly brain slugs from outer space.
Since its original release three decades ago, Night Of The Creeps has been cemented in the annals of film history as a genuine cult classic. Seamlessly unifying themes of horror, science fiction, and dark comedy, the film serves as a sort of homage to the golden age of exploitation and B-movie genres. Between the onscreen chemistry and likability of its characters, the hilariously witty dialogue, and the smart use of practical make-up and effects used for its disgustingly awesome splatstick sequences, Night Of The Creeps is a guaranteed 90 minutes of fun for any fan of the genre. It’s clever, adventurous, and it’s self-aware—all qualities I wholly appreciate in any genre, but when integrated within a sub-genre of horror, I’m all the more obliged.
If it weren’t for the strong performances of the main characters, Night Of The Creeps wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable or memorable. Perfectly cast, Jason Lively (half-brother to Blake), Steve Marshall (in his first and only notable role), and the always awesome Tom Atkins (The Fog, Creepshow, Maniac Cop) deliver perfect turns in each of their roles. Lively and Marshall’s Chris and J.C., respectively, are endlessly fun and feel natural within the chaos of the film, whereas Atkins’ Ray Cameron is an overly sarcastic, cranky, catchphrase-hurling bad-ass. The three come together to collectively create some of the film’s best dynamics.
Furthermore, as mentioned previously, one of my favorite aspects of any horror film during that era is the use of practical effects. You just can’t help but admire the time, effort, and skill that goes into creating these visual manipulations with puppetry and make-up work; movie magic seldom found in today’s CGI-encumbered features.
The final thing I want to expand on is the way Dekker pays tribute to some of the genre’s greatest minds. Not only in the previously noted homage presented structurally and visually, but Night Of The Creeps contains characters and places directly named after Roger Corman, David Cronenberg, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, Sam Raimi, and more. There’s nothing subtle about it, either, the way you might find in some films such as Shaun Of The Dead where such nods and references are mostly offered in a much more coy, ‘Easter egg’ sort of fashion. This is a straight-up love letter to the forefathers of horror, gore, and all things spooky.
Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to catch a 35mm screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco for Terror Tuesday. Seeing the movie on the big screen with a room full of people who clearly love it as much as I do made the experience all the more enjoyable. Night Of The Creeps has enough of a devoted following to have caused quite a stir for James Gunn upon the release of Slither in 2006, but the film is still criminally underrated and overlooked. I’ve watched it twice now this year, and along with The Monster Squad, it’ll certainly be one I plan to revisit during every Halloween season from here on out. I couldn’t recommend this film enough. If you love campy horror films, the best of John Hughes, and unforgettable storylines, Night Of The Creeps is a must watch. Thrill me!