Friday, July 12, 2019

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated (Director's Cut) 
Duration: 88 Minutes (Theatrical), 90 Minutes (Director's Cut) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Fred Dekker
Cast: Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, Tom Atkins

Director Fred Dekker's debut film Night of the Creeps (1986) is a fun throwback, even when it arrived in the cinemas in the 80's it was already a throwback to the sci-fi chillers from the 50's, deftly weaving together several genres, including a nod to George A. Romero's undead films. The film however starts off as a sci-fi flick on an alien ship with a renegade nude alien being chased by a pair of nude aliens armed with laser blasters. The renegade alien succeeds in launching some sort of experiment inside a canister from the alien ship, which then lands on Earth near a college campus in '59, where a pair of college kids on lover's lane discover it, with the guy being infected with a slug-like alien parasite, while the unlucky young lady is murdered by an ax-wielding lunatic.

The film then jumps ahead to the 80's on the local college campus during pledge week where likable losers Chris (Jason Lively, National Lampoon's European Vacation)) and J.C. (Steve Marshall) are at a party conversing about how hard it sucks to be unpopular. Here the film transforms into a bit of a campus-comedy, with the shy Chris crushing hard on attractive co-ed Cynthia (Jill Whitlow, Killer Klowns from Outer Space), who unfortunately for him is already dating the campus douchebag Brad (a.k.a. 'The Bradster') (Allan Kayser, from TV's Mama's Family).

The college losers try to fit in by performing fraternity prank involving stealing a corpse from the campus medical facility and dumping it on another fraternity's lawn, resulting in the pair ending up in a cryogenics lab where they unwittingly thaw a corpse that's been frozen since the 50's, and it turns out that it's infected with the alien slugs we saw at the start of the film.

Investigating the break-in at the lab is hard-boiled Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins, Halloween III: Season of the Witch) in what I consider to be his finest role ever, and as a die-hard fan of Halloween III that is saying something. The whiskey sipping, chain-smoking, suicidal detective is a fun nod to the Noir detectives of the thirties, a man haunted by his past who drives around in a cool vintage coup armed with disaffected wit and non-stop parade of quotable lines, including the iconic "thrill me", which never gets old. 

With the slugs now freed from their cryogenic prison they kill the tech at the lab before escaping and infecting more people on campus, creating alien-slug infested zombies, which as you can imagine really starts to become a problem for campus community. The film culminates with the slug-infected zombies laying siege on a sorority house, with the detective, Chris and Cynthia, armed with a flamethrower and a shotgun, fighting off the alien-infected zombies in a fun final showdown.   

The fun of this film, and of Dekker's follow-up Monster Squad, is that it manages to lovingly pay homage to multiple genres while at the same time having a bit of fun with them. A lot of characters here being named after horror icons, we have Romero, Carpenter, Raimi and such, a cliche that seemed fresh in '86 but has since been done to death, but I think this one did it first.  Carefully balancing comedy and a sci-fi horror, you've got the college humor, plus some cool splattery practical effects by way of animals being infected by the slithery parasites and multiple heads being shot, exploded and burned by flamethrowers! Not all the effects hold-up in the higher-resolution light of HD but their still fun nostalgic practical effects.  

The whole film is just a fun and loving homage to vintage sci-fi horror from yesteryear, it's not a film that did gangbusters in the cinema, but it went on to become a stone-cold cult-classic on home video over the years, and it only gets better with age,there's just never a bad time to watch Night of the Creeps. 

Audio/Video: The 2-disc Collector's Edition of Night of the Creeps (1986) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. This is the same HD master used for the 2009 release as Scream were not able to secure the rights to do a new scan of film, so thankfully that older master still looks solid, but nowhere near as good as a fresh 4K scan from the original film elements would have looked. That said, grain looks good but not very finely resolved, colors are solid and black levels are strong throughout. While it could look better there's not a lot to complain about. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA stereo or surround mixes, both keep the dialogue crisp and clean without any issues with hiss or distortion, and the Barry DeVorzon (The Warriors) score sounds great optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras on the the first disc, which contains the 88-min theatrical cut of the film, carries overs the previous supplements from the 2009 special edition Blu-ray, beginning with the excellent six-part making of retrospective that runs 61-min, loaded with interviews and clips, behind-the-scenes images, and detailing the production of the film on through to discussing it's legacy.  

The 20-min 'Man of Action' is an interview with eternal cool-dude Tom Atkins, discussing his early career in Pittsburgh, getting into acting because of the ladies and his career in general, and of course Night of the Creeps as well as Halloween III and Creepshow. There's also 7-min of deleted scenes plus a theatrical trailer for the film.

The second disc, containing the longer running director's cut, has all the new goodies produced exclusively for this release. While it's a bummer that Scream Factory couldn't get permission for a brand new scan of the film I think they've done right fans by stuffing this thing with cool extras, beginning with a a brand new interview with star Jason Lively, in 'Real Good Plan' the actor discusses auditioning for the film, shooting it, partying with the college kids, and the legacy of the film. 

There's also a new episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with host Sean Clark, exploring locations used in the film, and being joined by director Fred Dekker and actor Jason Lively a bit into it!

Actor Allan Kayser shows up for a 8-min interview in 'The Bradster' discussing his douche-nozzle character, getting into a few mishaps on set, not being liked by his co-stars, and having to wear uncomfortable white eye-lenses.  

In 'I Vote for that One' actor Ken Heron, who played the first slug-infested creep in the film, addresses his role, working with a young director Dekker, and what it was like working in the make-up FX that the role required. 

Character actor Vic Polizos shows up in 'Worst Coroner Ever', a 6-min discussion of his career, balancing a TV gig with shooting this film, and his love of Tom Atkins.

The 6-min 'Answering the Door' features actress Suzanne Snyder briefly discusses her role, relaying that she's not a horror fan, despite finding most of her success in the genre.

The last of the new extras is the 11-min 'Final Cut' with editor Michael N. Knue who met Dekker while editing House which the director wrote. He also discusses finding that special balance of horror and comedy in the edit and finding away to edit around some low-budget shortcomings of the film.

The director's cut also has a pair of archival audio commentaries from the 2009 Blu-ray, the first with director Fred Dekker which is moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, and a second with actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow. I thought both were solid and entertaining listens, Dekker gets into the nitty-gritty of making the film, including production troubles and issues with the studio. 

The 2-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, both are vintage illustrated artworks, one of which is also featured on the slipcover. The same artwork is featured on the discs themselves.   

Special Features:

Theatrical Version ·  Thrill Me!: The Making of NIGHT OF THE CREEPS – a five-part documentary on the making of the film featuring interviews with writer/director Fred Dekker, actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow, producer Charles Gordon, special makeup effects creator David B. Miller, Special Makeup Effects artists Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman and more! (61 min) 
- Tom Atkins: Man of Action – a look at the actor’s career (20 min) 
- Deleted Scenes (8 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 


Director’s Cut
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Fred Dekker
- Audio Commentary with actors Tom Atkins, Jason Lively, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
- NEW Horror’s Hallowed Grounds – a look at the film’s locations today with host Sean Clark, director Fred Dekker and actor Jason Lively (11 min) HD 
- NEW Real Good Plan – an interview with actor Jason Lively  (11 min) HD 
- NEW The Bradster- an interview with actor Alan Kayser (8 min) HD
- NEW I Vote For That One – an interview with actor Ken Heron (10 min) HD
- NEW Worst Coroner Ever – an interview with actor Vic Polizos (6 min) HD
- NEW Answering the Door – an interview with actress Suzanne Snyder (4 min) 
- NEW Final Cut – an interview with editor Michael N. Knue (11 min) 

Night of the Creeps (1986) has long been one of my favorite sci-fi horror comedy films from the 80's, it never gets old, and my love for it keeps growing with each new viewing, a true cult-classic that is riddled with satisfying Tom Atkins quotes. The new Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory has a solid A/V presentation, plus the archival and new supplemental material and packaging extras are a sweet bonus.