Thursday, October 26, 2017

Zombie Flicks: Night of the Creeps (1986)

Believe it or not, this is one of my earliest contemporary horror movie memories and I mean early. I couldn't have been more than four or five years old when my cousin, Mikey, who's the same age as me, brought the VHS of this (I don't know how he got it but I'm assuming someone older in his family must have rented it) over to our grandmother's house one day and put it on when no one was looking. He told me of the movie's title and, even at that age, that in and of itself left an impression upon my brain and I never forgot it, nor did I the one scene of it that I saw: when one of the sorority sisters picks up her cat at the door, only to look at its face and see that it's undead. While the details of its face didn't hold, the overall look and feel of it did very much and, needless to say, that was pretty disturbing to see at that age. Aside from the VHS box cover (the image you see here), which I saw at our town's video rental store, along with those of numerous other 70's and 80's horror movies, and a time when I actually saw the tail end of the version with Fred Dekker's preferred ending on Sci-Fi Channel, not knowing what it was, that was all I ever saw of Night of the Creeps until my very late teens, specifically when I was graduating high school and about to move on to college. Around that time, HBO was showing it here and there and I caught some glimpses of it, but I didn't really put it together as being the same movie that I saw when I was so little, despite the title, until one night in the summer of 2005 when I watched it from around the middle all the way to the end. At that time, I thought some parts of it were bad and kind of lame but I still enjoyed it for what it was, enough to where I decided that I wouldn't mind owning it. Of course, I soon learned that it hadn't been released on DVD at that time but, as the years went by and I started listening to a horror podcast hosted by a couple of guys who were big fans of the film, as well as coming to understand from other films that the style and parts of the movie I thought were bad were intentionally over-the-top and kind of corny, I began to realize that it was indeed a good little flick and was quite excited when I learned that it was finally coming to DVD in 2009. In fact, it was while coming back from a trip to Pigeon Forge in the Smoky Mountains for my very first horror convention that I stopped off in Chattanooga and picked it up at an FYE on the very day it came out. Looking at it now, it may not be a major classic or anything groundbreaking but, for what it is, which is an entertaining 80's horror romp and nice throwback to old B-movies, you could certainly do a lot worse.

Onboard an extraterrestrial spacecraft, two small aliens attempt to stop a third one from sending a dangerous experiment off the ship but fail, as the canister he was carrying is ejected out into deep space. On Earth, the year is 1959 and Sorority Row in the small town of Crestridge is bustling with college kids. One student picks up his date at a sorority and they head out to a lover's lane spot, when a shooting star falls to Earth not too far from them. While investigating, the man walks into the woods to find the crashed canister, which is filled with writhing, slug-like creatures, one of which breaks out and jumps into his mouth; elsewhere, his date, while waiting for him in the car, falls prey to an escaped, axe-wielding mental patient. 27 years later, in 1986, it's Pledge Week at Corman University, but student Chris Romero, as he often is, is depressed and pining for his old high school flame, who broke up with him. He then spots a lovely sorority girl, Cynthia "Cindy" Cronenberg, and decides that, in order to get her to notice him, he needs to join the Beta Epsilon fraternity. In attempting to do so, he and his disabled best buddy, J.C. Hooper, are tasked with stealing a corpse and placing it on the front steps of the Phi Omega Gamma house as part of their pledge. The two head to the university med center and, while searching, find a technologically advanced room where a body is being kept in suspended animation via cryogenics. They attempt to steal this cadaver as part of the prank but when it seems to come to life while they're moving it, they freak out and run back to their dorm. Some time later, Ray Cameron, a jaded, cynical, and unstable police detective, is called to the laboratory when he gets a report that two bodies were found there but, when he arrives, he learns that one of the bodies has gone missing. The body, which happens to be the boy who found the alien canister back in 1959, makes its way to the Kappa Delta sorority and climbs up to Cindy's window, where she watches its head split open and more of the black, slug creatures spew out and scatter across the grounds. The next day, after being confronted by the Betas, who believe they were responsible, Chris and J.C. are questioned by Cameron, as a janitor saw them running out of the med center, and they admit to breaking in but not to taking the corpse to the sorority. That night, the body of a lad technician that was found dead at the med center walks out of the morgue and infects the janitor with the slugs, and the same thing happens to one of the sorority sister's dead cat. Cindy confides in Chris and J.C. about the strange things she's seen and heard, which brings her and Chris closer together, although he doesn't really believe her. However, he soon has no choice but to believe, as J.C. ends up getting infected, as does the corpse of the killer from 1959, culminating in a night of horror when the slug creatures infect a bus full of fraternity brothers who are off to a formal, turning them into murderous zombies that descend upon the sorority.

As I said back when I reviewed RoboCop 3 (which I, controversially, do enjoy), Fred Dekker is a pretty talented writer and director who's had probably the worst luck imaginable throughout his career, as he hasn't directed anything since the early 90's and only has three feature directorial credits in total (four if you count the episode of Tales from the Crypt he did). As far as debut movies go, I've seen far worse than Night of the Creeps and throughout his writing and directing, Dekker shows a genuine love for horror and monster flicks, particularly old B-movies, combining them to make a film that, while chiefly a zombie movie, is also an alien creature feature with sprinkles of the slasher movie added to it as well. Sometimes, he does go a little overboard with it, such as with so many of the characters having the same last names as well-known horror and sci-fi directors, akin to what Joe Dante did in The Howling (only here, it's more egregious), and lines like, "What is this? A homicide, or a bad B-movie?", and, "I personally would rather have my brains invaded by creatures from space than pledge a fraternity," which are a tad too on the nose, but there's such a sincerity and affection to it all that I can overlook it and enjoy the film. Unfortunately, a lot of other people apparently couldn't, as the movie didn't do anything when it was released in 1986 and reviews at the time weren't too kind either. The same thing happened the following year with The Monster Squad and then, when RoboCop 3 bombed as bad as it did in 1993, after sitting on the shelf for two years, it was three strikes and you're out as far as Dekker's directing career was concerned. He has continued to work as a writer and producer, most notably on Star Trek: Enterprise, and has written the screenplay for The Predator along with the director, Shane Black, who's also his friend and old college buddy, but I don't see him getting the chance to direct again and I also have a feeling that he just might not want to try again after all the times he's been burned.

The acting in this film isn't always the greatest but it doesn't keep the main characters from being likable in their own ways, including Chris Romero (Jason Lively). Even though he's a mopey, fairly whiny, depressed sack of crap for most of the movie, unable to get over his old high school flame and acting like the whole world is against him and his life just sucks all-around, he never goes so far with it that you want him to die, despite falling for the lovely Cynthia "Cindy" Cronenberg the moment he lays eyes on her, which is rather shallow, and instead of actually going up and talking to her like any normal person would, and as J.C. insists he do, deciding he needs to join a fraternity in order to get her to notice him. This leads to him and J.C. getting roped into playing a morbid prank on one of the other fraternities as part of their pledge, which they chicken out of doing when the "corpse" they try to use basically comes back to life as they're dragging it out of the med center, and they also unknowingly unleash the alien creatures on the unsuspecting campus in the process. When Chris continues to whine and moan about the situation after they've gone back to their dorm, J.C. finally has enough and gives him a real verbal lashing that makes him realize how unlikable he's been acting lately, as well as that girls would like him if he wouldn't be the way that he is. That's another thing: in spite of their constant arguing, Chris and J.C. are real buddies, as seen when Chris comes to J.C.'s aid after Brad kicks his crutches out from underneath him, as well as just from their general joking and ribbing banter they have between each other. And when they're interrogated by the police about what happened with the corpse the night before, Chris decides to do the right thing and confess that they did sneak into the med center and mess with the corpse, but also tells the truth and denies that they took it to the sorority. Things start looking up for Chris afterward when Cynthia comes to him to confide in him and J.C. about the weird things that have been going on lately, and while he doesn't believe her claims about zombies and slug creatures coming out of their heads, it acts as an ice-breaker for the two of them and they become close, with her asking him to the formal the following night. Despite Detective Cameron's uncomfortable confession to him that he killed the murderer who attacked his girl back in 1959 and buried his body behind the sorority, Chris is all set for the formal the next day, when he finds a tape recording from J.C. telling him that one of the slugs infected him and that he killed himself, but not before letting him know that they can be killed by fire. As devastated as he is by this, as well as finding J.C.'s body in the basement, Chris goes to Cameron, tells him what's happened, and the two of them load up and head to the sorority to fend off the zombies, with Chris and Cynthia teaming up to take care of most of them, ultimately surviving the ordeal and truly getting together afterward.

I've had the pleasure of meeting a good chunk of the movie's main cast and none of them was more friendly and outgoing than Steve Marshall, who was just as likable as his character, J.C. Hooper (the J.C. stands for "James Carpenter"). Unlike Chris, J.C. is an absolutely gregarious wise-cracker who doesn't let his disability and having to use crutches stand in the way. He's constantly trying to snap Chris out of his funk in any way he can, including employing some tough love and giving him a kick in the behind when he needs it, one because his mood is depressing for him to be around but for another, much deeper reason, as he describes in his rant to him after the failed prank: "Look, every single day, I put up with your moaning about what's-her-name and how you wish you could fall in love again, but you're too chickenshit to do anything about it. And then this Cynthia girl comes along, Dream Girl 2001, and I say to myself, 'What the hell? I'm sure as hell never gonna get laid, so I may as well help out my best friend,' right? You say, 'J.C., help. We gotta join the fraternity so she'll give me the time of day.' I say, 'What the hell? You gotta do what you gotta do.' And what do I do? I bust my ass to help you, and you get chickenshit again. And I push and I push and I don't give up, and why? Why? You don't even know. You don't even care. Because it's important to me that you're happy. Is that so crazy? And if we gotta act like jerks and get in trouble in order to do that, then what the hell? I mean, it's better than acting like jerks for no reason, right? So, yeah, everything is a joke. It's hilarious. Because if you take it seriously, you just get depressed all the time, like you are!" After the argument and everything's calmed down, he adds, "If you weren't such an asshole, even girls might like you." Yeah, like he said, J.C. doesn't take anything seriously, including being confronted by the Betas after the corpse ended up at the sorority, actually standing up to the douchey Brad about it (he gets his crutches knocked out from under him for his trouble but you have to admire his guts), and being questioned by the police about what happened, constantly making jokes throughout the interrogation. He definitely doesn't believe Cindy's claims about zombies, including an undead cat, but when he sees that it's bringing her and Chris together, he excuses himself to go use the restroom so they can have some alone time, cheering his friend on, even though he thinks Cindy is whacked. Unfortunately, it ends up sealing his doom, as he becomes a host for one of the slugs, and he leaves behind a tape recording for Chris, telling him how the creatures work, what kills them, and, to sign off, says, "I love you. Good luck with Cynthia." Granted, the notion of how the tape got up to their room if J.C. recorded killing himself in the basement is a big plothole, one that even Fred Dekker owns up to, but it works for what it is.

Of the three main college students in the cast, Cynthia Cronenberg, otherwise known as Cindy (Jill Whitlow, who's an absolute sweetheart), has probably the least amount of substance to her character but it doesn't matter, as she's just as likable as Chris and J.C. While she doesn't seem that sure about Chris when J.C. tries to find out about her for him, she ultimately proves to be a very sweet and decent girl, breaking up with her boyfriend, Brad, the leader of the Beta Epsilon fraternity, when she learns of the prank he put them up to and especially after he cruelly kicks J.C.'s crutches out from underneath him. Truth be told, she didn't seem to be that into Brad before, but that pushed her over the edge (I love the creative way she gives him the finger after he does it) and she's continually harassed by him for it afterward. What's more, she's initially the only one to have an encounter with one of the "creeps" and live to tell about it, specifically to Chris and J.C. While neither of them believe her, it's enough to bring her and Chris together and she decides to ask him to the formal the next night. This reminds me: Cindy is a very lovely girl, especially so in the beautiful white dress she put on for the formal during the climax, and while she's initially shell-shocked and horrified when the creeps descend on the sorority, particularly after Brad turned out to be one, she gets over it and helps Chris in taking them out, using the flamethrower to blast the slugs when he blows them out of the zombies' heads. And like I said before, the two of them end up surviving the ordeal and officially get together... that is, depending on which ending you see but we'll talk about that soon enough.

I must confess, when I saw a good chunk of Night of the Creeps for the first time in 2005, I thought Tom Atkins' acting was pretty bad. When he said the line, "Zombies, exploding heads, creepy-crawlies... and a date for the formal. This is classic, Spanky," I thought, "God, this guy is really cheesy." His performance as Detective Ray Cameron was what I meant when I said came to realize that some aspects of the movie that I originally thought were bad I later understood were meant to be that way and not to be taken seriously (for God's sake, the first time you see Atkins, he's sitting on a beach in an all-white suit and tie, with dark sunglasses, sipping the juice out of a coconut). Now that I get that, I can enjoy Cameron for what he's meant to be: the archetype of a hard-boiled cop who's come to be very cynical and continues doing his job because it's the only thing he knows how. He's snarky, sarcastic, and doesn't suffer fools or put up with incompetence, and he's absolutely awesome for it. It's small wonder why Atkins has said that this is his favorite role, as he has so much cool stuff to play and say. Cameron is not only the most memorable character in the movie by far but the same goes for his one-liners: when he's told the other body at the first crime scene has disappeared, he responds, "What, did he have a date?"; when he's told the one body at the scene is a grad student who was meant to work at the lab that evening, he comments, "Looks like he worked a little too hard, huh?"; "It's Miller time!"; "I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here," and when asked what the bad news, "They're dead,"; and, of course, "Thrill me." You have that, plus other things like his referring to Chris and J.C. as Spanky and Alfalfa, his irritation at being asked if he is Detective Cameron, responding with lines like, "No, Bozo the clown," and his genuine insanity, which gets worse as the film's events progress.

That's the main thing about Cameron: despite his air of coolness and cynicism, he's actually a pretty unstable person, stemming from what happened to him in 1959. You see him in the black-and-white opening, when he's a young cop (Dave Alan Johnson) and comes across his ex-girlfriend in the car with another guy. Said girl is the one who falls victim to the escaped lunatic at the end of this section and, in a very uncomfortable conversation between him and Chris (at some point, he starts ignoring what Chris is saying and continues talking), you learn that Cameron was the one who found her butchered corpse and tracked down and killed the murderer in an act of revenge. He even went as far as to bury his body in a vacant lot behind his girlfriend's sorority, where the house mother's cottage is now, and he's been haunted by it ever since. He has nightmares about it and, when the missing corpse is found by the sorority with a split in its face, Cameron fears that the psycho has somehow come back. His perplexity grows as more weird things happen, and when the psycho's corpse is infected with the slugs and becomes an axe-wielding zombie that kills the sorority house mother, Cameron is the one who comes face-to-face with it along with the other cops. When he blows its head open and the slugs rain everywhere and scurry off, he really loses it. The next time we see him, he's casually sitting on his couch in his apartment, seemingly doing nothing, but it becomes apparent that's not the case when he has to rip duct tape off of the edges of the door in order to answer it, and when he leaves with Chris to deal with the creeps, you realize that he turned on the gas in the kitchen stove and was waiting to die from it as it filled up the apartment! In fact, it looked he was preparing to flick a lighter and blow himself up at one point! His mental stability is so bad by this point that he threatens the police armorer with his 12-gauge shotgun in order to get a flamethrower, and when he's battling the creeps, he shows very little emotion or signs of taking it as seriously as he should... until he sees a class picture on the wall that includes his old sweetheart and he goes completely berserk, shooting a bunch of creeps in quick succession. Ultimately, all of the slugs gather down in the basement and Cameron, since he was going to commit suicide anyway, decides to sacrifice himself by blowing the place up and killing them all. But, the problem then is that, in both versions of the ending, it turns out he wasn't successful, especially in Fred Dekker's preferred ending, where you see that got zombified and the slugs break out of his corpse and slither into the local cemetery.

After those four, the only other person who you could really call a character is Brad (Allan J. Kayser, aka Bubba from Mama's Family), the douchebag head of the Beta Epsilon fraternity and Cindy's initial boyfriend. There really is nothing more to him other than he's a selfish, possessive asshole who has no intention of letting Chris and J.C. join the fraternity and puts them through the prank with the corpse for his own sick amusement. But you really see what a dick he is when, after J.C. confronts him about their having nothing to do with the corpse showing up at the Kappa Delta sorority and telling him to back off, he kicks the guy's crutches out from underneath him and sneers, "Sorry, dorks. Don't take it personally." This act of needless cruelty makes Cindy decide that she wants nothing to do with him and she breaks up with him, something that Brad can't accept. He calls her that night, trying to charm her into coming back to him, but loses his temper and starts yelling at her when she rebuffs him, and the night of the formal, he gets drunk and paces outside the sorority, calling Cindy a bitch and throwing the bottle on the grass. That's when the dead house mother's zombified dog infects him with a slug and he later almost does the same to Cindy when she comes outside to try to break up with him in a nicer way. You'd think she'd take one look at his dead face and realize there's something not right about him but nope, she comes close to almost getting slugged before Chris and Cameron arrive in time to save her (the girl who answered the door for him didn't notice either but she came across as rather clueless as a whole, whereas Cindy's supposed to be level-headed). After they blow his head up and fry the slugs that spew out, Chris can't help but throw out this zinger, as sick as it is: "Sorry, Brad. Don't take it personally." The guy was a massive douche, anyway, so who cares really?

A few of the other characters are notable mainly for the horror directors they're named after, such as Cameron's partner, Detective Landis (Wally Taylor), who acts as something of a straight-man to his over-the-top sarcasm and lunacy (I sometimes wonder if he was the partner Cameron mentioned who found his ex-girlfriend's date in the nearby woods back in 1959, as he's the only one who speaks to him about what happened and tries to get him to stop living in the past); Sgt. Raimi (Bruce Solomon), the one who calls Cameron to the med center after the bodies are discovered and whose incompetency in securing the scene severely annoys the detective; Pam Craven (Alice Cadogan), Cameron's aforementioned high school sweetheart, whose grisly murder and the aftermath of it continue to haunt him, and who's portrayed as being somewhat vapid and slutty; and Mr. Miner (Robert Kino), the Asian janitor who saw Chris and J.C. running out of the med center, as he says, "At 40 miles an hour, screaming like banshees," which continuously tickles him through his limited screentime. Some other characters who don't have much to them but are still memorable for one reason or another include Jake the coroner (Vic Polizos), who has a rather morbid sense of humor about his work and is often eating while doing it; Johnny (Ken Heron), Pam's date in the 50's who's characterized as the typical 50's teenager, who becomes the first host for the alien slugs, and proceeds to spread them across the campus when he's released from his freezing chamber; Karen (June Harris), the sorority girl who gets the shock of her life when her beloved cat shows up at the back door, undead, and who inexplicably becomes a creep herself during the climax; the intern working as a lab technician (David Paymer) at the med center who's constantly forgetting the code to the cryogenics room and who becomes a creep himself after an encounter with the resurrected Johnny; Steve (David Oliver), this typical dumb jock with one, long eyebrow who's talking with Cindy when J.C. tricks him into leaving for a second so he can learn her name; the uptight-looking house mother (Evelyne Smith) of the Kappa Delta sorority whose watching of Plan 9 from Outer Space is ruined by the resurrected axe-murderer smashing up through the floor and hacking her to death and whose dog becomes a carrier for many of the slugs; and Lisa (Suzanne Snyder), this rather dumb blonde who says, "I'm so sure," a lot and is the oblivious person who opens the door for the zombified Brad. Also, Shane Black is apparent in here somewhere as one of the cops at the police station, as is makeup artist Greg Nicotero as an extra (his future partners, Bob Kurtzman and Howard Berger worked on some of the makeup effects and also play a couple of the zombified Betas during the climax), and Cannibal Holocaust actor Robert Kerman as this patrolman who very nearly gets axed by the resurrected murderer.

Finally, you have an appearance by good old Dick Miller as Walt, the police armorer who Cameron has to threaten in order to make him give him a flamethrower. He's only in this one short scene but it's always nice to see him in a movie, doing his usual quick-witted, fast-talking shtick, and plus, his presence adds to the notion that Fred Dekker wanted of this being a B-movie. You don't see what became of him after Cameron pointed his 12-gauge at him when he reluctant to let him borrow the flamethrower without the proper paperwork but I'm really hoping that he didn't meet the same fate that he did in The Terminator when he tried to keep Arnold from loading that gun. Incidentally, if you look closely at his name tag, you'll notice that his last name is Paisley, as in Walter Paisley, the name of the character he played in Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood, as well as in two of Joe Dante's first movies, Hollywood Boulevard and The Howling (just think if this is really the same character in all of those movies; this guy sure has seen and done a lot, hasn't he?)

Like I said, when you break it down, Night of the Creeps is a melting pot of different types of horror and sci-fi sub-genres, particularly of 50's B-movies. Not only is the general plot, alien slug-like creatures that invade your brain and turn you into a zombie, something you could've easily seen Roger Corman doing back in the day, but so is the opening. The little aliens you see running around the spaceship are right out of a low-budget sci-fi movie around that time, which is to say nothing of the first sequence on Earth, which is set in the 50's. It's black-and-white (which Dekker wanted to shoot the entire film in), you have some of the most typical 50's-style teenagers imaginable in the way they dress and talk, high school romance songs from that era playing on the soundtrack, and a situation that is straight out of the opening of The Blob, with a couple parked in a convertible, in a lover's lane type spot, when they see something akin to a meteorite crash nearby and they go to check it out. What's more, the way Creeps is spelled in the actual title is very similar to the font from the old Tales from the Crypt comics and Plan 9 from Outer Space, besides being seen playing on a TV later on, is mentioned by someone here. Once the story switches to 1986, it becomes more in line with the horror flicks and creature features of that time, albeit still retaining that 50's B-movie feel throughout, mainly in the form of Detective Cameron, as well as in the design of the room in the med center where Johnny's body is kept. Obviously, since we're dealing with zombies for the most part here, allusions to the films of George Romero, right down to head-shots being part of the way to kill them, are a given, and there's also a teeny bit of the slasher genre to be found as well, with the jump-scares, young people as the leads, some shots of female nudity and the stuff with the resurrected axe-murderer (although the film isn't nearly as gory as its peers). Plus, since the alien slugs can only be killed by fire and they use flamethrowers to do during the climax, it makes me think of John Carpenter's The Thing, the interior of the alien spaceship is, I'm sure, meant to bring to mind the Nostromo from Alien (also, the cat who ends up becoming zombified is named Gordon, after Gordon Carroll, one of the producers of Alien), and, like I said, Dick Miller being someone who supplies weapons reminds me of The Terminator, which itself was a low-budget sci-fi/horror flick, albeit one that was more sophisticated than many of its contemporaries. Dekker even managed to put in a reference to Jaws in Cameron's first appearance, when you see him sitting on a beach, he sees something in the shallows, and people walking back and forth in front of the camera act as transitions from him to his POV. In short, this is one of those movies that's of its time but still honors what came before.

Make no mistake, though, in spite of all its allusions to the past, this is most definitely an 80's movie. The clothing, the hairstyles, the decor, the electronic music, even some of the tropes (the scenes inside the fraternities and sororities and that montage of everybody getting ready for the formal bring to mind the teen/college comedies of the day), it all screams 1986. It's also a very well-made movie, as the cinematography by Robert C. New is very crisp (both in the black-and-white opening and the colorized remainder), the color pallet rich, and the art direction is truly excellent. Speaking of which, these sets are very lovely and quite memorable in their design, such as the neon-lit interior of the Beta Epsilon, the nice and feminine-looking Kappa Delta, Cameron's lived-in and kind of crappy apartment, the claustrophobic, steam-spewing, pipe-lined hallways of the alien spaceship, and the room where Johnny's body is kept in cryo-stasis, which is a very advanced control room with a distinct purple color to the lighting, which is similar to the main color palette Frank Henenlotter would give Frankenhooker several years later. Along with that, you have the realistic enough police station, armory, morgue, dorm rooms, and the restroom where J.C. gets slugged (the graffiti on the wall of the stall is a nice touch), and they're all brought together by some very effective uses of real locations in California, including some real university campuses. Going to the cinematography, while there's not a lot of camerawork that stands out, some examples that do are in the reference to Jaws I mentioned above, a tight push-in to Cameron at the window when he says his "Good news and bad news" line, and, most notably, a moment where the room seems to be circling around behind him as he goes crazy and blows away a bunch of creeps.

The way the slug creatures, which are actually some kind of alien experiment gone awry, function is straightforward for the most part: they get inside your body through your mouth, they infest your brain, as well as reproduce there, and you become an undead, shambling ghoul that wanders around, infecting others with the slugs inside you. They can infect animals as well as people and it also doesn't even matter if whatever they infest is dead or alive, as shown when they do so to the corpse of the axe-murderer, Gordon the cat, and Cameron's charred corpse in Dekker's preferred ending. Like the zombies in the Romero film, these creeps can only be downed by a gunshot to the head, after which the slugs come pouring out and have to be killed with fire. You may think that, as long as they don't get near your mouth, the slugs aren't harmful, but they seem to have sharp spines on their bodies, given how J.C. recoils in pain when one slithers against his hand during the scene in the restroom (Cameron is able to grab one with his hand in the basement and throw it back without flinching but, I think the case with him is that he's so far gone by that point that he's not feeling a thing). The consciousness of the infected, however, is really inconsistent from one to another (given the type of movie this is, you shouldn't expect a lot of accuracy but it's just fun to discuss this kind of stuff regardless): While mainly coming across as completely mindless and only functioning to attack and infect others with the slugs, they do seem to retain some of their memories from when they were alive, like how the zombified Johnny goes back to the sorority where he picked his date up back in 1959, even bringing a flower to the window, the intern goes right back to the med center where he worked, and how the axe-murderer smiles evilly at Cameron, as if he knows who he is. It seems unlikely that the slugs themselves would intentionally do that, although, in the case of the infected alien who sends the canister containing the other slugs off into space, they seemed to have enough control over him to actually help their brethren get somewhere they can thrive, showing that they could be more intelligent than you might think. The really inconsistent one is J.C., because when he's infected, he's still very much himself, leaving behind that tape recording that tells Chris he was able to walk without crutches, he knew he was dead, and that he went down to the basement to kill himself. The slugs seemed to have not been able to take full control of him but maybe they would have in time, which is one of the reasons why he did himself in along with those inside him.

David Miller, who created the original Freddy Krueger makeup, worked as the head of the makeup and creature effects, with Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger, and Shawn McEnroe, among others, assisting him (and like the former two, he also plays one of the Beta Zombies during the climax) and it's pretty good work for the most part. The slugs look good and believable, slithering around rapidly accompanied by slimy sound effects, and you can tell that they used some stop-motion for the shots of the huge mass of them down in the sorority house basement. As for the creeps themselves, it's nothing you haven't seen before in terms of zombie makeup designs (pale skin, glazed over eyes, ugly wounds and damage on them, etc.) but it works and some of them do look particularly striking, like this one during the climax whose face has been completely flayed off, revealing the bloody skull underneath, and Cameron's charred, smoking look during the original ending. The resurrected axe-killer is particularly impressive, both when he appears in Cameron's nightmare early on and when he actually comes back to life, as he's very decomposed since he's been dead since the 50's. The exploding head effects, while not nearly as gruesome as the famous scene in Scanners, look good as well, with the sight of these black slugs pouring out of the holes in the heads giving off a real skin-crawling vibe. The aliens at the beginning are pretty silly-looking (I had never seen this movie from the very beginning before I watched the DVD, so when I saw them, I was like, "What?!"), with their short, pinkish bodies, big heads with derpy faces, the spastic way they run, and the fact that they're completely naked. They kind of remind me of the look of the title creature in Homoti, one of the Turkish E.T. rip-offs, although their butts aren't nearly as big (watch the Cinema Snob's video on that movie to see what I mean). If this were any other movie, I'd give them crap, but given what Dekker was going for, it works for what it is and it's nice to see some good old-fashioned suit-work. And the puppet they used for the undead Gordon the cat, with a lot of his flesh missing and the addition of worms in his eye-sockets, looks nice, although you can tell it's not real because of the slow, jerky movements. However, it fares better than the zombified dog during the third act, which is shown too much in close-up and looks horrendously fake as a result, not to mention that the expression on its face, combined with the details, is more funny than scary. The same also goes for this dummy head they made for the guy driving the bus carrying the prom dates. For some reason, before said dog causes him to crash, you get a split-second glimpse of a really fake-looking head with over-the-top bulging eyes and a goofy expression on its face after he swerves the bus. I don't know if that was meant to be funny or what but it feels out of place and pointless, especially since you don't see any gory violence inflicted on it, unlike the fake head that got its eyeball squeezed out in Friday the 13th Part 3.

There's also a little bit of model-work and compositing in the movie, mainly in terms of the shots of the alien spaceship. The ship floating in space and the shots of the canister drifting away from it at the beginning are well-done, as are the effects for the aliens' laser blasts and the long, continuous shot of the ship floating above the graveyard in the original ending. However, I can't say the same for the close-ups of the graveyard and the tombstones when the ship shines its searchlight down on it, as they're very clearly models, but the onscreen very briefly, so it doesn't make much of a difference.

Following the title, the movie begins in the claustrophobic, smoky tunnels of an alien spacecraft, when one of the small aliens runs into the hallway and heads down it, carrying a large canister. Two other aliens pursue him, firing at him with laser-blasters, but they miss him and are unable to stop him from going through the large door at the end of the corridor. The door closes behind him, shutting his two pursuers out, and he smashes a control panel on the other side of a second door to ensure that they can't stop him. The other aliens try to find a way to get through the hatch, saying that the experiment the one alien is carrying mustn't get off the ship, and do ultimately blow it open, but they're unable to stop the other one from shooting the canister out of an airlock, into the depths of space. The film then transitions, with a title card telling us that it's Sorority Row, 1959, and it's now black-and-white, with Smoke Gets In Your Eyes playing, and a bunch of college students are heading out on dates. A good-looking guy named Johnny pulls up to the Kappa Delta Sorority in a nice convertible and gets his girl, Pam's, attention by tossing some small pebbles up at her window. Next, the two of them are parked on a ridge, overlooking the town, and after a cop on the beat tries to get them to go home, warning them that there's a maniac on the loose, only for it to be revealed that he and Pam know each other, they look up at the sky, trying to find the brightest star. That's when an object akin to a meteorite flies over them and crashes amongst the trees behind them. Deciding that's definitely the brightest star, Johnny starts his car and they drive off to search for it, ending up down a lone road in the middle of the woods. Parking the car near where he thinks the object came down, Johnny gets out and walks into the woods with a flashlight, telling Pam to stay in the car. As he walks off, a news report comes over the car radio about an escaped mental patient who killed four orderlies in his escape and is believed to be heading west on Route 66, near Corman University. Upon hearing that, Pam illuminates a couple of nearby road signs with the car's headlights and sees that the road they're on is, indeed, U.S. 66 West and Corman University isn't far. She then very softly calls for Johnny, while he's walking around the woods and finds a large, smoking crater. As she calls to him again, saying that she'll let him fondle her breasts if they go back to point, the aforementioned escaped lunatic appears in the road to left of the car, which she doesn't notice. Johnny walks up to the crater and sees the canister, filled with wriggling, slug-like creatures that he can see through the glass, while the killer begins creeping up on Pam, as she keeps trying to call him back. Johnny then reaches his hand towards the canister, when one of the slugs bursts out and flies straight into his mouth (the other slugs in there are never mentioned again, I might add), while the maniac reaches Pam and brings his axe down on her just as the scene cuts.

After the transition to 1986 and the introduction of Chris and J.C., the next major scene is when the two of them, attempting to join the Epsilon Betas and are unable to use the promise of cash to get in, are tasked with stealing a cadaver and leaving it in front of the Phi Omega Gamma house by Brad, who describes it as a way to prove their devotion to the frat. Following another scene transition, we see the young intern at the university med center attempting to get through an automatic door but, after scanning his keycard, he punches in three buttons before forgetting the code's other digit. Irritated, he calls someone on a payphone to get the last digit, as Chris and J.C. sneak into the building and cross the hall behind him. The two of them walk down the adjoining hallway and come to the automatic door. Seeing the keypad, J.C. pushes zero, which happens to be the last digit, opening it up. Chris asks him what he just did but J.C., being someone who goes with the flow, just says, "I don't know. Come on," and walks in. As the intern continues to try to get the last digit, Chris follows J.C. into the dark, secured room and feels around the wall, trying to find the light switch. He comes to a series of them, flipping them all and illuminating the room, as well as a frozen human body inside a large tube, the sight of which causes J.C. to say, "Oh, my God," numerous times in fright. Trying to make sense of what they're seeing, Chris quickly loses his nerve and is ready to leave, while J.C. spies the nearby control panel and tells him that he thinks the body is their best bet at pulling off the prank. He then sees that the panel reads Cryogenic Stasis System and he flips a couple of switches, activating it. Realizing what the label means, he explains the idea to Chris and then sees a button that's marked Disengage and pushes it with his crutch, just as the intern is finally told what the last digit for the code is. The freezing chamber slowly opens up, revealing the corpse and spewing out freezing cold air, and then, unaware that the intern is on his way down, Chris takes the body out and tries to drag it out of the room. Suddenly, the corpse's right arm grabs J.C. by the wrist, causing them both to panic and run out of the room, knocking the intern to the floor. Getting up and walking into the room, he sees the body lying on the floor, but when he sits down to inspect it, it grabs him the throat and shoots a slug out of its mouth and into his; meanwhile, Chris and J.C. both run back to their dorm room, trying to calm their nerves.

Our introduction to Detective Ray Cameron is really unusual, to say the least. We suddenly transition to a lovely beach and he's sitting there, in front of what looks like part of a tiki hut, wearing a white suit and tie, with black sunglasses, and is handed a coconut with a straw and little umbrella sticking out of it by a lovely bikini babe. As he sips the juice out of it, looking at the ocean, as people walk back and forth in front of him, he sees something in the water, and as he tries to look around the passersby to get a better look, he sees the image of Pam Craven rising from the water. He's shocked to see this and, as she turns around in the water, he takes his glasses off and stands up, the scene suddenly cutting to him in his police uniform, on a dark road in the middle of the night. He sees someone hacking up a person in a nearby parked car with an axe and as he approaches, holding a severed hand and wearing a corsage, he cocks his 12-gauge shotgun, points it, and tells the killer to freeze. The killer turns around to reveal himself to be a decaying corpse, when Cameron wakes up in his apartment, having fallen asleep while reading. His phone rings, and after he answers it with his trademark, "Thrill me," Sgt. Raimi tells him that an experimental lab at the university med center has been broken into. Cutting there, there's now a crime scene setup there, as the intern's body is zipped up and forensics are taking photographs, when Cameron arrives. Not being impressed with the look of the place, he's even less happy when he hears that the other reported body has disappeared. He becomes really irritated with Raimi about it and admonishes him, while the sergeant tries to explain it away as a dispatch problem, only to make himself look more incompetent when he inadvertently reveals that he talked to the night janitor but forget to take down his statement. Raimi continues to make excuses, saying he sent down two rookies who bungled things up, but Cameron is still bewildered by the missing body, exclaiming, "Corpses that've been dead for 27 years do not get up and go for a walk by themselves!"

Well, elsewhere in town, the missing corpse is doing exactly that, walking down a sidewalk near the Kappa Delta sorority. After Brad drops Cindy off at the house, the corpse is seen walking across the street towards it (somehow, nobody notices this), and after she goes up to her room and begins changing clothes, it walks across the lawn, around the back of the house. There's then a false scare where another shot of the corpse's legs is intercut with something lightly tapping at one of back doors but, when Karen opens it, it turns out to be her cat, Gordon, who jumps into her arms. Outside, the corpse comes around to the fire escape, as Cindy slips on her night gown. A pebble hits the outside of her window but when she looks out, she doesn't see anything. A breeze blows through the window behind her and when Cindy parts the curtains there, she, again, sees nothing, when the corpse suddenly rears up from the scaffolding, holding a rose in its hand. It peers at her through the window, smiling menacingly, when the forehead splits open and slugs spew out, dropping through the railing and onto the ground below, quickly scurrying away, with a couple of them heading into the basement, where a biology project involving brains is being kept. In the next cut, the police arrive, followed by Cameron in his old-fashioned car. Tossing away his cigarette, and stopping to smell a flower growing along the sidewalk, he walks to the sorority's front porch and is shown the corpse's split open head by Jake, the coroner, which causes him to turn away in disgust. Seeing a smaller house nearby, he asks a teenager what is and is told that it's the house mother's cottage. Looking at it, we get some quick, black and white flashes of someone digging into the ground and wrapping a body up in plastic, when Detective Landis taps him on the shoulder. He asks Landis if he thinks the split in the corpse's head looked like it could've been made with an axe but Landis insists that the psychopath he's referring to hasn't been seen since 1959. The body is then zipped up and taken away, as Cindy is shown standing on the porch with other girls, thinking about what she saw earlier.

The following night, at the city morgue, Jake rushes into the room where the intern's body is kept and gets back to work, when he hears a squishy-sounding noise behind him. Glancing over at the body, he figures it was nothing and goes back to work, when the corpse sits up on the table as soon as he turns away. He gets off the table, a clamp hanging from a spot on his chest where he'd been dissected earlier, and walks out of the room and down the hall outside, passing by a very oblivious cop who says, "I'll see you tomorrow," as he walks past. The scene then cuts back to the med center, where Mr. Miner, the night janitor, is working and still laughing about Chris and J.C. screaming like banshees the night before. Pushing his mop-cart down the hall, he comes to a corner up ahead, when the zombified intern rounds it, causing him to scream in terror. Back on the campus, slugs are skittering around unnoticed, with one heading straight towards the Kappa Delta house mother's cottage, and inside the sorority, Cindy is called to the phone to talk to Brad, while two other girls mention that Karen doesn't know that her cat has died. Karen is then sitting on the couch, trying to study, when she hears a familiar light tapping at the door. She smiles, assuming that it's Gordon, and when she opens the doors, she sees that she's right... but when she picks him up and looks at him, she's horrified to see half of his face missing, particularly around the eye sockets, and a worm wriggling out of the right one. Meanwhile, at his apartment, Cameron is looking over some old crime scene photos, as well as his old yearbook, when his phone rings. After he answers it, we cut back to the med center, where the intern's corpse has been lying on the floor; none of the cops notice the slugs slithering down the hall away from it. Following that, Cindy shows up at Chris and J.C.'s dorm room and asks the two of them to take a walk with her, where she tells them about the cat and about what happened with the corpse the night before. Neither of them really believer her but J.C., seeing that she's becoming closer to Chris as a result of her confiding in him, excuses himself to use the nearest restroom so they can be alone. He heads to the dorm and into the handicapped men's room, unaware that he's being stalked by the now zombified Miner.

Sitting in his stall, J.C. is adding to the graffiti on the wall, when he hears the restroom door open. Not paying it any mind, he goes back to writing, when he then hears a couple of footsteps, a nasty cracking sound, and high-pitched squealing. Hearing some slimy sounds afterward, he stops writing and, after some hesitation, opens the stall door to see Miner's corpse lying face-down on the floor, with his head split open and the slugs slithering everywhere. J.C. then slams the door in horror, no doubt remembering what Cindy said about the corpse she saw at her window doing the exact same thing, and slips his pants back up (without wiping, which tends to happen a lot in these types of scenes in horror films), when he notices a matchbook sitting on the floor right under the door. He decides to go for it and leans over to pick it up, when a slug very quickly slithers underneath his hand and apparently caused him by the mere touch of it. Although he's scared, he realizes that there's no other possible way out for him and he goes for the matchbook again, this time managing to snatch it without any trouble. Taking out one of the two matches left, he lights it and does the same to the book itself, placing it back down where he found it. A slug slams into it before it even touches the floor and it instantly catches fire, effectively killing it. But then, one of them slithers into the stall and up J.C.'s pants' leg, causing him to panic and go for the exit. Falling out of the stall, he crawls across the floor as fast as he can, only to see a slug coming right for him, as the scene cuts away. After that, we get the scene between Cameron and Chris, the former of whom had been following him while he was with Cindy and had overheard her story. After he tells him of what happened to his high school sweetheart, that he murdered her killer, and buried the body where the house mother's cottage now sits, we cut to said cottage, where the house mother is dozing while watching Plan 9 from Outer Space. Suddenly, her dog hears a bang in the distance and a second, louder one wakes the house mother up. When she doesn't hear anything else, she decides to go back to sleep, but the sound starts up again and her dog begins barking. As she watches, he walks over to a spot to the left of the TV and stares at it. The sound gets progressively louder and he backs away from it, barking and whining, when the floor-boards crack and the blade of an axe punctures through it. The axe is then pulled back down and two mummified arms holding onto it burst up through the floor, causing the dog to go crazy. The entire corpse then pulls itself up through the hole and takes its axe right to the shocked house mother's head, splattering blood on the TV screen.

Back at his apartment, Cameron gets the call about what's happened and, once he's told, he drops the phone, grabs his coat and 12-gauge, and heads out without saying anything to Chris. On his way to the cottage, he calls dispatch to ask where his backup is, when two police cars pull in behind him and another in front of him, almost causing him to rear end him; he then calls dispatch again and tells them, "Never mind." Passing by Phil's Diner, they arrive at the site, with Cameron telling one of the cars to check the neighborhood for the killer, while he goes around back to the cottage. After being told that the house mother's dog ran out of the cottage the minute they came in, Cameron sees the body being taken away, as Jake tells him, "If we used a different stretcher for every piece, we'd be here all night." Elsewhere, the two cops Cameron told to check the neighborhood are scanning the street but aren't finding anything, and back at the site, they're not doing much better, as Cameron is told that they've checked the garage, the house next door, and the whole side. He then tells the officer to check somewhere else and not to talk to him again until he does find something. The two patrolmen then decide to pack it in, when the one driving suddenly slams on the brakes. When his partner gets irritated at him for it, telling he said "Go," the resurrected murderer walks up to the car, grabs him by the throat, and very nearly hacks him; the driver takes off just in time, clipping the back fender with the axe. Back at the crime scene, Cameron is irritated that they still haven't found anything, when he overhears something on a nearby police car's radio: an officer is reporting that he and another are in pursuit of the "suspect" and have him, when the transmission suddenly dies. Hearing that, he tells the officers to get him his 12-gauge and he and the other cops then trap the murderer in a dead-end alley. The cops surround him, as Cameron jumps the fence, cocks his shotgun, and yells, "Freeze!" The creep actually does, as all of the other cops point their weapons at him, and Cameron growls, "I already killed you. You son of a bitch, I already killed you." The creep then swings around and the cops open fire on him, but their bullets pass right through him and they realize that they're shooting at a badly decomposed corpse. He smiles evilly at Cameron, who points and shoots, blowing the head up and sending the slugs on the ground, where they quickly scurry away, right past the bewildered cops. The scene ends with them standing there, not knowing what to make of what happened.

The next night, unaware of the creatures that are roaming the campus, everyone's getting ready for the formal and we see a very 80's montage of the girls at the Kappa Delta putting on makeup and showering, while at the Beta Epsilon, the guys are also showering, shaving, and getting dressed, all the while engaging in some playful roughhousing. The girls are then shown doing the finishing touches of their makeup and putting on their dresses, while the guys at the Beta are having their picture taken as they look nice in their suits, and all of these shots intercut with the slugs roaming the campus. In his dorm room, Chris has dressed up for the formal as well and is ready to go pick up Cindy, when he notices a tape recorder on J.C.'s table, sitting on a piece that says, "Listen," and has an arrow pointing to it. Walking over to it, he sits down and presses play. He then hears J.C., speaking in an unnaturally distorted voice, telling him that there's an alien slug inside him, he can feel it in his brain, and that he doesn't have a pulse or a heartbeat. J.C. further elaborates that they're vulnerable to heat and, therefore, he's gone down to the furnace room in the basement, walking by himself. After telling him he loves him and wishing him luck with Cindy, the recording ends with the sound of him screaming as he kills himself. Chris rushes down to the boiler room and, in the far back, he finds J.C.'s body, with the still-sizzling remains of the slugs lying on the floor next to his head. Meanwhile, at the Betas, the guys pile into the bus, save for Brad, who's downing some booze outside of the Kappa Delta and cursing Cindy for breaking up with him. He's startled when a slug slithers between his feet, into the bushes behind him, and he bends down, trying to figure out what he just saw. As he searches for it, he looks to the right at a dog that's walked up to him, only to see that it's the house mother's now zombified dog, which shoots a slug right into his mouth before he knows what happened. The Betas are then shown heading off in their bus, while at his apartment, Cameron is sitting on his couch, casually whistling and drinking some booze, and is about to flick his lighter, when he hears a knock at the door, which is taped up around the edges. At first, he ignores it and is about to take another drink, but when the knocking continues, he gets up, rips the tape off the edges, and opens it with an irritated, "What?!" He finds a teary-eyed Chris standing there, who then explains to him what happened to J.C. and how the slug creatures work. Hearing this, Cameron loads up with both his pistol and 12-gauge, and turns off the gas to his stove before leaving.

The formal bus driver is having to deal with some very rowdy Betas, who are already getting drunk before they even get to it, when he sees the zombie dog standing in the road ahead. He then quickly swerves to miss him and crashes as a result. Meanwhile, at the police station armory, Cameron asks Walt, the armorer, to get him the flamethrower he has stored there, but when Walt asks for the requisition, Cameron loads a shell into his 12-gauge and informs him that he doesn't have one. Walt tells him that could be a little problem and Cameron, agreeing with him, cocks the gun and points the barrel right at him through the fencing between them. Back at the bus, which has flipped on its side, everybody riding it was killed instantly and the creeped dog crawls in through the back, preparing to infest them. At the Kappa Delta, there's a knock at the door and Lisa, irritated at everyone ignoring it, answers it herself and finds the zombified Brad standing there. Thinking that he's just trying to play some kind of dumb joke, she calls for Cindy, while at the crashed bus, all of the zombified Betas break out of it and begin shambling down the road. Cindy comes downstairs, looking very lovely in her dress, and walks out onto the front step with Brad, unaware of how distinctly inhuman he looks. Sitting down with him, she apologizes for things not working out between them and talks about how things probably aren't over for good, unaware that slugs are shooting out of his mouth, onto the steps beside her. Chris and Cameron then show up, the former telling her to get away, and then, she finally turns and looks to see a slug coming out of Brad's mouth. Screaming, she gets out of the way, as Cameron steps in and blows a hole in his forehead, causing it to split open and slugs to spew out, with Chris then frying them with the flamethrower. After Brad's burning body falls over, Cameron hands Chris his 12-gauge and heads inside the house to take control. One of the girls says she's going to call the police and he just says, "You do that... now!" Chris tries to comfort Cindy, handing her the 12-gauge, when the zombified Betas show up and Cameron, seeing this through the window, tells the girls inside the good news and bad news.

The creeps converge on the building, as Chris, who's given Cindy the flamethrower, tries to show her how to use it, but she's kind of in shock at what's going on. As he tries to get her use it, Cameron is also trying to keep the other girls from running outside but a couple of them go out anyway. Chris tells Cindy to shoot the flamethrower after he blows the creeps' heads open and, as one with a moustache approaches, he yells "now" and hits the forehead with a shot from the 12-gauge; Cindy then wastes no time in frying the slugs that spew out. Inside, Cameron tells Karen to lock the double-doors behind her, namely the ones Gordon used to come through, making her a bit reluctant to go near them but she does anyway. When she reaches the doors, a creep's hand smashes through the glass and grabs her by the wrist. She recoils away from him, as he smashes through it, and Cameron gets her to duck down, taking aim with his pistol and shooting him right in the forehead. The creep falls to the floor and Cameron uses a combination of his cigarette and a can of hairspray to burn the slugs that escape the body. Outside, Cindy finishes frying another creep, and Chris swings around to blow open one whose face is ripped off, Cindy following that up with a blast from the flamethrower; they do the same to another one offscreen. A creep is then shown breaking into the house, followed by another across from him, and Cameron tries to reload his revolver as they approach, when Karen suddenly becomes one herself and pulls him down from behind, causing him to drop his gun. Cameron struggles with her while trying to reach for the revolver, when he notices a plaque of past occupants of the sorority on the wall, one of whom turns out to have been Pam Craven. Seeing this, Cameron grabs the revolver, shoots Karen through the head, and gets up and shoots maniacally at the other creeps.

Chris and Cindy are getting backed up along the left side of the house, continuing to try to fend the creeps off, as Chris struggles to shoot one that's approaching them but the 12-gauge is jammed. Finally, he gets it to cock and shoots, only to take a chunk of the left side of the creep's head, prompting him to exclaim, "Give me a fucking break!" Two more creeps, one of them being Steve, show up behind them and Cindy has them duck into the garden shed for cover. Once inside, Chris uses the handle of a push-mower to block the door and grabs a small hoe, but as the creeps pound on the outside and he sees just how small and claustrophobic the shed is, he gives her a sarcastic thumbs up and says, "Real good plan!" A creep smashes his arms through the wall on the side and Chris stabs the hands with the clawed hoe, when another breaks through the paneling behind him and tries to pull him out. Watching him struggle, Cindy relights the flamethrower and, after Chris gets loose and ducks away, she puts the barrel to the creep's face and blasts, causing his head to explode and sending the burning slugs flying onto the lawn. Chris can't help but be impressed and smiles at Cindy, who grins humbly. Their moment is short-lived, though, as Steve breaks through behind her and pulls her out, the two of them falling to the ground. Chris grabs the lawnmower and struggles to start it up, as Cindy tries to get out of Steve's grasp. He finally gets it to start and yells for Cindy to get out of there; she gets loose by shoving Steve's head against the ground and running out of the way. Chris says, "Later, dude," before aiming the mower up and pushing the blades right at the creep's head. Following a shot of Cameron sitting on the floor amidst the dead creeps lying around him, it looks like things are wrapped up outside, when Chris and Cindy see a couple of slugs slither through the basement window. He asks Cindy what's in the basement and she remembers that a science project involving brains is down there.

Walking through the house, Chris and Cindy head for the basement, telling all of the girls to get out. As the girls run out, the two of them enter the basement, walking down the stairs to the main room, where they can hear the sound of slugs slithering. Chris shines a flashlight around, trying to find the source, when he illuminates Cameron, holding a can of gasoline and with a piece of duct tape over his mouth. His voice muffled, he yells at them to get out, and Chris then sees why: there's an enormous mass of slugs in the corner across from him. Chris immediately tries to shoot the flamethrower but, to his dismay, it's out of fuel. Cameron then rips the tape off his mouth, when a slug jumps at him but he grabs it, saying, "Don't even think about it, you little son of a bitch," and throws it against the wall. He then appears to randomly say, "Twenty," to Chris and grabs the can of gasoline. With slugs wriggling everywhere from the walls to the floor and even the ceiling, Cameron throws some gasoline near the mass of them, saying, "Nineteen." As Chris and Cindy back up to the stairs, Cameron says, "Eighteen," and gives Chris a confident wink before saying, "Seventeen." Getting it, Chris and Cindy run up the stairs, as Cameron begins pouring gas on the floor. The couple make it out of the house at ten and rush to join the others on the street, motioning for everyone to get back, while Cameron cuts open a hole in the furnace. The slugs prepare to launch themselves at him, while on the street, Chris reaches, "One," and adds, "Detective, thrill me." Cameron flicks his lighter just as the slugs fling themselves at him, creating an explosion that shoots out of the basement window and sets fire to other sections of the house. Detective Landis and Sgt. Raimi arrive at the scene, as Chris and Cindy watch the place burn with the sorority girls and a bunch of onlookers. Cindy then tells him, "Nice tux," and the two of them kiss, as the fire engine arrives.

Now we get into the two possible endings for the film, the first of which is the one I saw one day on Sci-Fi Channel and, as it's what Fred Dekker originally intended, is what the actual movie ends with on the DVD and Blu-Ray. As other police cars race to the scene, Cameron's charred, smoking corpse is shown shambling down the street until he falls onto the pavement, his head splits open, and several slugs slither out. They head through a gate and the camera pans up to reveal that they just went into the Crestridge Cemetery, full of potential bodies for them to reanimate. The camera pans over the wall, revealing the graveyard, when a bright spotlight from above suddenly illuminates one of the headstones and pans around a few feet before switching off. The alien ship from before is then seen hovering above the cemetery, illuminating the hillside, searching for the experiment that got away from them nearly thirty years before (why did it take so long for them to decide to come looking for it?) From what I can remember, audiences at test screenings didn't understand what this meant, so Dekker was forced to shoot a different, more typical sequel-bait ending, where the camera pans down from Chris and Cindy kissing to reveal the zombie dog from before. Seeing him, Cindy bends down to pet him, only to see that he's undead and the last shot is a slug shooting out of his mouth right towards the camera. Dekker hated this ending, as he didn't like what it did to Chris and Cindy after everything they'd been through, which I agree with but, besides that, and the fact that the effect doesn't look good, it's just plain unoriginal and derivative. How many horror films have you seen that have this same type of cheap ending? That said, I'm not all that found of the original ending either. I understand what the spaceship means and I can look past the fake-looking miniature graveyard they use, but I don't like the idea of Cameron sacrificing himself in order to kill the slugs, only to end up as another host for some of them. It's the same principle with him as it was towards Chris and Cindy in the theatrical ending. Plus, Cameron's too cool to go out like that, for me. As far as I'm concerned, they should've forgotten about the sequel-baiting and had the movie end concretely with a last shot of the burning sorority house (they should've had that zombie dog be a part of the climax as well to wrap him up, since with the original ending, he's never seen again after he infects the Betas).

The music score, composed by Barry De Vorzon, is simple but effective and, most importantly, fits the film very well. It's pretty much an electronic score, with some distinctive and interesting-sounding tracks that perfectly suit whatever is happening, like an eerie piece with a distant, rhythmic knocking sound for the scene where J.C. gets slugged in the restroom, a leisurely-paced but still freaky theme, with a very memorable recurring melody, for the climax where the creeps converge on the sorority, a nice, warm theme for the tender moments between Chris and Cindy, and soft, distant-sounding, strange music to convey an eerie atmosphere, among similar pieces. One of my personal favorite parts of the score is this otherworldly but upbeat theme that plays during the montage of everyone getting ready for the formal. I don't know how else to describe it but, trust me, the music is somehow kind of strange and, at the same, fits with what it's playing against and feels very 80's, too. One last theme I have to mention is this bit that plays during the opening with the little aliens, which is another leisurely-paced but still urgent-sounding piece, which transitions into a creepy, otherworldly final section when you see the canister floating off into space. This music is played over the last part of the ending credits and that final part leaves you with a very eerie feeling about the stuff you just saw. And I've been saying, there are a number of songs on the soundtracks, with the most prominent ones being from the 50's, such as Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by the Platters, which you hear during the first scene on Earth and is heard again much later (this is the first time I ever heard it too and it is a nice, romantic song); Put Your Head On My Shoulder by Paul Anka, which plays when Pam and Johnny are parked on the ridge before the canister crashes to Earth; and The Stroll by the Diamonds, which plays over the first part over the ending credits.

Night of the Creeps may not be a major, groundbreaking classic and it's definitely far from perfect, but, at its heart, it's a loving tribute to several different types of horror film genres, particularly 50's B-movies and creature features. It may be a little too on the nose with its references and humor sometimes, the acting isn't always great, some of the effects work is kind of dodgy, and neither ending is particularly satisfying, but it still has plenty to recommend it, such as some likable performances by the main young characters, especially Steve Marshall, a memorably over-the-top and badass performance by Tom Atkins, a nice mixture of zombie, 50's alien, and 80's slasher flicks, mostly good makeup and creature effects, a pace that never lets things get bogged down, and a simple but effective music score that goes well with the film. It's a shame that the movie went unnoticed for so long, flopping at the box-office and taking until 2009 to get a DVD release, and that Fred Dekker's directing career was very badly hampered by it but, now that it is readily available, I would recommend it to anyone who just wants a well-made, fun B-movie with a true sense of affection about it.

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