So I watched this movie Night of the Comet last night on Netflix. Night of the Comet, I’ve gathered, is one of those cult-classic 1980s films I had never seen. The movie can also be described as a science fiction, horror, zombie apocalypse, comedy film.
I had never seen Night of the Comet before last night, but I can be forgiven I think, since the movie was rated PG-13 and I was less than 13 when it came out in 1984. I was probably instead watching Star Wars on a rented VCR for the thousandth time instead.
The Earth is passing through the tail of a comet, an event which has not occurred in 65 million years, the last time coinciding with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. On the night of the comet’s passage, large crowds gather outside to watch and celebrate.
18 year old Regina “Reggie” Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) works at a movie theater in southern California. She is annoyed to find the initials DMK have the highest score on the theater’s arcade game, all the other scores being hers. She stays after the theater closes to become number one again, then later has sex with her boyfriend, the theater projectionist, in the steel-lined projection booth. Meanwhile, Reggie’s 16 year old sister Samantha “Sam” (Kelli Maroney) argues with their stepmother, who punches her in the face.
The next morning, a reddish haze covers everything, and there are no signs of life, only piles of red dust surrounding empty clothes. Unaware that anything strange has happened, Larry goes outside and is killed by a zombie. When Reggie goes looking for Larry, she finds the zombie eating him. She runs away and heads home to find her sister. Sam had spent the night in a metal shed, and was also shielded from the comet’s effects.
Night of the Comet is paced like an 80s movie. There are no sudden MTV-style camera changes (hurl). The movie doesn’t begin with anything going “boom”. In fact, the movie opens with the protagonist, Catherine Mary Stewart, playing the arcade game Tempest. Of course I was hooked at this point.
This gives me an excuse to post a photo of Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie from one of my favorite movies of all time: The Last Starfighter.
Night of the Comet fits in the horror genre, but it isn’t horror-movie scary. The protagonists have hope. You wind up caring for them, these two sisters thrust into this post-apocalyptic world. That’s all I ask of a movie, really. Make me care.
The movie is full on 1980s. It looks 80s. It feels 80s. 80s dialogue. 80s costumes. 80s problems (plus zombies).
This is the type of movie I needed to see after the week we all (humanity) had last week. Apocalypse, I can handle. It’s the worry about that trash can over there exploding on my and my family that keeps me up at night.