Of all the sub-genres of horror, comedy may be the hardest one to get right. Attempting to blend the two often winds up skewing the delivery into pure cheese. One-dimensional stereotypes and plots that play out as nothing more than a hodgepodge of familiar elements are standard. Having the guts to be funny and original–and to give your characters some heart–is a rarity. And Night of the Creeps nails it.
The films starts with an amusing sequence. Two aliens are chasing a third aboard a ship. The hunted creature is hauling away some manner of experiment, which he manages to launch to Earth circa 1959–the same night an escaped mental patient is prowling about with an axe. The crash is witnessed by a young college couple. Going to investigate, the boyfriend finds the alien object only for a slug-like creature to leap into his mouth. Meanwhile, the girl is hacked to pieces by the escaped maniac.
Jumping to 1986, the viewer is introduced to Chris and J.C. Chris is in a deep depression over a failed relationship, which leads to his friend trying to hook him up with a sorority girl (Cynthia) at a frat party. The two request membership to impress her and are tasked with placing a corpse on the steps of a rival frathouse. Chris and J.C. search the campus medical center and stumble upon the cryogenically preserved remains of the man infected in 1959. Fleeing after the body grabs J.C., the two are shocked to learn the corpse has managed to make its way to the steps of Cynthia’s sorority all on its own…
Night of the Creeps pulls off an impressive balancing act. The characters are well-played and very likable, boasting more layers than one might expect. Chris has confidence problems due to his breakup. Disabled J.C. constantly jokes because life is too depressing to face it any other way. And surly investigating Detective Cameron (the ex of the girl who was hacked at the beginning of the film) is plagued with PTSD and depression from witnessing the scene of the axe murder years ago. All this is done by way of short character scenes which add immeasurably to the film while preventing it from deviating too far from its cheeky tone.
The effects are decent for the time. The body-possessing creatures are appropriately slimy and disgusting, moving with an unsettling speed. Most of the gore and makeup effects are also good, with the exception of two truly laughable sequences involving infected animals.
Nights of the Creeps is a great example of how fun cliches can be when they’re twisted with actual creativity. While not every joke fires on all cylinders, most are worth a chuckle, and there are some genuinely engrossing moments mixed in with the laughs.