It Came from the Camcorder: Night Crawlers (1996)

Missile Test has been doing the Horrorshow since 2009, and this year’s theme, It Came from the Camcorder, has been the most difficult, both to watch and to write about. The me that came up with this idea many months ago has placed a burden on current me that I didn’t expect. Even today’s movie, from a pair of moviemakers that I respect, is a low-down dirty dog that probably never should have seen the light of day. Strike that. No movie is too bad to be made or watched (for at least fifteen minutes, anyway), but there is no obligation from any critic, hobbyist or professional, to blow smoke and pretend that it’s an artistic accomplishment. Congratulations, Polonia Bros., you made another movie, and it sucks.

From back in 1996, Night Crawlers is another collaboration between John and Mark Polonia, from a script by Charles Hank.

A quick note about credits in low-budget movies. They can be pretty unreliable, with filmmakers often using multiple pseudonyms to make it seem like more people worked on the film. Night Crawlers is Hank’s only credit on IMDb, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a pseudonym for the Polonias. The same goes for the director of photography and editor. I could be wrong, and if I am, Mr. Hank and others, wherever they might be, would be right to be annoyed with me. I’ve seen way too many b-movies to take credits at face value, though. Anyway…

Mark Polonia plays Tom, a 20-something father who, with his wife, May (Maria Davis), is shopping for a house where they can raise their family. Luckily for them, a real cheapie has come on the market. It’s not a murder house or anything, but the people who lived there were murdered elsewhere, and the home is priced to move. Why this distinction was necessary is something that could only happen in a movie like this.

The couple moves into the house just in time for the entire town to be terrorized by insect-like creatures that burrow through the ground into people’s basements and kill them.

The creature effects are beyond bargain basement. It appears a single model was slapped together out of some plastic, ping pong balls, and hot glue, and thrown at the cast whenever a kill was needed. All of the creativity with effects that the Polonias had shown in the past is missing. This monster looks like something whipped up for a high school play.

Frequent Polonia collaborator Todd Michael Smith has a prominent role as a priest in the movie, and it’s his character that discovers the origins of the creature. It’s an alien. It even has a spaceship. Then Tom and the priest kill it. The end.

I would say that Night Crawlers could be the most amateurish movie a viewer will see in their lifetimes, but the kind of movie fan who would watch this dog has probably been plumbing the depths for quite some time. No one starts their bad movie addiction with Night Crawlers. Watching this movie is what happens when more well-known bad movies just don’t provide the fix anymore. It’s not all despair, though. There are some amusing bad moviemaking moments.

When Tom and May move into their new home, there’s a musical montage, sports movie-style, of them carrying boxes and decorating. It’s inspiring watching May arrange placemats and flowers on the dining room table to a triumphant guitar solo.

Then there’s a scene where Tom is desperately running around the house, calling out, “May! May!” over and over. The phone rings, and Tom answers, “Hello?” It’s May on the line, and she says, “Tom, it’s May. What’s wrong?” as if she knew Tom had been yelling for her. That’s some solid storytelling, right there.

The cut of Night Crawlers that I saw was only 67-minutes long, but I felt every minute of it. I know that the Polonias are capable of better. Not miles better, but lively, and worth a look. This movie is just bad, bad, bad.

Night Crawlers falls way down into the nether regions of the Watchability Index. It takes over the #411 spot from Alien Rising, making it one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Stay away, unless, of course, you’re into this shit.

Polonia fans, keep an eye out for Marion Costly, star of Splatter Farm, who makes a quick cameo.

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