Release Date(s)1986 (June 25, 2019)
Studio(s)Delphi V Productions/TriStar Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
“The good news is your date is here. The bad news is... he’s dead.”
Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps was quick to become a cult favorite after its lackluster theatrical release in 1986. Effectively mixing horror, comedy, sci-fi, and action, as well as paying homage to many genre movies before it, it wasn’t fully appreciated initially, but because of home video, it gained a whole new life.
After experimental alien slugs land on Earth and infect a man in the 1950s, he is cryogenically frozen and subsequently awakened accidentally by a couple of know-nothing college kids in 1986. Hopping from host to host, the slugs incubate inside students all over their campus the night of a formal dance. Hot on the trail is an unstable detective, who is haunted by the axe murder of his girlfriend from many years before. Packing shotguns and flame throwers, the detective and his college recruits take the alien slugs head on before more people are infected.
Night of the Creeps offers just about anything anybody could ask for in a genre film. Besides aliens and zombies, there’s also a myriad of characters that we genuinely care about. They may not be the deepest characters in the world, but they’re well-acted and we’re given plenty of time to get to know them before the mayhem begins. Among them are Jason Lively as Chris, a lovelorn but warm leading presence; Steve Marshall as J.C., Chris’ disabled but supportive and funny sidekick; Jill Whitlow as Cynthia, a mystified but well-meaning young woman with boyfriend problems; and Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron, a psychologically damaged but resolute cop with a score to settle. Atkins is also given some of the best one-liners in the film, among them one of the coolest ways to answer a phone call: “Thrill Me!”
The mixing of tones is never a problem. Everything feels natural and earned, including the loss of one of the characters early on which is genuinely heartfelt. The film is also colorful and filled with an array of special make-up effects to sell the idea of not just the alien slugs, but their infected hosts who appear, more or less, as zombies. And at a lean 88 minutes, the movie flies by at quite a clip, never overstaying its welcome but leaving you wanting more.
Even though Night of the Creeps has been released on Blu-ray before, both the Theatrical and Director’s Cuts had yet to be included together, making this Collector's Edition release a first. Both presentations appear to be sourced from the original transfer done in 2009. Fine detail doesn’t peak quite as much as it would with a fresh scan, not to mention carry a more solid grain structure, but it looks good nonetheless. Everything appears colorful, showing off a variety of hues, including the purple lighting of the cryogenic lab and the green tones of the Beta Epsilon fraternity house. Black levels are decent, despite crush in the film’s black-and-white 1950s opening, while contrast allows for enough clarity without ever looking blown-out or muddled. It’s also stable with no major damage leftover.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. Both tracks offer similar experiences with effective uses of sound effects, including the slithery sounds of the alien slugs as they scurry from place to place. The 5.1 track opens things up a bit, giving the music and score further room to breathe in, as well as allowing ambient activity to immerse the listener a bit more. Dialogue exchanges are always clear and there are no issues involving hiss, crackle, clipping, or distortion.
This release also features a nice bevy of bonus material as well. On Disc One, which contains the Theatrical Cut, there’s the Thrill Me! – The Making of Night of the Creeps documentary, presented in 5 separate parts: Birth of the Creeps (11 minutes), Cast of the Creeps (16 minutes), Creating the Creeps (11 minutes), Escape of the Creeps (12 minutes), and Legend of the Creeps (11 minutes). These feature interviews with writer/director Fred Dekker, producer Charles Gordon, actors Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, make-up effects creators David B. Miller, Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and composer Barry De Vorzon. Also included is Tom Atkins – Man of Action, a 20-minute interview with the actor about his career before, during, and after working on Night of the Creeps; 7 deleted scenes taken from the TV version of the film, which are more like extensions than full scenes; and the original theatrical trailer, presented in HD.
On Disc Two, which features the Director’s Cut, there’s an audio commentary with Fred Dekker, moderated by Michael Felsher; another audio commentary with actors Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins, and Jason Lively; Real Good Plan, a new 11-minute interview with Jason Lively; The Bradster, a new 8-minute interview with actor Alan Kayser; I Vote For That One, a new 10-minute interview with actor Ken Heron; Worst Coroner Ever, a new 7-minute interview with actor Vic Polizos; Answering the Door, a new 4-minute interview with actress Suzanne Snyder; Final Cut, a new 11-minute interview with editor Michael N. Knue; and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, a new 11-minute look at the filming locations with host Sean Clark, Fred Dekker, and Jason Lively. Missing from previous releases is a trivia subtitle trick. Not included from a couple of DVD and Blu-ray releases from overseas is an additional 32-minute interview with Fred Dekker. There’s also a TV spot for the film bouncing around on Youtube as well.
All of the new interviews, especially the one featuring Michael N. Knue, offer plenty of additional information from the cast and crew that we don’t hear much from in the other extras, if at all. The two audio commentaries are also excellent. Fred Dekker offers a variety of behind-the-scenes info, naturally conversing with Michael Felsher rather than being pumped for anecdotes, while the cast commentary is incredibly lively as they really enjoy watching the film together. The documentary, which was included on the original DVD release, is also excellent. It discusses the genesis of the project, the sordid aftermath of its original theatrical release, and its cult rediscovery by horror fans. It’s a dynamite set of extras, to say the least.
While The Monster Squad may have the more popular edge, and is actually a bit more mature as a piece of filmmaking, Night of the Creeps is an entertaining romp in its own right with great performances, likable characters, and a sizeable chunk of horror comedy goodness. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray re-release of the film tops its predecessor with a decent A/V presentation and a boatload of highly enjoyable bonus content.
– Tim Salmons