In 1959 college student Pam (Alice Cadogan) went out on a date one night, only she was with a new man, not her regular boyfriend, a police officer. As they sat in the car in the local lover's lane they gazed up into the sky and Pam wondered what the brightest star was, but they were interrupted by officer Ray, her boyfriend. He was understandably dismayed though had important news: there was a killer on the loose, a dangerous escapee from the mental asylum. As Ray moped off the couple noticed a bright star getting brighter until it shot over their heads and into the woods - but it was no meteor. It had come from an alien spaceship...
When Slither was released a lot of horror fans noticed the similarity between it and Night of the Creeps, writer and director Fred Dekker's other cult horror movie (along with The Monster Squad). In truth, Slither was the better film, but for eighties fun this wasn't worth dismissing as simply a forgotten influence best consigned to nostalgic followers of shocker schlock. Its chief drawback is that it's far too leisurely paced so that the real Night of the Living Dead-style menace doesn't occur until too late in the day (or night) to truly be to the film's advantage.
That said, Dekker exhibits welcome imagination in what is your basic zombie science fiction flick from this decade. It actually opens with a scene on a spaceship, with little aliens chasing each other about when the pursued one sends out a canister - the meteor Pam witnesses - into space, which eventually lands on Earth. The fifties-set sequences are all in black and white, like a B-movie of the era, and once Pam and her new friend meet a sticky end both at the hands of the axeman and the parasites that have broken out of the canister, we jump forward in time to 1986 and catch up with the heroes of the film.
They are college students Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall, playing the role on crutches, interestingly), and one thing you'll note about the characters' names is that they are coined after famous horror directors (and the students go to Corman University) which is either respectful or hopeful about the status of the work, depending on your point of view. So Chris is Chris Romero, and J.C. is James Carpenter Hooper, and the object of Chris's affection is Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow). She unfortunately has a boyfriend in the shape of arrogant Brad (Allan Kayser), a stock character of the day, and he peruades them to join his fraternity by stealing a body from the morgue (this, they believe, will make Chris more acceptable to Cynthia).
All does not go to plan, and the bumbling duo accidentally unleash a cryogenically frozen body who happens to be the boyfriend from the fifties segment, and oh dear, he's a zombie. What these (Cronenberg-like, funnily enough) parasites inhabiting his head do is make the host bodies wander about shooting the little slugs out of their mouths at victims, then their brains explode to let loose more of the critters. But Dekker spends too much time pussyfooting around with comedy and scare scenes that end abruptly, when he should have been building up a momentum. In the humour's favour, this is the film that features the classic exchange from now middle-aged cop Ray (Tom Atkins): "I've got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here." "What's the bad news?" "They're dead." But if Night of the Creeps is too bright to be sinister, and not really funny enough, it is diverting and affectionately put together. Music by Barry De Vorzon.