The Daily Stream: Night Of The Creeps Is A Halloween Favorite And Horror Comedy Classic

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Night of the Creeps"

Where You Can Stream It: PlutoTV

The Pitch: Back in 1959, a seemingly possessed alien launches a canister into space, but it crash lands on Earth. As the canister falls, a rookie cop named Ray Cameron warns a pair of lovers that a maniacal ax murderer is on the loose and to stay safe before driving away, but the boyfriend of the duo foolishly decides to investigate what he believes to be a falling star. The young woman is killed by the murderer, and the boy opens the alien canister only for a slug-like creature to slither into his mouth. 

Fast forward to 1986, and nerdy college students Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and his roommate J.C. (Steve Marshall) attempt to pledge to a fraternity to impress the beautiful Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow), but her preppy douchebag boyfriend Brad (Allan Kayser) is in charge of the frat, and tasks the two with a pledge "prank" of putting a corpse on the front steps of a different fraternity. The two break into the Med School Laboratory of Corman University, finding the slug-filled body of the 1950s boyfriend in a cryogenic chamber. The duo freak out and leave the body on the floor of the lab, inadvertently unleashing the slug monsters all over campus, turning their human inhabitants into zombies. Now a detective, Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) is assigned to the case, and must align with Chris, Cynthia, and J.C. to kill off the zombies and stop the invasion.

Why it's essential viewing

When Halloween season rolls around each year, Fred Dekker's "The Monster Squad" consistently tops recommendation lists, often relegating his feature debut effort to the margins. "Night of the Creeps" is a love letter to the science-fiction monster movies of yesteryear, but injected with the frisky, fun sensibilities of the mid-1980s. When the film was first released in theaters, it performed poorly but developed a cult-like fanbase thanks to home video rentals and cable reruns. Looking at the film through a contemporary lens, "Night of the Creeps" feels like a time capsule of everything we wax nostalgic for about the 1980s, or at least the "VH1 I Love the '80s" version of the decade. The 1980s sparked a weird reinterest in the 1950s, likely because of Ronald Reagan's desperate attempt with his "Let's Make America Great Again" campaign (Yes, Trump ripped him off) to return America to the "good ol' days." (See: racism, homophobia, misogyny, and every other 'ism' you can imagine).

"Night of the Creeps" is the fun version of that 80s-by-way-of-50s idealized world, but with a bunch of weird slug monsters that turn bleach-blonde butthead boyfriends into mindless zombies. It's the film that launched the popular trend of naming characters after iconic horror figures, with Cronenberg, Carpenter, Landis, Romero, Corman, Hooper, Raimi, Cameron, Miner, Craven, and Bava all getting name-checked. "Night of the Creeps" is littered with goofy dialogue and even sillier circumstances, but it's all held together by an obvious love of horror, sci-fi, comedy, and the badassery of Tom Atkins.

'Thrill me'

Tom Atkins is performing on another level in this movie, bringing depth to Ray Cameron that most actors would have turned into a caricature. Even with ridiculous character trademarks like answering every phone call with "Thrill me," gleefully telling a teenage boy about the time he murdered someone in cold blood as an act of vigilante justice, and saying "It's Miller time" before shooting a zombie in the face, Atkins is effortlessly cool every single second he's on screen. Atkins feels like every B-movie cop that ever lived, performing just about every detective duty in the handbook with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, drinking Scotch, firing off guns at will, and chirping out a laundry list of one-liners.

Is he a good cop? God no. He's he the coolest person on the planet by using a cigarette and Aqua net to make a handheld flamethrower? Absofrigginlutely. This might be a bold statement, but without Tom Atkins' Roy Cameron, we wouldn't have "Stranger Things" protagonist Jim Hopper, and that includes the constant self-sacrifice to serve the greater good. It's honestly amazing just how much this film clearly inspired future works of horror, most obviously James Gunn's "Slither." All these years later, and "Night of the Creeps" is still that semi-deep-cut horror comedy that die-hard movie lovers can't stop talking about. At risk of sounding like a boomer, they just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Imperfectly perfect in every way

There are definitely aspects of "Night of the Creeps" that haven't aged super great, but believing a 35+-year-old teen movie will be devoid of problematic language or elements is like an adult still believing in the Tooth Fairy. I mean, you can, but you're probably going to be really let down. Even still, "Night of the Creeps" is far better aged than most films of the era, especially when compared to other teen comedies. If there's a silver lining to be found, it's a testament to how much we've progressed in three and half decades, especially when our daily news cycle makes it seem like we're heading into the dark ages.

Despite "Night of the Creeps" being Dekker's debut, it's still an impressive outing that continues to bring the laughs after all these years. The corny jokes still land, the special effects hold up shockingly well, and you'll be screamin' like banshees for days. There's been a massive void of "fun" horror movies as of late, so if you're looking for a horror film this Halloween season that won't inspire hours of self-reflection on how you process trauma, add "Night of the Creeps" to the list. Of course, that's not the say there's anything wrong with deeply emotional horror films, but sometimes you just wanna kick back, and watch people blow up alien zombie worms.