Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Thrill Me!

I found out about Night of the Creeps (1986) from the Projection Booth podcast. They do exhaustive discussions of odd movies, like this under-the-radar cult horror-comedy. Short version: They love this movie. We watched it and had the same experience.

After an odd intro involving aliens, it starts in black-and-white: Sorority row on a 50s college campus. A guy takes his date parking, after running off her cop ex-boyfriend. When Plot-Point Radio mentions the ax murderer who escaped from the insane asylum, you think you know where this is going. Then they see a meteor, and you think maybe it's something different. Sure, it's a retro-fifties slasher horror from outer space movie.

The next scene takes place thirty years later, in 1986. Now, it's a campus comedy as two buddies walk through crowded Sorority/Frat row. Jason Lively is the bland, shy guy who doesn't think he'll ever get a girl. Steve Marshall is his funny friend. He's a wise-ass and a loud-mouth, with a voice like Eddie Deezen, and he uses crutches. The point isn't belabored, although he makes a joke about being "funny as a crutch", and they are a plot point, but it's handled very deftly.

Lively falls in love with Jill Whitlow from across the room, and decides to join a frat to impress her - Marshall was going to suggest talking to her, but that would be too hard. As part of their initiation, they need to find a corpse. The corpse they find doesn't stay dead, though.

And who should get called in but the cop ex-boyfriend from the opening. He is played by Tom Atkins, a kind of Stacy Keach doing Joe Don Baker. He's a snarling cynic who answers the phone "Thrill me" and has all the best one liners. Like "Is this a homicide investigation or a bad b-movie?"

In fact, this movie is full of quotable lines. I am valiantly resisting quoting Marshall's monologue about acting like jerks so Lively can get this girl - it's better than acting like jerks for no reason. It was writer/director Fred Dekker's first movie, and it is clearly a work of love. There were marketing problems that kept it from going big, but that's fine - it's now a cult movie for people like us.

Fred Dekker isn't a big name. He's only made a few movies (Monster Squad), but he was college room-mates with Shane Black, and they still collaborate. In fact, I think he's working on the new Predator movie. So there's that to look forward to.

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