Wednesday, January 6, 2010

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS

For a couple of years there, back in the mid-80's, Fred Dekker looked like he was going to be the next big name in genre films. He had writing credits on a few decent B-movies, and then wrote & directed two great cult classics in a row: NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and THE MONSTER SQUAD. Both of them were smart, funny and full of obvious affection for the horror genre.

Unfortunately, neither one really set the box office on fire (SQUAD, in particular, was badly handled by its distributor, and pretty much flopped), and when his next film, the disappointing sequel, ROBOCOP 3, died in theaters, his career pretty much died with it.

Both CREEPS and SQUAD had strong fan followings, though, and their cults have only grown over the years, kept alive by aging VHS copies being endlessly replayed. A few years ago, Lionsgate released a beautiful, widescreen special edition DVD of THE MONSTER SQUAD, and I guess it must have sold pretty well, because now its delightful predecessor is coming to disc too, courtesy of Columbia.

A canister full of brain-eating space slugs crashes to Earth in 1958 near Corman University, coincidentally on the same night that an axe-murderer has escaped from a local insane asylum. Almost thirty years later, the legacy of that fateful night is unleashed, and only a small group of college students and a single hardbitten police detective (the always-awesome Tom Atkins) can save the world from frat boy zombies and alien-possessed household pets.

Tongue-in-cheek but not an outright spoof, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS deftly balances self-referential humor with teen horror thanks to a talented cast, surprisingly assured direction, and a smart, witty screenplay by Dekker. The special effects were state-of-the-art for ’86 and hold up remarkably well today. It really is a shame that Dekker’s career took such a professional dive after the Robocop sequel, because he really showed a lot of potential as a genre filmmaker.

Columbia/Tristar’s DVD features a rock-solid, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of the film, which restores the director’s originally intended ending. Audio is a crisp Dolby 5.1, and there are plenty of extra features. Dekker provides an informative commentary track, and there’s a second, fun commentary featuring the movie’s main cast. A five-part featurette covers the making of CREEPS from conception to completion, and covers the growth of its fandom on VHS and cable TV. There’s a fascinating on-screen interview with actor Tom Atkins, covering his entire career, and a slew of deleted scenes. Topping it all off is the original theatrical preview and a handful of trailers for other Columbia/Sony genre DVDs.

If you’re already a fan of this fun flick, then you’ll absolutely want to pick up the DVD. If you have yet to discover its many charms, and think you’d enjoy a quick trip back to the Eighties, then definitely check it out. Highly recommended.

BUY: Night of the Creeps