Night of the Comet (1984)
Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt
Produced by Andrew Lane, Wayne Crawford
Cinematography by Arthur Albert
Library DVD – interlibrary loan (1:35)
“The burden of civilization is on us, okay?”
Night of the Comet is a horror/science fiction/comedy/satire recommended by the guys at Pure Cinema Podcast last week. The plot is pretty simple: a comet has streaked past the Earth several days before Christmas, wiping out every person in the Los Angeles area except for a few survivors who stayed indoors protected by any structure made of steel. It’s not much of a set-up, but it’s enough to get us going.
Before the arrival of the comet, Regina “Reggie” Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart, above right) is more concerned about maintaining all the high scores on the arcade game Tempest (which took a lot of my money in the 80s, but I never got a high score) than in doing her job at a local movie theater. Reggie’s sister Sam (Kelli Maroney, left) also survives and together the two sisters head for a local radio station after hearing a DJ who’s clearly alive. When they get there, the girls don’t find a DJ – all the music and DJ voices are pre-recorded – but they do find another survivor, a truck driver named Hector (Robert Beltran). Added complications come in the form of a team of scientists (including Geoffrey Lewis and Mary Woronov, below) who may or may not be there to help the survivors.
Night of the Comet touches on some really great ideas and themes, such as consumerism, capitalism and family, but its primary strength is dark comedy. It’s a real revelation to the girls when they find the DJs voices recorded; there’s no one there and possibly never was. (The same can be said for some of the other people from the beginning of the movie. Were these people ever really alive?) A gang of young employees at a mall department store have changed from stock boys into a guerrilla security force overnight. (It doesn’t take much for such a change and it doesn’t take long, either, which in itself may be one of the scariest aspects of the film.) And even in the midst of the apocalypse, the girls are just as obsessed with clothes and guys as they were before the comet.
As good as these satirical touches are, they’re never explored as much as they could be, but I suspect the producers thought of them as just that, satiric touches, grace notes surrounding the basic chord structure of a horror/sf comedy. Night of the Comet is a fun film that gives you just enough to think about while you’re being entertained. I can see why the guys recommended it.
Although I watched the film on a library DVD, Night of the Comet is also available as a Scream Factory Collector’s Edition.
Photos: DVD Beaver, DVD Active