Release Date: August 22, 1986
Director: Fred Dekker
Starring: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Allan Kayser, Robert Kino
Favorite quote: “Screaming like banshees!” – Mr. Miner
The 80’s were an incredible time for schlocky, ultra-cheesy “horror” movies. I was in my teens during this decade, and many of my most loved memories involve campy-as-shit movies trying to horrify my jaded ass. Night of the Creeps was one of them.
My happiest memories of the 80’s and movies usually involve the latter half of the decade. We had TWO VHS decks at home, something almost never seen at the time. As a result, there was rampant piracy going on, both of rented VHS tapes and movies on cable TV, something else that was rare. I am not even ashamed of the practice now. It helped me get through puberty in fun and exciting ways!
You see, that era was also when I discovered how fun casual sex can be. On more than a couple of movie viewings with members of the opposite sex, we ended up practicing the predecessor to Netflix-and-Chill. I happily refer to that experience as “VHS-and-Undress.”
(I’m not even sure if that’s original or not. If not…DIBS!)
Whenever I had female company over – mom being absent, of course – and wanted to suggest a movie, I’d always whip out one of the aforementioned schlock-horror flicks that we copied onto blank tapes. We had tons of them because HBO seemed to only play schlock-horror movies after-hours, and Cinemax showed them when they weren’t trying to make my pituitary glands EXPLODE with their skin flicks. The cheesy horror flicks were fun to watch because of their campiness. They were scary enough that the young ladies I invited would inch closer, ready to jump on me.
(I know that sounds predatory, but believe me, I wasn’t a Chester. Everything that happened was consensual – well, except for the spilled beverages.)
My favorite of all the cheesy horror flicks was Night of the Creeps, a 1986 movie that contains what I believe to be my favorite quote of the decade:
“SCREAMING LIKE BANSHEES!”
Those words were hilariously (to me) uttered by Mr. Miner (Robert Kino), a janitor at fictional Corman University. It’s what happens before and after that makes up the crux of Night of the Creeps. But that quote will always echo in my head.
Corman University is the home to a genuine alien invasion that results from a pledge run. Chris Romero (Jason Lively) joins a fraternity in an effort to woo Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow), a woman he fell in love with at first site. The fraternity is lorded by Cynthia’s boyfriend, who tasks Chris and his friend, James Carpenter “J.C.” Hooper (Steve Marshall), with stealing a cadaver from the university’s medical center and leaving it at the steps of a nearby sorority house. They enter the medical center and find a secret room there. In the room, they find a frozen body. However, they flee when the body lunges for them.
That body is not just a random stiff. It dates back to 1959, when a strange alien canister lands on Earth. The body belongs to a young man who found the canister and has its contents – a slug-like creature – jump into his mouth. The creature is a brain parasite, which has the expected effects on the young man.
Back to the present time, the young man’s now-frozen and recently-reanimated body returns to the sorority house of a young lady he was dating at the time. There, his head splits open, unleashing several of the slug-like “creeps”. It’s here where the cheesiness and fun-horror ramp up.
The first thing I want to point out about Night of the Creeps is the names of the main characters. Do they seem familiar? Romero? Cronenberg? Carpenter? How about the name of the detective that responds to the medical center break-in, Ray Cameron (the AWESOME Tom Atkins)?
Director Fred Dekker wanted Night of the Creeps to be a homage to B-reel horror films of long ago. The characters were named after idols of the horror genre: George A. Romero, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, and what I figure to be James Cameron. It’s a loving, if hokey, tribute.
The FX crew for the movie also turned out to be pretty noteworthy. Chief among them are Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman. Thought they were absolute unknowns at the time, Berger and Kurtzman would move on to bigger things. Berger would be the on the FX crew for Day of the Dead and Bride of Re-Animator. Kurtzman would etch his own name with FX work in Evil Dead 2 and Phantasm II. Even Greg Nicotero, an uncredited FX worker, moved on from Night of the Creeps. He’s the reason why your butthole congeals with every viewing of the ankle-breaking scene in Misery.
Even without the pedigree and homage, Night of the Creeps is silly fun. When during interrogation, Cameron implants my favorite quote into the movie and into Mr. Miner’s head. Its subsequent reiteration by Mr. Miner absolutely slays me every time I hear it. The movie still slays me to this day.
During my latest viewing, my female companion was not interested in Netflix-and-Chill or VHS-and-Undress. It’s all good; I’ve matured since those days, and she was of similar maturity. We moved on to other movies and decided to enjoy the night sans coitus. We still laughed our asses off, and Night of the Creeps kicked everything off. Our laughter that night was loud.
“SCREAMING LIKE BANSHEES!”