Sunday, November 1

Some quick thoughts on Night of the Creeps (1986) on Blu-ray


We all have them. Those horror movies from our youth that we only have the vaguest of memories of. They may not even be all that good, but we'll be damned if we can remember their titles or any other elements helpful in identification. Fred Dekker's Night of the Creeps was probably the one I fought most to nail down in my head. It was the one with a zombie with an axe in an alleyway and that's all I could ever recall. The Monster Squad seemed like it was on television every other weekend, yet I saw Creeps maybe twice. It wasn't until I bought a copy of the extremely popular dual version bootleg DVD-R that I discovered the scene again.

Like Dekker's The Monster Squad, Creeps is unadulterated fun and judging by the director's own thoughts it needn't be anything more. The story has a strange way of building that's akin to a steady hole in a dyke that's only noticed once you feel your socks getting wet. It doesn't seem like anything important is happening, but you're still enjoying the likable cast and zany goings-on.

Though at a certain point you suddenly realize much of the runtime has passed, much has actually occurred, and the climax is just around the bend. Much to the credit of Dekker, this subtle point is around the time Detective Cameron (Tom Atkins) recounts the story of his vigilante justice against and vacant lot burial of the axe murderer followed by that great scene of that very madman axing through wooden floorboards across town to the horror of the elderly homeowner. The film hits full stride here as the story's questions come together beautifully and then it's time for the undead dates to arrive. NotC's eighty eight minutes are utilized to precision with no excess fat as the characters keep colliding in small ways to progress its simple aims along and in this respect differing from the more child viewing-tailored The Monster Squad.

Then there's ATKINS. No, not the stupid diet, but the living legend. A Philly boy like Romero, Tom Atkins is one of those rare birds that revels in his contributions to horror despite possessing far more talent than his turns in the genre call for. Exactly the same reason why Vincent Price is also so beloved. In Creeps, the most potent moment of his life as a detective comes back to rotting flesh to haunt Atkins's Ray Cameron. It's a tough cop character the actor could play sleepwalking, but never once does he look bored and gets all the memorable lines while guzzling Jack and smoking twenty packs. There's a fun '50s vibe that runs through Creeps that's mostly tied to Cameron. From his old Mercury tank-with-wheels to vintage possessions in his home, the now weary detective's life seems to have stopped after that fateful night in '59. Dekker also has fun with the detective, like having a subtle nod to the character pausing to smell a pink rose at the conclusion and suddenly placing his trusty shotgun in his hands twice.

Night of the Creeps is a little '80s gem you can easily place with the likes of its sister film The Monster Squad, Return of the Living Dead, the Dekker-penned House, and Evil Dead 2. It's digital resurrection is richly deserved for all to finally enjoy at their leisure. Did I mention character actor god Dick Miller and Cannibal Holocaust alumni/porn star Robert Kerman also show up?

For years, the expensive HBO/Cannon VHS and even pricier Laserdisc was the only game in town on the collector's market. A dual theatrical/television bootleg DVD-R surfaced with the theatrical sourced from the LD and the television cut from the VHS with the alternate ending cribbed from a Sci-fi Channel broadcast. A 720p HD version made the rounds on Monsters HD (R.I.P.) and most recently On-Demand services like Lionsgate then released a special edition DVD of The Monster Squad that presumably sold well enough for a search for Dekker's other long absent cult classic.

Finally, Sony Home Entertainment has brought Night of the Creeps into the 21st century with a 1080p HD Blu-ray with all the trimmings. The MPEG-4 AVC high definition transfer isn't the strongest image I've seen from an '80s 1.85:1 academy flat picture, but its flaws are inherent to the source. General softness and select shots being slightly out-of-focus/nosier are the two biggest issues. Otherwise, grain is thankfully apparent, color is far richer than ever before, and textures on clothing look like you could reach out and feel them.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio is very front heavy and many times sounds a bit too good with any post-ADR obvious. Surprisingly; the hour long making-of, twenty minute cult film career spanning interview with Tom Atkins, the original theatrical "dog" ending, and original trailer are all presented in 1080p MPEG-2. The deleted scenes are presented in standard definition. I sampled the making-of and it appears very comprehensive, but the Atkins piece is just great. The actor is just as exuberant and tack sharp as ever sharing antidotes of his time with The Ninth Configuration, The Fog, Escape from New York, Creepshow, Bruiser, Night of the Creeps, and what he's up to now. This Director's Cut reflects the full theatrical version with the alternate television ending. This ending has a very slight degraded appearance compared to the rest.

If you're already a fan or a fan of '80s horror with a side of sci-fi and have a Blu-ray player it's worth picking up now. It's been a long time coming for this fun B-flick and the wealth of supplements will only increase your appreciation. If you don't want the Blu-ray, it's cool, buy the DVD instead but either way make sure this one takes its rightful place next to Horace, the bogus Frankenstein, and the limb re-joining Wolfman with nards in your collection soon.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Jayson Kennedy said...

* Stills taken from the boot DVD-R in case anyone was like "OMG ZE BLU-RAY SUCKS!" :P

Unknown said...

they released the score along with this release... i have not been able to track it down... it must be a special edition... either way this is one of my favorites... i just wish they could get the transfer correct....

KFelon said...

I just wanted to repost that I watched the DVD version for Halloween and it looked really good. The picture looked very clean upconverted and I was not disappointed with the DVD edition at all.

I enjoyed the film just as much as any other time I've seen it. It belongs in anyone's collection who has a soft spot for 80s horror.

Franco Macabro said...

Fun movie, agree about the fun 50s vibe the film has, thats just Dekker showing his influences. He even directed an episode or two of Tales from the Crypt.

Boy did they take their sweet time in releasing this one! I enjoyed the extras with Dekker talking all about how he put his heart and soul into these films that no one went to see cause of shitty marketing.

Ill be writing a review for it sometime this week, be on the look out for it! you dare tread upon the staircase?

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