“I’ll be very candid about what I think works and what doesn’t work.”
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Commentator: Fred Dekker (writer/director)
1. Dekker loves dvd commentaries, particularly the ones by Robert Rodriguez, “so I may talk fast.”
2. The title credits were designed by Ernie Ferrino, who also did films as diverse as The Alien Factor and The Terminator. “I asked him to do a kind of Famous Monsters of Filmland logo.”
3. He didn’t want to do stop-motion or guys in suits for the opening glimpse of the aliens aboard their ship, but he still wanted them to appear different from the norm so he ended up putting little people in suits. “It didn’t occur to me that it would get a laugh from the get-go.” It was unintentional, but he thanks it for giving the audience an approval to laugh going forward.
4. He points out that the alien who launches the worm into space is himself a zombie. The giveaway is his clouded eyes.
5. The space ship model was used later in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
6. Much of the film was shot in and around the University of Southern California’s fraternity and sorority rows. Apparently the area is arranged so that the two are located directly across the street from each other. It led to some fun during production.
7. Leslie Ryan is the girl brushing her hair in the opening black & white sequence. Dekker asked her out on a date, and she turned him down. Alice Cadogan is the girl on the bed with a book, and she later married Jeffrey Combs (From Beyond).
8. The opening b&w section is intended to mirror a bad ’50s sci-fi film, “so nothing against the actors, but when the acting isn’t quite up to snuff it’s okay.”
9. The film had pacing issues “that the studio really railroaded me on.” It reached a point where an executive and the editor did an edit without Dekker’s involvement. He let most of their cuts go without a fight but learned his lesson. “All the films after this I had a stop-watch in my pocket at all times.”
10. He’s been asked why J.C. (Steve Marshall) is handicapped and says “there’s no reason aside except that we just don’t see it. You can make a movie with a character who’s handicapped without the story being about the fact that he’s handicapped.” Bravo to this.
11. He wonders if viewers get the Walt Disney cryogenic joke. We do Fred, we do.
12. Low angle/wide lens shots appeal to him, but “when I went on to do Monster Squad Peter Hyams gave me a lot of grief for that.”
13. Shane Black cameos briefly in the shot at the police station with the cop on the phone with Det. Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins).
14. He is no fan of how slow his actors are walking. It goes back to his changed attitude on pacing, but every time a character ‐ alive or zombie ‐ walks slowly he tells them (on the commentary) to move faster.
15. The scene where Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) changes her top was apparently staged intentionally to leave viewers wondering if she was going to show her boobs. “The idea here was are we gonna see, are we? And we wait until the last beat and then she turns around. The idea there is obviously nudity always makes your heroine more vulnerable.” Obviously.
16. It was Atkins’ idea to stop and smell the roses on the way into the crime scene. “Because he’s a romantic.”
17. Dekker is as annoyed as the rest of us by the newspaper headline mentioning a headless body when the guy had a head ‐ it was just split down the middle.
18. A small crowd scene required a 2nd assistant director to try and wave away onlookers so they wouldn’t be seen on camera. She can be glimpsed at 38:18 waving them away…
19. The Asian janitor “is not my proudest moment. I don’t know if I encouraged him (Robert Kino) to make it seem like an Asian stereotype, but there’s something about it that rubs me the wrong way.”
20. The alien slugs were powered both by motors and strings.
21. “Go Monster Squad” can be seen scrawled on the bathroom wall at 51:58.
22. The old woman who gets axed by the zombie beneath her floorboards was originally in the opening b&w prologue, “and she looked exactly the same.”
23. Phil’s Diner has become something of a “signature” for Dekker and has been included somehow in all of his movies since.
24. The scene where Chris (Jason Lively) listens to J.C.’s tape presented a challenge due to Lively’s playfulness. Dekker put photos of atrocities around the actor and told him (offscreen) to look at them at various points in the scene. You can see him look at at the Auschwitz one at 1:04:20. “It was really important to me that he take this seriously.”
25. Dekker hates that dog puppet.
26. He’s not a fan of Return of the Living Dead. Madness.
27. The moderator mentions an actor named Beal Carrotes, seen briefly at 1:17:42, and says he’s heard stories. “Oh god. Beal Carrotes. Lets not talk about him,” says Dekker. So either he was a troublemaker or it’s actually Dekker himself. I lean towards the latter despite
28. The entire shed scene was added after a “disastrous preview” that left them in need of more action. They took the re-shoot opportunity to add the scene of zombie feet going up the fire escape, some minor beats in the living room, and Cameron grabbing the slug mid-air.
29. The only difference between the theatrical cut and the “director’s cut” released to DVD is the ending. The former ends with a dog-related jump scare that Dekker hates, while the latter features a smoking Cameron and the return of the aliens.
30. Films and filmmakers referenced on the commentary include The Terminator, The Shining, Pleasantville, The Blob, It Came from Outer Space, Stanley Kubrick, Roger Corman, John Hughes, Jaws, Peter Hyams, Mike Nichols, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Steve Miner, Shane Black, Richard Donner, Dawn of the Dead, Psycho, Q the Winged Serpent, Alfred Hitchcock, Return of the Living Dead, George Romero, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg, Duel, The Fog, Lethal Weapon, George Miller, Brian De Palma, and Ray Harryhausen.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“I’ll point out the Kubrick-ian compositions in the film, of which there are many.”
Night of the Creeps (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]
Fred Dekker holds a warm spot in genre fans’ hearts thanks to both Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, but a forgettable Robocop sequel aside he’s been MIA from the director’s chair since 1993. It’s a shame as both of his horror/comedies from the ’80s are highly re-watchable. His commentary is equally entertaining as he recalls anecdotes and technical details and does his best impression of Robert Rodriguez offering mini film school lessons. It’s a fun listen, and it’s guaranteed to thrill you.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.