Growing up in the ’80s and ’90s was the best time to be a kid in my opinion. We had our share of cartoons, TGIF, video games, arcades, toys, malls, and movies. It was a simple time for a lot of us, a fond memory of things we didn’t think twice about until later when they were over. Growing up at that time gave me a chance to fully enjoy the best decade for horror movies one could imagine.
For me as a kid, watching Saturday morning cartoons was the best, but sometimes I was lucky enough to get a marathon of afternoon horror movies. My teacher for introducing me to this new world of horror was none other than Commander USA’s Groovie Movies, which was where I first saw Night of the Creeps. That film forever changed my life. Let’s celebrate the Fred Dekker cult classic, which turns 35 years old this month.
By entering humans through their mouths, alien brain parasites turn their hosts into mindless zombies. College students take it upon themselves to fight against them.
This is the first film written and directed by Fred Dekker (Monster Squad 1987), and it showcases his love for the genre past and present, revisiting familiar themes that he and so many others loved with the classic ’50s horror feel to the ’80s sci-fi and zombie touch.
In the first scene, there is a beautiful one-shot sequence giving us the outlook of the area. This opening sequence does feel like an old ’50s horror movie, and it shows us quickly that everything is going to get bloody pretty much right away. This is followed by current times—the ’80s—where we continue the story on a college campus. Night of the Creeps is a love letter to horror movies, right down to the use of iconic directors’ names being used for many of the characters like Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins: The Fog 1980), Chris Romero (Jason Lively: National Lampoon’s European Vacation 1985), Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow: Mask 1985), J.C. Hooper (Steve Marshall: 21 Jump Street 1987), Detective Landis (Wally Taylor: Rocky III 1983), Sergeant Raimi (Bruce Solomon: Foul Play 1978), Office Craven (Jay Arlen Jones: Eight Legged Freaks! 2002), and Officer Bava (Elizabeth Alda: The Four Seasons TV series).
These characters also show us that the heroes aren’t always muscle-bound heroes or runway models. They’re everyday, run-of-the-mill people like you and me, and we can relate to them. It was great to be represented like that growing up. They connected to us, and Fred did a fantastic job writing them, like when they argued with each other or when J.C. explains why he is the way he is. It gave me hope knowing I wasn’t a loser.
Of course, there are fans of Night of the Creeps, but for me, the film resonates as this capsule of a forgotten time where the villains are not only alien slugs that burrow into humans and turn them into zombies, but they’re also living in the next door college frat house.
Night of the Creeps is listed as a horror comedy, but Fred didn’t set out to make a kooky college romp filled with over-the-top jokes. He wanted to make a darkly humorous horror movie with his friends showing the audience the trials and tribulations of life. We try so hard to fit in, and we want to be accepted as being another empty shell of a person who will one day end up dead like everyone else. Night of the Creeps showed me that life is meant to be fun, scary, and even a thrill ride with obstacles we must all tackle. I remember after seeing this movie, it just stayed with me. I knew I had to watch it again.
Of course, I had it on VHS tape and eventually found bootleg DVDs of the official release where it sits proudly on my shelf next to a Fred Atkins action figure. After watching Night of the Creeps, I began to fall in love with the older films and appreciate what they gave us loving horror-loving hosts to talk about. It also cemented my love for ’80s movies and their gross-out, over-the-top kills done with amazing FX. The closest we’ll ever get to a remake of Night of the Creeps is James Gunn’s Slither (read our retro review here), which never bothered me as I’m a fan of the director’s work. He’s versatile in mixing humor, emotion, and action in his films. It also means that fans of Slither would eventually watch Night of the Creeps and the cycle will start over again. I hope so, because people should see this movie and appreciate what it was going for: a love letter to horror movies from a fan. Thank you, Fred Dekker, for giving me something to believe in.