1984 sci-fi film “Night of the Comet,” probes the aftermath of a apocalyptic event, but with a twist. Rather than following adults, it focuses almost exclusively on a cast of teenagers. The premise fosters a fun-filled, intruguing story.
Earth is set to pass through the tail of a comet, an event last taking place 65 million years ago. However, it coincided with the event which precipitated the extinction of the dinosaurs. As the comet hurdles toward Earth, gatherings form as comet watch parties. Teenaged Regina “Reggie” Belmot (Catherine Mary Stewart), is stuck working a shift at a movie theatre in Southern California. An avid fan of the Tempest video game, a Tempest arcade cabinent residing in the theatre lobby, Reggie is livid when she discovers the initials DMK in the high scores list.
But the morning following the comet’s passing Reggie has much bigger problems to contend with than someone surpassing one of her high scores. It appears as if she’s the only living sole in Southern California, if not the world. Her boyfriend Larry (Michael Bowen), leaves to retrieve a movie reel from a friend and doesn’t return. As such, Reggie ventures out only to discover a barren landscape. She and her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) appear to be the only survivors. However, Reggie and Sam hear a radio announcement and believe that a local disc jockey is still alive and broadcasting. Instead, they meet Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), a trucker who spent the night of his truck. Broadcasting on the mic, Sam is overheard by a group of researchers in an underground desert lab.
Sci-fi B-movie “Night of the Comet” is a technically well executed rollick which smartly parodies science fiction tropes. Oozing elements of “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Last Man on Earth,” and “The Omega Man,” it remains wholly unique. By focusing on a pair of teenage girls in Reggie and Sam, “Night of the Comet” pairs a zombie apocalypse aesthetic with tongue in cheek humor which counterbalances its unoriginal elements. Rather than eschewing tropes, “Night of the Comet” embraces genre cliches, employing these as a foundation for a cleverly-crafted lampoon. Arguably the most enjoyable scenes finds Sam and Reggie shopping in an abandoned mall. During their shopping spree, the sisters are accosted by a group of zombified stock boys, including their leader Willy (Ivan E. Roth). “I’m not crazy, I just don’t give a fuck,” Willy proclaims. It’s infiitely quotable.
Cinematography and acting are top-notch, and the bright, neon colors pop off the screen. In the wake of the comet’s passing, the sky turns a vibrant technicolor red. Bleak shots of a desserted Los Angeles ooze an ominous vibe. The crew had to shoot these scenes early in the morning on weekends to capture shots sans traffic and pedestrians. However, the modest budget of $700,000 does occasionally show. The plot plods along and though it’s engaging, it’s standard fare which largely lacks surprises. From the all-too-convenient survival of both sisters to their miraculous escapes, and even the abusive step mother number, “Night of the Comet” is loaded with cliches.
Despite its patchwork of sci-fi tropes, “Night of the Comet” is bouyed by its quick wit and humor. This campy end-of-the-world flick poses a what-if, plunging two Valley girls into a post-apocalyptic setting. The result is an insanely enjoyable B-movie romp which accomplishes wonders on a modest budget.