Night of the Comet (1984)
They came. They Shopped. They saved the world!
Night of the Comet is a tough one to label. It’s a zombie movie without quite being a zombie movie. It’s a comedy without being that heavy on the humour. It’s a teen flick but not really a teen flick… I think you get my drift. More like Valley Girl meets Night of the Living Dead meets the Omega Man. But while Night of the Comet might indeed be difficult to label, it is definitely not difficult to watch. It’s another of those “Cult Flicks” that flew under the radar, like a lot of the movies I tend to review. Those that know about it love it, whereas everyone else seems to be oblivious to its existence. And that is a damn shame.
The movie begins with the city of Los Angeles in a frenzy over the passing of a comet. Seriously, it’s like New Years Eve. The comet hasn’t passed Earth since the time of the dinosaurs (alarm bells anyone?) and people are partying in the streets, having barbecues with their neighbours and generally running wild. A lot of commotion for a comet, but what the hey? Regina however, is stuck at work at the local movie theatre. Her sister Samantha doesn’t have it much better either. She’s at home with their evil stepmonster who is throwing a party. Samantha gets into an argument with Doris after Regina phones and says she isn’t coming home. After some slaps are exchanged, Doris punches her leading Samantha to run away. She spends the night in the garden shed while Regina ends up sleeping in the projection booth at work with her boyfriend Larry. This may not seem important right now, but trust me. It is.
The following morning things start to get a little weird. No people. No cars. No movement. Just loads of red dust and clothes scattered around. Adding to the weirdness, Larry leaves the projection booth where he and Regina stayed the night never to return. Regina gets impatient and decides to check out what’s going on only to find that Larry’s bike is still outside and a bloody wrench is lying on the ground a few feet away. Her worst fears are confirmed when a violent man whose face seems to be decaying jumps out and attacks her. She manages to fight him off and takes Larry’s bike. She heads home to see if she can find Samantha.
Luckily she does, but no one else. Regina has trouble convincing Samantha that they are the only people left alive, but a radio broadcast gives them hope that the DJ is still at the radio station. They head there only to discover that the station is playing a pre-recorded sound reel. The girls resign themselves to the fact that they might just be the only people left in the world, but soon meet Hector. He had spent the previous night in the back of his truck and also headed to the radio station in search of more people. The three work out that they are alive because they were all inside steel structures when the comet passed. Samantha in the garden shed, Regina in the projection booth and Hector in his truck. Hector wasn’t alone, but like Regina, his lady friend was killed by a zombie earlier that morning. Samantha decides to fool around with the station equipment and starts broadcasting. She thinks no one is listening, but recieves a call from someone who says they are part of a think tank out in the desert. Unbeknownst to our three survivors, these scientists are only concerned with their own self preservation and have sinister motives for contacting survivors.
Back at the station, despite protests from Regina, Hector leaves to go see if his mother is still alive. Much like we all assumed, she isn’t. But he does meet a rather creepy little kid who tries to kill him. It seems that partial exposure to the comet results in these violent zombie like creatures who crave human flesh. Meanwhile, Samantha is annoyed that Regina appears to have snagged the only guy left on Earth (Hector) and the girls cheer themselves up by raiding a local department store. Nothing like a little retail therapy to cure what ails you. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t alone. A bunch of stock boys were down in the basement when the comet passed and are slowly changing into zombies. And they certainly don’t appreciate these girls raiding their store.
Being army brats, Regina and Samantha know their way around a firearm or two and the bullets start flying. The stock boys gain the upper hand, but the team of scientists arrive just in time to save Regina and Samantha. They take Regina back to their base, but mistakenly thinking that Samantha is infected by the comet, they leave her behind with Audrey – the lone female scientist that is opposed to their plan of taking the survivors. She is instructed to kill Samantha, but can’t do it, choosing to kill her cohort instead and give up her own life to relay a message to Hector, who has just returned to the radio station looking for the girls. Audrey tells him that he not only needs to go to the base in the desert to save Regina, but two children held captive there as well.
We then discover that the scientist group were exposed to the comet and have been draining the blood of survivors to keep themselves from turning into zombies. Regina and the children are next on the list. Hector finds Samantha and they head out to the base to help Regina and the kids, but knowing Regina she just might already have matters under control. Is there a happy ending ahead or will they be drained of their blood to keep the scientists alive?
For its age, Night of the Comet holds up well. Well, in most regards anyway. The fashion, hair and music might be dated, but the story is a good one and the characters fun and likable. Regina is a strong female lead who finds a delicate balance between taking care of herself and her sister, yet still sometimes needing a little help from others. Hector (played by a rather cute, young, Robert Beltran – Star Trek Voyager’s Chakotay), seems to be a great support character for Regina. He manages to be there to help her without detracting from the independant strength she is so proud of. Audrey (Mary Woronov) is also fantastic as the scientist with a heart. I love Ms Woronov, and her name in the credits of any film always increases my chances of watching and enjoying it by tenfold.
If you haven’t seen Night of the Comet, I highly recommend it. It’s fun and light without being too campy yet somehow still manages to retain a feeling of seriousness with regards to the plight of our survivors. Maybe I’m easily impressed (I am, it’s true), but I was most impressed with Night of the Comet. I’m very happy to see that MGM have released it on DVD.
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