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M.I.A: Fred Dekker

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Jun 13, 2011 | 12:45pm EDT

Fred DekkerWelcome to M.I.A. – a new feature that will put the spotlight on some of our favorite entertainers and ask “where are they now?” Through some research, we’ll attempt to answer that question by filling in the blanks that mark the recent years of formerly great careers.

There are many directors, writers, actors, etc, whose careers haven’t seen daylight in ages. While some of these artists have names are either well-known or at least that may tickle a twinge of recognition in the back of everyone’s mind, the first name that popped into my head was one that didn’t curry much attention even within his own golden age. Nevertheless, it pains me that it’s been almost twenty years since we’ve seen a film from Mr. Fred Dekker.

Why We Love Him

Dekker may not have the most prolific catalogue in the annals of cinema, but his films have resonated with geeks like me with great zeal. His first film was Night of the Creeps in 1986; a loving tribute to some of the most imposing figures in genre cinema. The film revolves around a plague of alien-bred slugs that crash land on Earth and begin to inhabit the bodies of humans; transforming their hosts into mindless carriers. It was a love letter to the likes of John Carpenter, James Cameron and David Cronenberg; all of whom had their names playfully inserted into the film’s character roster. Night of the Creeps is a delicious little throwback to the sci-fi/horror movies of the 1950s while simultaneously upholding the 80s sensibilities that made that decade so important for movie geeks. I also defy you to find a cop in a horror film played with more no-nonsense machismo than that of 80s horror mainstay Tom Atkins’ Det. Cameron.

Dekker followed up Night of the Creeps with Monster Squad in 1987, a “family” film about a group of youths who must fight back the forces of evil that descend upon their town. The youths are a troupe of foul-mouthed horror fanatics and the aforementioned evil is the entire Universal Monsters starting lineup. What is so incredible about a movie like Monster Squad is that while it has the trappings of a kids’ movie, it harbors a great deal of appeal for the older crowds and particularly those with an affinity for classic monster movies. The young actors playing the central group of kids are wonderfully talented and endlessly entertaining to watch and I am a sucker for the film’s inspired makeup effects. Mondo Tees posters for both of these films currently adorn the walls of my living room.

What Happened To Him?

These days, the concept of one bad movie ruining a director’s career seems far-fetched and over-dramatic. But in the case of Fred Dekker, his nearly two-decade absence from Hollywood can be traced back to a single film: the very unfortunate Robocop 3. After this titanic cinematic disaster, it seemed the phone just stopped ringing for poor Fred. Frankly, up until the point Murphy starts flying, which still gives me nightmares, I don’t think Robocop 3 is that bad. Granted, I have a very rare birth defect that left me with an elevated tolerance for bad films, but it’s no stretch to state that Robocop 3 is no worse than Robocop 2. And again, it seems weird that this one misstep would prove so detrimental to Dekker’s career. If he had made that film today, given the climate of short-memories and multiple chances bestowed upon even the most hackneyed filmmakers, he’d have been given plenty of opportunities to bounce back from this singular flop.

Where’s He Been?

Monster SquadOver the last few years, Fred has been enjoying the cult fame earned by Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad. Both films received cast and crew reunion screenings at the amazing Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin that played to effortlessly sold out auditoriums. In fact, it was because of these Alamo screenings, serving as evidence of the lingering fandom for them, that these films ended getting their long-overdue DVD and Blu-ray releases. Fred has been quoted as saying that no one ever sets out to make a cult film, but in the case of his career specifically, the cult status of his films proved to be his greatest legacy; overshadowing even the colossal bomb that was Robocop 3.

What Now?

While there have not been any confirmed projects in the works for Fred of late, there have been many rumors of a Monster Squad remake. While I am not in favor of a Hollywood rehash of what has become a favorite film of mine, I would support it fervently if it could potentially mean more mainstream attention would waft in Fred’s direction. If the remake were a success, maybe it would encourage Fred to come back to filmmaking and/or give studios the courage to take another shot on this fantastic director.

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