Friday, November 6, 2009

Night of the Comet (1984)

The end of the world is something that's not new in movies, especially zombie movies. Everyone from Godfather of the flesh eating zombie film George Romero to pretty much almost every bad direct to video zombie flick have dealt with the scenario. It's Thom Eberhardt's 1984 cult favorite "The Night of the Comet" though that to this day, manages to stand out in the pack.

The film starts with people getting ready to see a comet that last appeared 65 million years ago. Too bad for Regina (Mary Catherine Stewart) and her sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney), who have to miss the whole thing.

Or maybe that's not so bad.

The next day, the sky is blood red, and most of the world has been reduced either to dust, or has become a murderous zombie. Fortunately for Regina and Samantha (who from here on out will be called "Reg and Sam"), there are survivors. Among them are a handsome truck driver named Hector (Richard Beltram) and a group of scientists (including cult favorites Geoffry Lewis and Mary Warnov.) Unfortunately, the scientists are making a vaccine made out of uninfected blood-and they have our heroines in mind, as well as some children (one of whom, according to IMDB, has made a career for herself as a voice actor.)

From the premise alone, "Night of the Comet" sounds like dour stuff. Oh contraire my dear reader. Apart from two dreams Keri has, and the first zombie attack, there is very little that could be considered scary. Nor does it ever chart anything close to Romero territory (the zombies actually feel secondary in the plot.) If anything, "Night of the Comet" is more reminiscent of the fun 50's/60's B-Movie homage "Night of the Creeps", only it's somehow even goofier. Our protagonists themselves are two Valley Girls (well, it was the 80's) who know what they should do when the going get's tough: go to the mall! Unlike Romero, there is no attempt at commentary about mass consumerism. Director Eberhardt simply wants to create a breezy, fun atmosphere, and he suceeds.

The performances are fun throughout, with Stewart and Maroney managing to make Reg and Sam likable and not the least bit irritating, as well as getting away with some great one-liners ("Daddy would have gotten us Uzi's!") Beltram is okay, but doesn't really feel like much of a character for a while in the movie. The direction is fun, though decidedly dated. Actually, the whole thing feels dated-from the hair, music (even "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" plays at one point) screams 80's, though none of that is a negative.

It's easy to see why "Night of the Comet" has garnered such a following. Unlike other post apocalyptic movies, it never wallows in gore, nihilism or tired survivalist fantasy. It's a funny, engaging little Sci-Fi/Horror Comedy (emphasis on comedy) that still holds up, and is unpretentious, silly fun at it's best.

Rating: 8/10

Eberhardt actually debuted with the eerie, highly underrated supernatural zombie flick "Sole Survivor" a year earlier. He went on to direct the Michael Caine/Ben Kingsley comedy "Without a Clue", then followed that up with "Gross Anatomy" and um, "Captain Ron." He hasn't been able to direct much worth of note sense.

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