Thom Eberhardt (Sole Survivor) did his best work in 1984, a film that would go down as an 80’s cult science-fiction classic. Night of the Comet. The 80’s was the home to a real mixed bag of horror and sci-fi films. In between the boom-boxes, the Rubix cubes and the Slinky’s was a genre that has, in retrospect, remained one of the most memorable for horror, specifically the humorous, colourful and comedic horror, with the likes of Return of the Living Dead and various others leading the charge. Among them, though not spoken of as often as many others, is this film, this bright, spandex-wearing, back-combed haired, synth-pop sounding, Twizzler-eating zombie film that just sparkles with the energy of what makes the 1980’s a time that many of us look back on with fondness.
A low-budget production, Night of the Comet begins as it means to go on, and it makes the most of the small bag of change at its disposal. Regina and Samantha, two sisters of high-school age, have a father who is never home, and a step-mother who doesn’t exactly “like” them. Regina works at a movie theatre while Samantha likes to party, hang out at home, and enjoy the easy-nature of being a teenager. Suddenly, out of the sky, a comet appears and blows everyone who isn’t shielded by steel walls into dust. Luckily for the two sisters, they were under protective materials when the comet hit. Realising that the world has turned to a pile of sand, Regina and Samantha head out into town to see if anyone is inside the local radio station which is still playing. They come across a guy named Hector who befriends them and the three try to figure out what to do next. Hector travels back to San Diego to see if his parents are still alive, while Regina and Samantha go shopping for stuff, hey… it is an 80’s film, it wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t a montage set inside a department store at some point. This is all happening while zombie-type creatures are roaming the streets and a government agency is looking for survivors.
The story is pretty basic, but that’s fine, it is one of those films that is just so easy to watch, so fun-loving and silly in that charming way that 80’s horror-comedies tend to be. From the opening credits, until its end, this just felt like the era it was made in, and I’m glad. The movie theatre felt like an 80’s movie theatre, the zombies looked like 80’s zombies, and the fashion and music, well… they’re what you might expect too, cheesy radio-pop, big curly hair-do’s, leg-warmers and a lot of neon clothing, it’s represents its era brilliantly. The performances are fun too, they’re not bad at all. Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter) as Regina is the strong-willed lead here, providing a focused character who takes charge when she begins to realise what’s going on in the world. Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall) however, plays the bubbly and free spirited Samantha, a girl who has become accustomed to lack of responsibility and finds it hard to come to terms with what’s happening. With the addition of a male character, Hector, played by Robert Beltran (Bugsy), who helps bring a more experienced and protective role to the mix, the three main characters do a very good job at providing an entertaining film, with decent dialogue, cool special effects and a good burst of humour. The side characters, from the government agents searching for survivors, thugs who have survived the comet, and the zombies themselves, all add something, making an enjoyable slice of science fiction horror in a style that you don’t see nowadays.
It’s a hard thing to do, finding fault with a film like this. It does have its faults, plenty of them, but I’m not quite sure it even matters at this point. It’s such a fun-loving film, with so much pure enjoyment going for it that picking holes in it feels a little pointless, but hey, this is a review, so I should point out some of the negative aspects, right? The acting from some of the side characters, especially the “thugs” who run into the teenage girls in the department store scene, is iffy, to say the least, and the scene in question drags on a little when it comes to the shoot-out part. The comet isn’t really seen in the film, and explanations as to why the comet has had the specific effects on the world is never really approached. The scientists are also skimmed over somewhat, coming into things a little late in the film, meaning that we never really get a gratifying explanation about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Still, I thoroughly enjoy this film. It is a movie that leaves me with a smile on my face when I watch it, and there’s a lot to be said for that.
Arrow Video have released this on Blu-ray (in the UK) and it has cleaned up beautifully, yet again, with the new HD transfer. The colours are sharp (which is never more evident than in the scenes when the vivid red sky is hanging over the city’s skyline) and the sound is, as always, top notch. It looks like a million bucks, and sounds equally as special. It’s no surprise that Arrow have put out another magnificent release, they truly are one of the best when it comes to top notch releases of cult titles from the past. Here is a list of the whole package you get with this title;
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
- Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with writer/director Thom Eberhardt
- Audio commentary with stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
- Audio commentary with production designer John Muto
- Valley Girls at the End of the World – Interviews with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
- The Last Man on Earth? – An interview with actor Robert Beltran
- End of the World Blues – A brand new interview with Star Mary Woronov
- Curse of the Comet – An Interview with special make-up effects creator David B. Miller
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by James Oliver illustrated with original archive stills and posters
Night of the Comet is available on Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD from Arrow Video, now.