“Night of the Creeps,” “The Quiet” and “Teenage Gang Debs” Reviewed

NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986)
Despite forcing the worst horror movie hero in cinematic history on us (Jason Lively: Russ from National Lampoon’s European Vacation), Night of the Creeps is an impressively tight hour and a half of 50-style monster movie goodness that riffs on old favorites while offering a few surprises of its own. After an impressive b&w 50s flashback-prologue, NotC jumps to the present (well, 1986 anyway) where an extraterrestrial scourge of high-speed slugs that enter you through the mouth and eat your brain have been thawed out of cryogenic hybernation to turn some unfortunate Corman University students (Corman! Get it?!) into the walking dead.  Dork hero and his dork parapellegic pal must save the day, save the comely sorority girl (that she even KINDA goes for Russ is more implausable than any of the sci-fi plot rationalizations) and kick the ass of the zombified frat boys with a little help from broken cop, Tom Atkins (yay!) and a flamethrower. Lots of gore and pre-digital effects kick things up a star or two — and while I appreciate the genre in-joking, naming characters after horror directors is a little too over the wink-nudge top for my taste.  This is an above-average 80s slice of drive-in-style popcorn fun. Pair it up with something like Critters or Return of the Living Dead and you’ve got yourself a helluva retro Saturday-night double feature.
** 1/2

THE QUIET (2005)
Here’s a surprisingly cerebral exploitation shocker that’s as sick as it is smart and features top performances that give it a lift of respectability. Deaf teen misfit, Dot (Camilla Bell), is forced to stay with in-laws after her pop is run over by a truck(!). Unfortunately she’s traded familial heartbreak for familial fucktuptitude in the form of a heinous new household. A family led by Martin Donovan, an inestuous papa preying on uberHAWT jailbait daughter, Elisha Cuthbert, while pill-popping matriarch, Edie Falco, stands doped-up on the sidelines. Deliberate pacing builds some impressive tension and some extremely hard-to-watch scenes deliver the gawdy exploitation goods as suburban secrets and lies tangle two teen girls’ lives into some pretty disturbing knots, culminating in a brutal resolution that pays off without copping out. Sexy, sinister and compulsively watchable, TQ is an under-observed psycho-thriller with art-house chops.
***

TEENAGE GANG DEBS (1966)
If you want to see what the Gill Man considers the end-all, be-all of 60s cool, see Teenage Gang Debs. Gritty, b&w, New York cinematography meets tough-talking teen gangs, with a Lady Macbeth-style anti-heroine named Terry who waltzes in and takes over The Rebels via a clawing, biting, blouse-ripping cat fight that propells her to top “Old Lady” status with tough teen biker bad-ass Johnny. A brutal gang rape sets the tone for this low-budget adolecent tough-as-nails urban noir.  These troubled teens dress as sharp as their switchblades and are always ready to rumble. The law of the gang is the only law they know and they follow their leader in lockstep until a whole lotta trouble shows up in the form of Terry — all Shangri-Lah’d out in tight sweaters, leather, teased hair and black eyeliner. She’s new to town and wants to take over. After seducing Johnny, the top cat makes a mistake by demanding she get used to the idea that he’s gonna brand her to stake ownership. ALL his old lady’s do it. But Terry’s not just any hot mama and she’s nobody’s fool. We see the first signs of what’s to come when, after Johnny steps out, she rolls over in bed and hisses, “Nuts to you, buster! Nobody’s gonna cut me up!” She next beds the gang’s second banana, Nino, turns him on Johnny, and after a knife duel leaves Johnny dead and Nino in charge, Terry’s decided she’s just getting started. Diane Conti — where have you gone?! There’s next to nothing available about her and only one other documented film credited to her name. Her chilly/sexy line delivery greased with a badass Brooklyn accent and her raven-haired hotness make her an unbeatable genre presence that makes TGD perfect for repeat viewings. Sweetening the pot is a smooth, jazzy soundtrack of incidental music and two stand-out “pop tunes” written for the film’s dance hall stomp sessions (“Black Belt” and “Don’t Make Me Mad”) complete with coreography and the makings for a dance craze that was never destined to catch on. So tallying it all up: authentic period music and locations, mod aesthetic, knife fights, cat fights, biker rumbles, sex, rape, revenge, bad guys, badder girls and Diane Fucking Conti knocking every goddamn scene out of the park…TGD is about as good as it gets. And it never got that good again. Dig?
****

~ by Number5ive on June 24, 2008.

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