Welcome to today’s installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be talking to creators working in horror and share and recommend various pieces of underappreciated scary media-books, comics, movies, and television-to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
My parents were pretty relaxed when it came to horror movies. They let me rent just about anything I wanted, and figured if I gave myself nightmares, that would teach me a lesson and make me rent less jump scare laden entertainment. Outside of Gremlins, which my Mom forbade me to watch, they’d actually rent a ton of them FOR me, including Child’s Play, a flick the average mother should not be renting and then WATCHING with her son at age 9.
It was pretty cool to have a mom who liked the same schlocky horror dreck that I did, so when she suggested I track down a movie she watched on cable at some point, I immediately went to the local VHS spot and picked up Night of The Creeps, a movie that has a bit of an identity crisis the entire time, but ended up being one of my all time favorite cult classics.
Let’s give you a taste of what we’re dealing with here:
Seems pretty straight forward right? Classic 80’s slasher flick, undead frat guys, squirmy monsters, zombies, and Tom Atkins mustaching his face off. Wrong. This movie is actually 5 genres in one, all wrapped up in a little horror bow. It’s brilliant and terrible all at the same time.
When the movie opens, we first see aliens. No, I’m not kidding, it really does start in outer space. Some small grey misshapen creatures are chasing one of their own down a long space-ship hallway, firing blasts and trying to prevent the runner from jettisoning some sort of experimental creature into space. They fail, and the unknown experiment is shown tumbling through the blackness of space.
I know what you’re thinking now. Oh, I get it! It’s like Critters! Are there bad ass space bounty hunters who are going to chase this down and also adopt the image of 80’s hair metal rockers? Unfortunately, no – because the experiment is crashing to Earth in the 1950’s, not the 1980’s, and the movie shifts to black and white to give us a look at genre number two – escaped lunatic murdering co-eds mixed with a dash of body horror 1950’s creature feature. There’s a ax murderer, a cop who finds his estranged girlfriend dead, and a frat boy who ends up incubating the experimental monster in his brain, right before a fade to black.
If you paused the movie here, and looked at the box again – or rebooted the trailer, I know your confusion would be intense, but stick with me – we’re getting to the main story soon.
Fast forward to the 1980s and we meet our protagonist, Rusty from the European version of National Lampoon’s vacations, and J.C. his best friend who totally is in love with him, and is the best character in the movie. Chris (Rusty), is an incredibly lame college student who falls in love with a sorority girl at first sight, and then spends the rest of the movie trying to woo her by stealing a dead body, while also dealing with the perfect nickname – Spanky. Hey! Here we go! This is the 80’s horror bit right?
Close. This is actually genre 3 – 80’s teen sex comedy. There’s boobs, there’s Revenge of the Nerds style fratboys, incredible amounts of drinking, casual racism, and long lingering shots of what goes on in sorority hallways. Yes, there’s still some horror movie coming up, but it’s taking a long ass time to get to the goods.
To avoid spoilers, I’m going to taper off the description heavy remainder of this blatant attempt to convince you to watch it. Genre 4 – hardboiled cop investigates murders, his own demons, and tries to kill himself, steps in right around this time with Tom Atkins giving the most over the top performance of his entire career. I know that seems outrageous, but he answers the phone with “Thrill Me,” yells constantly, drinks like a fish, shoots nearly everything that moves, and has one of the greatest one liners in the history of horror cinema:
Finally, the 5th genre – zombie movie really takes over for the remainder of the flick. Tom Akins requisitions a flamethrower from the police station (!), the sorority girl love interest knows how to kick ass, and depending on if you see the directors cut or the original, you either get a jump scare ending or an amazing Tom Atkins final scene.
Body horror, outer space, gay love subplots, Fred Dekker a year before his magnum opus Monster Squad, an undead dog, and a resurrected ax murderer, this movie literally has it all. This is literally the only time I’m going to ask you to sound off in the comments if you’ve seen this insane bit of 80’s wonderment, and if you haven’t?