Night of the Creeps - Director's Cut Blu-ray Review
It is doubtful that any fan of Night Of The Creeps could not be impressed with this 1080p 1.85: makeover. Whilst the MPEG-4 encode will not challenge any new releases in terms of sharpness, detail or three-dimensionality, it is considerably better than many may have anticipated. There are no DNR concerns to worry about, as this print (that has seemingly been endorsed by Fred Dekker, himself, who congratulates it in his commentary track) contains all of its grain and suffers so smearing or loss of texture at all throughout. I will say that the grain can fluctuate on some very odd and brief occasions, though, but this is no detriment. Print damage can still be seen - the odd hair on the frame, as Dekker even points out, and some speckles, contrast wavers and a few wobbles here and there reveal - but there is a new vitality to the image that absolutely banishes all memories of the various other versions from the mind. I saw some elements of shimmering during long, slow sideways panning shots and within some of the more deliberately garish colours (the green neon lights in the Beta Boys joint) - nothing too glaring and certainly nothing to worry about - and the fuzzing of some noise in certain shots, but without any bothersome edge enhancement, artefacts or banding, this is technically a very respectful transfer.
Detail is surprisingly good considering that backgrounds were probably never meant to be scrutinised in any way. Books, posters, signs and all manner of teenage bric-a-brac is on display and looking sharper and cleaner than ever. Facial texture isn't particularly entrancing - except, of course, for Jill Whitlow's - but there is an agreeable amount of new detail to be found even here. The cast, now that they are lot older - some grey, others laden with jowls, all wrinkled - would probably not mind at all that their spots can be seen more readily, and there is a radiance to eyes and hair that most certainly wasn't to be found on any version of the film that I've previously had. The creature-fx yields more information, although this isn't really a benefit with the numerous dummy-heads, hinge-worked splitting craniums and parasites on strings looking possibly even more artificial than ever before. However, there is ample more vividness to each and every shots, even the blades of grass and the spurts of blood have more clarity.
But it is the much stronger and more thickly saturated colour palette that most wowed me. Creeps has always been an overtly colourful movie, but it now throbs with comic-book vitality, the primaries positively bursting from the screen, with even the garish 80's fashions gaining an unparalleled vigour and intensity. Flesh tones are actually quite good, even set amidst a scheme that is purposely pushing the reds and pinks. The flames of the final stand-off and the multiple zombie-immolations looks great to my eyes. There is detail and variety in the conflagrations, the flames having substance and orange/amber appeal. Blacks are finely reproduced, but the funny thing is that this is not a film that thrives on shadows. Creeps has a sort of extremely warm summer's evening vista to it and Dekker seeks to promote the colours, rather than the darkness, consciously over-lighting some night-time scenes to this effect.
The black-and-white prologue is faithfully reproduced, although it does look a tad murky at times and flat. But one thing that I did notice and didn't like was the tainting that the stylishly full-colour opening titles have on the image around them. The Famous Monsters-influenced font burns onto the screen with delightful strength, but as the words fade out of the shot, and the camera continues to pan around, little glimmers of green/blue residue remain in the frame, and not necessarily where the words actually were.
Overall, Night Of The Creeps gets a very good transfer that is far better than I had expected. The grain is not too heavy and the colours give off a terrifically atmospheric ambience. Well done and a strong 7 out of 10.
Perhaps inevitably another film that was never intended to be heard with wraparound sound comes to disc with a newly mixed multi-channel surround track. But, guess what? This actually sounds great and really benefits from the engineering job that has been done to it. Without the original audio to compare it to, we have just a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is very engaging and surprisingly well achieved.
Right from the start, we are thrust into Fred Dekker's pastiche with some engaging laser-bolt effects as the ugly little aliens scamper about their ship, that zip around the set-up. Then, just to show you that this new track means business, we are treated to the sound of the alien bug-cannister hurtling through space, front to back, with some great little whupp-whupp! end-over-end effects that carry on through the rears as it passes us. The resulting impact as it crash-lands in the woods, after zipping over the heads of the courting couples in their cars, is also well handled. Nothing too fancy or elaborate, just the deep sound of a mighty thud convincingly positioned in the distance. Very nice. And this surround engagement continues sporadically throughout the film, with gunshots, screams, flame-blasts and stingers, and even some real world ambience (insects buzzing, car horns and teenage hubbub from parties, etc) occurring with a very decent level of natural placement. There is even some variety in the gunshots that we hear, Dekker's sound design reflecting the different weaponry, and the lossless DTS picks up on this, with some harsh barking revolvers, brisk crunching from automatics and a nice roar from the shotgun.
Barry DeVorzon's pulsating electronic score also carries some weight and presence, as well as all those period songs - from the fifties as well as the eighties. Bass levels have a nice, though hardly earth-shattering density - such as the axe smashing through the floorboards and the big explosion at the end. This latter effect features some fairly restrained details within the eruption - this isn't the kind of richly rendered, splinter-capturing deal that we get from John Carpenter's The Thing, but it feels appropriate, just the same. Nothing too overly showy, just in-keeping with the film's throwback style.
About the only complaint I have about the track is that sometimes the dialogue sounds a little too centralised. Considering the width of the stereo image and sense of activity within the soundfield that is created, this makes the voices appear slightly muted at times. Dekker admits that his looping of the dialogue is, sometimes, terrible, and this only compounds the effect. But let me stress that this wasn't something that detracted from what is, essentially, a very enjoyable new surround track that definitely brings the film to life in a way that its makers and fans could only dream of previously. Fresh, spacious and granted energy from lots of well-steered effects, Night Of The Creeps gets another strong 7 out of 10.
We get two commentary tracks on this extremely well-stocked disc. The first is from Fred Dekker who supplies one of the best chat-alongs that I've heard for a genre film for a while. Fielding questions from his pal and associate Michael Felsher, but mainly delivering a fantastically frank reminiscence about the making of the film, this is commentary gold, folks. It is so refreshing to hear a director laugh about his mistakes and be just as keen to point them out as well praise himself, and Fred Dekker probably deserves a medal for such amusing honesty. He discusses his influences, the archetypes that he employs, the clichés he enjoyed using, his cast and the FX, along with the locations and the art design, but it is the insight into his methods and his many failings at the time of this ambitious production that brings the track home with the requisite bacon. We hear about the problems with the ending, the test audience, his own indulgences and the things that he would definitely change now, if he had the chance. He does tend to talk a lot about what “other” directors do, or don't do as though he is an expert, perhaps forgetting that his own experience at the helm of a movie is actually quite limited. But this is still a wonderful track and it is clear that he is paying attention to the new transfer, as well, as he spots things that he had either forgotten about or had never even noticed in the backgrounds before. He even remarks about a hair that strays onto the frame, wondering whether it is too late to change that. For the record, he is very pleased with the hi-def transfer.
By contrast, the second commentary, which features the cast all having a giggle together as they re-watch their considerably younger exploits, is a bit less enjoyable - possibly only because they are easier to give-in to the hilarity of the moment rather than supplying more of the bigger picture. Both tracks are quite amusing when it comes to to Jill Whitlow's brief (but nice) bit of nudity, Whitlow, herself, urging us all to look away. A good time will certainly be had with this crowd - they became firm friends on the set and have remained rock-steady ever since, and this comes across with infectious zeal.
Then we get a brilliant, if slightly indulgent, hour-long retro-making-of that is divided into five detailed sections, but best served with the Play All option. Looking at everything from the concept, the casting, the shoot, the special effects, the reception of the film and cult status that it has attained, this well-produced and occasionally quite atmospheric (we see alien bugs slithering behind the interviewees from time to time) covers all bases quite comprehensively. Once again, that troublesome ending is dissected and the section on the makeup effects is terrific. People are interviewed in groups, such as the main three cast members, and able to mess about as well, or as individuals with a lot more clarity and focus attained. The good feeling about the film and the camaraderie is totally sincere and certainly not put on for the camera and it is great to see and hear such boundless enthusiasm for a project that could so easily have fallen from their collective memory. All love the film and are proud of the cult status that it now holds and we even get to see some footage from a special screening held at the famous Alamo Drafthouse in Texas, with a Q & A session with the stars taking place afterwards. Perhaps the likeability factor is laboured a little too much for some - even I was beginning to wonder just much more adulation could be heaped upon the whole experience - but this is a fine making-of that stands head and shoulders above a vast many other such offerings.
There are seven Deleted Scenes in the package, as well, though none add anything substantial to the plot or the film, merely character beats and the like. But the film's original theatrical ending is also included as a separate feature. Thoroughly lousy and, as everyone involved completely agrees, a cheap, final-frame scare tactic that robs the flavour of the story. Lasting only for 29 seconds, this is, at least, mercifully short.
Tom Atkins - Man Of Action is a great little one-on-one interview session with the iconic B-movie stalwart that lasts for a pleasing twenty minutes. Boundlessly garrulous and enthusiastic, Atkins looks well and certainly appears to a great laugh, very down to earth and amicable. Once cited as the poor man's Nick Nolte, it is hard to imagine that he ever looked young. But the thing is this - he hardly appears to have aged either ... well, apart from that tufty shock of pure white hair. Offering plenty of anecdotes along the way, Atkins informs us of his film career from humble TV beginnings to the mythic - though still humble in many cinemagoers' minds - regard that he is held in nowadays. It is nice to see that he is having something of a renaissance at the moment, with the recent My Bloody Valentine remake under his belt and more films in the offing. What is great about this feature is that he sure doesn't take himself seriously and that, whilst most people who aren't at-one with the genre at large would probably shrug their shoulders at such an extravagance for a professional supporting actor, we, as fans, can just sit back and revel in the company of such a familiar face finally getting some due recognition.
With a Trivia-Track, BD-Live funcionality and the film's original theatrical trailer rounding out the package, fellow Creeps can rejoice in the wealth of nostalgia and fun to be had.
One of the best SF/horror/comedy hybrids from the 80's gets a tremendous hi-def makeover. Full to brimming with nostalgia, in-jokes, gore and die-hard quips galore, Night Of The Creeps is also abundant with charm, wit and more ideas than you can shake a flame-thrower at. Pitch in a death-by-lawnmower, Tom Atkins in pure kick-ass mode and one of the sexiest teen babes in the genre and you've got beer-and-pizza gold. Fred Dekker would go on to establish his cult credentials with the more kid-friendly, but no-less inventive Monster Squad, but this wild debut is still the one for which he is most fondly referred-to by fans.
The transfer is excellent for such a slapdash, low-budget horror flick, with a massive leap-up in video and surprisingly good audio. And the extras are certainly all that a fellow Creep could desire. I'm almost tempted to say that this package of extras actually goes a little bit too far in its comprehensive appreciation for Night Of The Creeps. The film is great. It did prove to be a much-loved and iconic genre statement from the 80's - but somehow, even as much as I admire it, I can't help thinking that the marketing team are going somewhat overboard with the whole cult phenomenon surrounding the movie. Footage from the Alamo Drafthouse and rabid praise from fans coupled with far too many moments of the cast and crew simply revelling in nostalgia and agreeing just how much fun it all was does become slightly tedious after a while. But, hey, most of these people didn't go on to much bigger and better things afterwards, so why not celebrate a shining glory from yesteryear?
Resolutely of its time, yet blissfully captivating for any lover of gaudy SF/horror, Night Of The Creeps is ripe entertainment from start to finish, willing to go the extra mile and dedicated to please. It “thrilled me” back then ... and it should “thrill you” now in its Blu-ray glory.
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