With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists that delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades later. Grotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.
“The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is…they’re dead.”
Writer/Director Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad) takes the zombie horror comedy in a delightfully different direction from the outset; a spaceship chase sequence between gun-toting aliens results in an ejected experiment crash landing on Earth in 1959. That ejected cannister contains a slug, one that slithers into the mouth of a frat boy on a date under siege by an axe-wielding maniac. So, the opening sequence alone contains aliens, parasites, and an axe-murder befitting of a slasher.
Cut to 27 years later, where the infected frat boy has been kept frozen until a pair of college pledges are tasked with stealing a body from the med center as part of an initiation ritual they’re never actually meant to complete. Of course, they unfreeze the infected frat boy, and his corpse begins killing and spreading his slug-infection across the campus. The campus is preparing for their formal dance, unaware there’s a slug-zombie invasion taking root, save for Chris, J.C., and Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins).
An homage to B-movies of the ‘50s, this low budget horror comedy boasted an impressive roster of upcoming special effects and makeup artists. Howard Berger, fresh off the Day of the Dead makeup crew, worked on Creep effects before moving on to work on countless important horror films like Evil Dead II, Intruder, Misery, Army of Darkness, and hundreds more. Robert Kurtzman, one of the now most recognizable names in horror makeup effects, was also a member of the Creeps team. The design of the creeps was handled by David B. Miller, an artist that also had a hand in makeup effects for A Nightmare on Elmstreet, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, and more. So essentially, Night of the Creeps was a dream team of burgeoning talent capable of delivering exploding zombie heads full of slugs, zombified dogs and cats, charred corpses, and varying levels of slug-host decay.
Dekker included every cliché he could come up with, wrote the script in a week, and named the characters after every major horror director he could; Chris Romero, Cynthia Cronenberg, Ray Cameron, James Carpenter (J.C.) Cooper, Detective Landis, Sgt. Raimi, you name it, they were in there. While Chris and his friend J.C. were the underdog protagonists, Tom Atkins stole the show as Ray “Thrill Me” Cameron. The bridge between the 1959 opening scene and the modern-day zombie invasion, Cameron was the true hero.
Dekker mashed together alien invasions, zombies, and slasher films together into a horror comedy fitting of the ‘80s. It’s a mashup that ultimately works due to its sense of fun, but more so because of the cohesive work done by the special effects and makeup team. It’s a love letter to the genre full of memorable zombies, both human and animal, slithering slimy alien slugs, and explosive gore. Dekker’s intent to capture that ‘50s monster feel works because of the visual spectacle presented by the team of 11 or so artists that would soon after take the horror genre by storm. It wasn’t just content to give us one type of creature, but many. Aliens, space slugs, zombies, and memorable one-liners, Night of the Creeps has it all.