May 21 2010

Article XXVII – Wherein a Time-Honored Plan is Tried…Again

I don't get it.

Dear Diary:

Today, I finally decided to write the next column that I have been putting off for a few weeks.  Why?  Well, diary, it’s because when you write the same format for every movie all the time, sometimes you get bored.  Formulaic, if you will.  So, you have to spend a few weeks fighting crime in Thailand or meditating in Australia to get your creativity back.  Then, you sometimes have to get your passport and identification stolen, get accused of being an international crime lord, and finally have one or two of the cocaine balloons you’re currently smuggling inside your body burst and have to go through a crazy intense detox.

Whew, diary, that was refreshing.  Somewhat cathartic, too.

So the movie I watched for the letter N (which is this week’s sponsor, by the way) was Night of the Creeps, made in 1986 by a dude named Fred Dekker.  Let me start by justifying this as a science fiction movie: it begins on an alien space station with ALIENS.  And it pays homage to the time honored sci-fi movie by legendary filmmaker Ed Wood: Plan 9 From Outer Space.  (My title does too, for those who are a little slow on the uptake)

The basic plot of the film somewhat resembles the plot of Plan 9, widely regarded as the worst movie that was ever made.  Essentially, aliens accidentally let one of their experiments escape their ship to Earth, where it turns out that this experiment is able to bring the dead back to life.  What the original purpose of this was, we can only guess.  Necrophilia, probably.  So, the small town, mostly the frat row, actually, has to deal with zombie-like creatures.  There’s also some kind of subplot in there about a guy being kept on ice cryogenically frozen for a while, and an axe murderer, but these are just the finer points of the greater plot.  Which is zombies.  Lots of zombies.

The characters in the film are fantastic.  They are basically the B-Movie archetypes that we’ve all come to know and love over the years.  We have the old sheriff who is haunted by his past (his girlfriend was murdered by the axe murderer his first day on the job), the two college students who started it all because they want to get into a frat to get with a girl, the douchey frat leader who is waaay too into himself, and the unattainable girl who somehow ends up with the protagonist at the end.  Each character plays their part perfectly, but I was particularly impressed with the sheriff.  He is maybe a rung or two below Bruce Campbell and Rowdy Roddy Piper in terms of badassery and smart remarks.  Awesome stuff.  There were times where his grizzled attitude and affinity for guns just blew me away.

See? Guns...also a Flamethrower.

There are even a couple of little touching moments in the film.  J.C., who is the crippled best friend of the main character, is eventually infected with the brain slugs that turn people into zombies.  Through the whole film, he’s had to walk around on crutches, but is always the light jokester.  He’s the lovable comic support.  When Chris finds his body with his brain and head burned in the boiler room (don’t ask), he plays a personal log-tape-type-thing with J.C.’s last words – “I can walk, Chris, I can walk.”  It’s really pretty touching for that B-Movie atmosphere, and there is a surprising amount of characterization.  It’s just a shame that he’s a zombie.  And had to light his own head on fire.

Another thing that’s really cool, and intentional, from what I gather, is that the parts of the film that take place in the 50’s are shot in black and white.  Besides the obvious reminder that the world didn’t grow color until the late 60’s, this was kind of a neat atmospheric trick.  Although, for some reason, the time aboard the alien ship that drops the experiment off on Earth is still in color.  Whatever, it was a cool creative choice.

For those of you who like that sort of thing: there are a lot of awesome practical gore effects.  Dead dogs, zombies, and exploding heads are just part of it.  There are a couple of scenes with a flamethrower that the local sheriff station for some reason has in their arsenal.

One thing that horror fans might notice is that this film is just chalk full of homages and nods to earlier films of the genre.  The university in the town is Corman University (named after legendary director Roger Corman).  There are no less than four different references to Plan 9, an obvious nod to the greatest and most terrible film of the genre, and the basis of the plot of the film.  And the best nod is that all the main characters are named after horror/sci-fi directors.  We have Chris Romero, James Carpenter Hooper (double bonus there), Cynthia Cronenberg, Detective Ray Cameron, Detective Landis, Sergeant Raimi, and Mr. Miner, the Janitor.  I’m too lazy to post the references, so I’m going to have my assistant do it.

Apparently, as the internet tells me, there were two different versions of this film released with a lot of changes in the ending.  The original theatrical and VHS ending had the two main characters watching the sorority house burn down, then a zombie dog wanders into frame and spits a zombie-brain slug at the camera.  CHILLS, EXCITEMENT, and SHOCK!!  Not exactly.  This ending would have been terrible, and if I saw that in the theatre, I would have been a little upset.  Or maybe I wouldn’t, seeing as it would be 1986, and I wouldn’t have any idea how to end a movie because I am one year old.  The good ending is more along the lines of what the director (who also did Monster Squad) wanted.  Det. Cameron, who is charred and zombified, and dead, walks away from the burning sorority house (I forgot to mention that there are scenes with BEWBS in them – a must for a B-Movie horror set in a sorority) and he falls to the ground where the brain worms crawl out of his head and towards…A CEMETERY!

Then we see the spaceship from the beginning hovering over the cemetery, returning to collect their experiment.  So we end on an awesome shot of a spaceship over a cemetery, where hundreds of zombies are now going to arise.

Awesome.

I can't find a picture of the graveyard...have this instead

As a general feeling, I enjoyed the film.  It was perfectly campy, it didn’t bog itself down with anything that was unnecessary, and it stuck to the classic feel of the terrible B-Movies it’s paying homage to.  The acting is decent, and the story is….um, ridiculous.  But that’s exactly what I wanted out of a movie called Night of the Creeps.  Is it perfect?  No, but I wouldn’t really want it to be.

Well, that’s all for now, diary.  Who knows when I’ll get to write in you next?

P.S. I think that hunky Brad is finally beginning to notice me!  Hopefully, he doesn’t think I’m too slutty.

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