Fans of director Fred Dekker's classic alien invasion/zombie flick Night of the Creeps have been clamoring for its DVD release for years. Now, at long last, Sony has heard their cries and is releasing the film this Tuesday, October 27th, on both standard DVD and Blu-ray. Rejoice – for no longer will your copy of Monster Squad (Dekker's other ‘80s film masterpiece) sit lonely atop your DVD shelves!
We sat down with Dekker earlier this week to discuss the path that led to Creeps' creation and DVD release, on the special features that adorn the disc, and on what he's working on next.
Congrats on Night of the Creeps finally hitting DVD.
Thank you. It's been a long road.
Can you talk a little bit about that road, and why it was so long?
The movie was not terribly successful when it was released. It was not released hugely, it was regional in the United States, and it had its fans, certainly. There were a lot of fans in Germany, and I met some in Belgium and certainly in the States. Gahan Wilson gave it a great review in Twilight Zone Magazine. So there were people who appreciated it, but basically it was not really on the radar. Partially because, I think, it was a little ahead of its time, and partially because it didn't have that mainstream major studio push that makes movies hits or misses in this business. Then it fell into the world of television and video rentals and cable, and I think people sort of discovered it slowly, and took it to their hearts. Those people were relatively young, and I believe that the movies that you see when you are young are the ones that stick with you, and I think that it accrued this affection over time, to the point where people started to look back with a lot of enthusiasm. Another movie I made, The Monster Squad, had a very similar trajectory and Lionsgate released the DVD and it went through the roof. Then Sony realized that there was an audience not for just this type of movie, but for this type of movie with my name on it. I think that's really what happened.
It's kind of unusual that two horror films as beloved as Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad haven't been remade.
Rob Cohen, who is one of the producers of Monster Squad, has talked about remaking it at Paramount. I think it's a disastrous idea. At the time that that movie came out, that was a relatively fresh notion – to kind of blend the Little Rascals with the Universal Monsters. Since then, there's been Van Helsing and there's been Buffy and Harry Potter. It just feels completely played out to me personally, but that's just as a fan.
One could argue that Slither was a remake of Night of the Creeps.
I like James [Gunn] and I liked the movie too, but I think he would be the first one to admit that it didn't set the box office on fire. So I don't know why anybody would remake Night of the Creeps. I recently was reunited with the cast in Austin, Texas, and really loved it. It was great spending time with them. I've paid a lot of attention to the lower-budget, direct-to-DVD world; and Ed Neumeier did a third Starship Troopers. I haven't seen it, but I just love the fact that he was able to do that. So there's one mindset that I have, that if this DVD Blu-ray sells really, really well that we would all walk into Sony and we would say, "Hey guys, do you want to make a sequel?"
One of the great things about these two films is that – when we first saw them – they helped make many of us into horror fans. They aren't just good horror movies – they exhibit a love for the genre that's contagious, that leaps off the screen. I'm not sure many films these days reveal an affinity for horror.
That's really eloquent, and I appreciate that. But I agree, it's tough. It's strange to say this, but the ‘80s, which wasn't all that long ago in Hollywood, was a time when you could do whatever you wanted. It was before the kind of corporate-mandated, tie-in mindset. And there's something really liberating and nice about having had the opportunity to play in the sandbox at that particular time. I mean, on Creeps we got no studio notes. The head of the studio got the script, and he called Chuck Gordon and – this is all in the DVD – he said, "I love this." And Chuck said, "Well, send over your notes." He said, "I don't have any notes. Let's make the movie." People don't do that anymore in Hollywood. They have to talk to 50 other people, all of whom have their two cents. These movies would never be made now. But remaking it, of course, sure, it's a no-brainer. So Hollywood repackages something everyone knows, because it's too scared to come up with anything different.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the extras on the DVD?
There's two commentary tracks – one is by myself and the very talented producer, and the other one with the cast, the key cast – Jason Lively and Steve Marshall – which I haven't heard, so I'm looking forward to that. I specifically was not in the room when they did it, so they could be as free to bash me as possible. [Laughs.] And then, there's obviously the director's cut, which means that Sony was gracious to allow me put the original ending back on where it belongs, so that the stupid zombie dog is gone; he's available in the deleted scenes. There's a whole bunch of other deleted scenes, which were in the TV version that I cut out of the picture, because they sucked, and then there's the usual trailers. The real centerpiece of the DVD, apart from the fantastic new remastering and the 5.1 mix tweak – we beefed it up; you can't really tell, but it sounds better – is the documentary. It's really great. We talked to everybody. It's very candid and behind-the-scenes. I think fans of the film are really going to enjoy it.
Both Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad are, of course, horror comedies – a subgenre that's enjoying a resurgence this year, thanks to Zombieland and Drag Me to Hell. Yet for years it seems we've gone without comedy in mainstream horror films. What's your perspective on that? Do you think Hollywood lost sight of the fact that horror and comedy can go perfectly well together?
I don't know. I think horror-comedy is kind of a stepchild. It's kind of like the kid at the back of the room that reads sci-fi magazines and wears his glasses, picking his nose. I don't think Hollywood has ever embraced it. The other thing is that I think it's a very tough walk, and I think the movies that are genuinely funny and scary you can count on one hand… In fact the only one that comes for me right now is American Werewolf.
Frankenstein was a huge influence on me. Because, as a kid, I found it funny and scary. I don't know if a lot of the modern audience would, but I think that the key for me is – and I haven't seen Zombieland – if you have a scary premise in your movie, it better be scary at some point. You can't just use it as a joke, a kind of background for a comedy. Similarly, if you are going to do humor, as I think Landis did so well in American Werewolf, you gotta be laughing but occasionally you gotta be laughing while you're gritting your teeth, because it's like chocolate and peanut butter – people who don't like them together, they're not going to like these kind of movies, but if you like them together you have to have enough of both so the balance is satisfying. Let's put it this way – I hate comedy-horror movies that are just comedies or I hate comedy-horror movies that aren't funny. You can do one or the other but if you are going to do both, do both. And it's hard. I don't know if I succeeded, but I will say it's tough.
Can you talk about what you're up to right now?
I just turned in the screenplay for the sequel to Cliffhanger, which I will probably not be directing, and that was a lot of fun – an action, heist, mountain-climbing movie. I'm working on a low-budget drama that I would direct, called The Loss of Nameless Things, which is based on a wonderful documentary film by Bill Rose, about a playwright in the ‘70s who started a theater company in upstate New York. He was poised for greatness, and he fell off a bridge and suffered brain damage. It's a movie about his redemption and coming back and figuring out who he is. I'm really excited about doing a piece that's small and real and doesn't have any zombies or explosions or robots or monsters. Although there is one monster – he did a theatrical production of Frankenstein which was apparently stunning. So I feel like I was born to carry on that Frankenstein's torch..
What's your greatest fear?
Drowning in the dark. I remember, as a kid, I would go hiking up the hill behind my house. And there was a water tower; I remember climbing up the ladder – you could kind of peek through the hatch, and I would see this dark water and I would think, "Oh boy, no thanks."