Cindy wakes up in the middle of the night to see an astral projection of her crippled old landlord standing over her, presumably about to heinously violate her. The next morning, Cindy goes to the house of a friend who is helping her get a nude modeling job, only to find her dead in a bathtub, with blood coating the walls and filling up the tub.
This scene is not an outlier in Night Creep. The movie is constantly one-upping itself, getting more disturbing, more surprising, more absurd, and funnier every minute. The movie, a shot-on-video psychological thriller with plot twists in every scene, was created in 2003 by punk magician, comedian, and filmmaker Greg Travis. Night Creep follows Cindy, a stripper, who, after taking a drug called night creep, slowly loses her mind while being violated nightly by her landlord. It was released only in South America and Africa, but only for two months, after which its production company went out of business. (The organizer of the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival (PUFF) said he was suspicious about the production company’s legitimacy.) Fourteen years later, Travis contacted PUFF out of the blue to ask if they could show his film, which featured the third-to-last role of Return of the Living Dead star, Don Calfa. The PUFF screening was Night Creep’s first time in front of an audience -- not even the movie’s cast had seen it.
I knew Night Creep was going to be weird from the trailer, but I had no idea just how weird. Even before the plot escalates into insanity, Greg Travis’s use of cheesy fonts over lo-fi images foretells a visually unusual film, to say the least. The epitome of this style appears in a hallucination sequence involving what looks like 1980s computer game graphics of worms and babies over colorful, morphing backgrounds. Recurring scenes showing, for example, the coke-fueled bald heads of strip club patrons and a very creepy old landlord, give viewers a feeling of cyclicity and contribute to the unique visual style of the film.
Given the strangeness and horrific content of Night Creep, it should not be funny. But not only is it peppered with clever, tongue-in-cheek camerawork and dialogue, it has some moments that are uproariously hilarious and that leaves the approximately seven-person audience guffawing in unison. The entire movie toes the line between campy psychological thriller and goofy parody, but certain moments – mostly those involving Greg Travis as the womanizing police detective – enters completely into the satirical side of Night Creep, with jokes that break the dark mood of the film in such a startling way that they are absolutely hysterical.
After the movie ended, the audience couldn’t say much more than “what?” and “that was insane.” On the rating sheet we were given to evaluate the movie, one person circled both the highest and lowest possible rating. Night Creep is incredibly strange, but that strangeness is what makes it, and PUFF, so freaking fun.