If Fred Dekker’s Monster Squad was the realization of what it was like to be a kid obsessed with monsters, Night of the Creeps is what that obsession turns into as an adult. The thirst for some blood, violence, and utterly pointless nudity is what Creeps satisfies, while maintaining the charm of the ’50s sci-fi genre that starts the interest in the first place.
Creeps sets the tone it is going for immediately, with some wonderfully goofy, static-faced aliens romping through their ship firing lasers. They are trying to stop one of their own from launching an “experiment,” the closest you’ll get to an explanation for the mind-sucking space slugs. That is the only thing missing from Creeps, the scientist who is going to explain that these inevitably radioactive creatures are taking over bodies. He’s there, just fodder, killed off early and turned into a mindless zombie looking to spread these space slugs across the small college campus.
Creeps does not propel audiences into the ’80s though. It starts in the ’50s, with the perfect lighting scheme to replicate the low-budget classics of that era. It is even black and white, a great mood-setting piece even if it fails to explain why the slugs do not infect the town back then.
The film is infinitely quotable, loaded with undeniably classic lines. Tom Atkins plays a detective, answering the phone with, “Thrill me” every time. The best has to be the coroner, who while leaving the scene of a brutal murder states, “If we used a different stretcher for every piece, we’d be here all night.” Who needs gore when you have lines like that?
It is rare that a film so gleefully loves its source material. Character names are all derived from horror directors, the threat of mind-controlling creatures a multi-tiered reference, the small town setting a must, young kids being slaughtered a sure thing, and the inevitable conclusion where all of the slugs are brought to a single location a dead-on cliché.
Night of the Creeps does it all, even if it is a bit slow. The film never would have worked on a bigger budget, requiring the ingenuity of the effects, not realism or large scale. It gets the little things right, down the lighting inside the scientists lab during the murder investigation. Maybe it’s all an in-joke, but those who get it love it.
Night of the Creeps comes with an AVC encode that certainly carries some problems. The opening black and white footage suffers from some posterization, readily apparent on Johnny’s (Ken Heron) face at 9:54. The entirety of the sequence carries the problem, the various gray tones poorly separated, the same issue that plagued the Ray Harryhausen Collection on Blu-ray.
Once into the color footage, around 10:38, the first establishing shot of the campus is a bit muddy. Compression is fair, holding the grain structure with limited fault. Colors are highly saturated, primaries bold and bright against the rich black levels (occasionally leading to a hint of crush). Grain fluctuation is constant, but rarely out of control or distracting.
Chroma noise tends to creep in (no pun intended) sporadically, first noted against the kid’s faces at 21:00, a problem again noted at 1:06:04. Noise/compression is evident again on the coroner’s report around 45:09, while some banding is evident on the picture he holds a few seconds later. This is never a terrible distraction, just a minor one.
In general, this is a pleasing presentation, a bit soft and rife with facial detail. Tom Atkins has a coarse, rough face, and this disc captures that texture consistently, especially crisp at 56:13 during an intercut zoom/flashback. It’s not only Atkins either. The fraternity pledge scene at 17:23 is exceptional too. While it may not carry consistency, the pleasing image retains its low-budget roots, and certainly provides a satisfying image. The source contains almost no flaws to speak of other than the unavoidable issues with the credit titles which carry some notable dirt.
Sony delivers a DTS-HD 5.1 track, one that is surprisingly aggressive. The opening scene on the aliens ship, after the surround bleed from the score during the titles, carries a bit of rear speaker tracking. It lacks in terms of fidelity, but does convincingly move front to back although not with the best separation. The music here provides a bit of bass to add a little fullness, the only time the subwoofer comes into play, despite an explosion during the finale.
There is quite a bit of ambiance throughout, general insect noises filling the soundfield naturally. The first shots of the ’80s, complete with a loud party and music, creates convincing atmosphere in the surrounds. A great echo can be heard around 20:37 too, creating another layer of immersion.
Fidelity is a bit flat overall, although dialogue is a bit brighter than most films of the era. It’s all mixed well, the roar of a flamethrower kept in check with the music and characters yelling. A bit of stereo movement is also detected as cars pass by, although the best sequence occurs in the basement during the final scenes. The Creeps scatter about, placed all about the soundfield in a convincing manner, making it the highlight of the disc in terms of mixing.
A commentary from director Fred Dekker is followed by a second commentary comprised of cast members. Being that the main feature is a director’s cut, the original theatrical ending is also included. The director’s cut is the better choice. Seven deleted scenes run nearly eight minutes, followed by the highlight titled Thrill Me. This five-part, hour long documentary is wonderfully honest and in-depth, a must for fans.
Tom Atkins: A Man of Action is a 20-minute retrospective on the man’s career, including his small start. A pop-up trivia track is followed by trailers and typical Sony BD-Live support.