Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Night of the Comet (1984) - FilmReview

Article author: Alwyn Ash

"It was the last thing on Earth they ever expected."

Imagine a movie, one watched so many years ago now that the title had become temporarily forgotten, a gem of a sci-fi tale featuring sisters Regina "Reggie" (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha "Sam" (Kelli Maroney), who wake one morning to discover that the Human race has vanished, replaced by red dust and a scattering of clothes. Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, "Night of the Comet" focuses on an apocalyptic event caused by the passing of Earth through a comet's tail. Crowds gather in districts all over the world to watch this unusual event. The problem is, the comet's previous encounter with the blue planet took place 65 million years ago, coinciding with a similar event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Of course, what follows isn't exactly logical, but the fun to be had allows for the script to take liberties. The night of the comet, an electrical storm, and then sunrise...

Having spent the night with her boyfriend Larry (Michael Bowen) in the projection booth of a local movie theatre where she works, Reggie is unaware that anything strange has occurred outside. However, when separated, Larry is killed by a zombie-like Human affected by the comet's presence and Reggie flees, returning home to find her young sister alive and ignorant to what has occurred in the past few hours. As realisation dawns, the two women hear the voice of a DJ and head for the radio station, believing there to be other survivors. The disc jockey's voice, as it turns out, is a recorded message, the whole radio production automated. Just when all seems lost, Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran) makes an appearance, gun in hand. Sci-fi fans will no doubt remember Beltran for his portrayal of Commander Chakotay on "Star Trek: Voyager".

Seeing how the "storm" worked so incredibly well, one does wonder why the Martians didn't launch such an attack in HG Wells' classic 1898 novel - fighting-machines just seem so inadequate by comparison now... It is also interesting to compare Eberhardt's story with both George Romero's "Day of the Dead" and Boris Sagal's "The Omega Man". Of course, there is a little of "Maniac Cop" thrown in for good measure during a nightmare sequence involving the pretty Samantha (Maroney) in a rest room.

"Night of the Comet" takes no foot wrong as it mixes sci-fi with horror and comedy in a perfect blend, and the pairing of Stewart and Maroney nothing less than superb casting, both actors relishing in the parts given. Even among realisation that the world has suffered terrible loss, the spirited young ladies manage to enjoy "shopping" at a local mall to the bouncy sound of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", during which they are being watched and ultimately attacked by stockboys infected by the virus that transforms survivors into zombies, although their present state is less advanced than the one who had killed Larry earlier on in the movie. An amusing line in the shopping mall, as the leader says, "Just a few days ago we were only stockboys, now we own the store".

Though Reggie and Sam are the true stars, let us not forget the importance of scientist Audrey White (Mary Woronov) and her team, who are seeking out other survivors and taking them back to their desert underground installation, though their motives may not be entirely good natured. When the girls meet this dedicated team of "experts", there is much trust and the sisters are separated, Reggie transported by air to the base and Sam being told she is infected but a simple injection will cure her.

When I think back to films that captured my heart from long ago, this is most definitely one of them - another being the romantic sci-fi "Starcrossed" (1985). "Night of the Comet" gives you girls with Uzi's, zombies with ambition, and enough red dust to twin the Earth with Mars... The movie is so engaging you will not want it to end. In a time when films are now far too reliant on CGI, it is a pleasure to take a look back at something that had minimum special effects but shined with such character. The ending, too, doesn't fail in delivering the fun - Sam is somewhat agitated by her sister warning her not to cross the road before waiting for the lights to change. The young girl looks about her at the ghost town, bemused. Ignoring the advice, she moves to make a demonstration in the road that there is no one else around, just as a car comes into view and screeches to a halt, to Sam's amazement. The young man in the driver's seat instantly takes her eye. She thanks her lucky stars...

Being reminded of just how amusing the 1980s could be really brings a smile. I am so looking forward to revisiting further classic cinema and television from this and other decades. Perhaps "Nighthawks", a 1981 movie featuring Catherine Mary Stewart? That said, how dare Dutch actor Rutger Hauer commit such a horrific act of terrorism and murder her during an attack on a London department store!

Purchase Night of the Comet from the Store:
Blu-ray + DVD - Running time: 95 minutes