You’re not gonna blame me because the phone went dead. I’m not the phone company. Nobody’s the phone company anymore!
Say what you like about the 1980s, there’s no denying that it truly was a golden age for cinema. Particularly cult cinema. While this may have something to do with the age of those capable of talking about movies without stopping to take a picture of themselves sitting on the bus with a stupid face, I think a lot can be said for the fact that films just seemed to be made for the fun of it.
I’m sure this is over simplifying things, but hear me out. I’ve watched a lot of films in my 28 years, and whenever I find myself reading up on some of the movies I love, it always seems to me that some of the more enjoyable films from the 80s came from a place of passion. Take tonight’s film for example, Night Of The Comet (1984). Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, the story came from a place of interest. Firstly, he was a fan of post apocalyptic cinema, particularly those where the protagonist is seemingly left alone in a big city. From there, Eberhardt was inspired to introduce strong female protagonists after a period of working with teenage girls during his time with PBS, asking them what they may do in a post apocalyptic scenario.
Eventually, he bullied his way into having the film made – and sure enough, was able to secure funding with minimal studio involvement, despite the Producer’s frustration at the low budget concept. Please correct me if I’m wrong – but is this really possible in today’s age of cinematic universes’ and studio bullshit? I’m willing to put my chips on red – only if it’s independent.
But that’s by the by. We’re here to discuss Night Of The Comet!
So What Happens?
Sixty-five million years ago, the Earth passed through the tail of a mysterious comet. This is significant, as on that day the dinosaurs were wiped out virtually overnight, and we’re about to get the sequel. On the eponymous night of the comet, everyone is very excited. House parties are being hosted, while huge crowds gather in the streets to drink, sing and celebrate its passing.
Not that 18 year old (yeah, right) Reggie Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) cares. In her job at a SoCal cinema, she is far more interested in playing arcade games and giving sass to her boss than worry about joining in with the festivities. Besides – she has a date with her boyfriend Larry (Michael Bowen) in the laboriously lampshades steel-lined projection booth that evening.
Meanwhile, Reggie’s sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) remains stuck at home with her stepmother and her comet party in the streets of their suburban house. After she tries to tell Doris (Sharon Farrell) that Reggie won’t be coming home tonight, the pair argue, and soon the argument becomes physical. Angry and upset, Sam storms off to spend the night in the steel shed in the backyard.
The next morning, things have changed. There is no sign of life on the streets, only the remains of civilisation – abandoned cars, radios playing to no audience, water sprinklers and traffic lights make up the population now. Except, of course, for Reggie and Larry. Angry that something hasn’t been delivered, Larry storms off to get his motorbike – but is abruptly attacked as soon as he leaves the back door of the cinema by an Omega Man-esque zombie, who knocks him unconscious with a wrench and drags him out into the street.
Unaware of Larry’s fate, Reggie hangs around in the cinema, playing video games and eating snacks before deciding to venture outside – where she finds mysterious piles of clothing amidst red dust lying in the street. She notices the “smog” too – a reddish mist that hangs on the horizon. She eventually finds her way around the back of the building, and finds a bloodied wrench, and Larry’s keys and motorbike – untouched. It is then that she is attacked by the zombie – but it doesn’t heed her warnings before she beats it away and escapes by bike.
Driving through the city, Reggie becomes increasingly aware that she is alone. She heads for home, where she finds Sam acting as if nothing unusual has happened. Reggie eventually gets it across to Sam that the city is deserted – and that there are zombies in the streets. They begin to wonder if they are the last people left alive when they hear that the radio is still playing – and possibly the DJ.
They quickly race to the radio station, but find it is also abandoned. It is here they meet Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), another survivor who admits he spent the night in the back of his steel truck, and his partner had been murdered at the hands of one of the creatures. After a period of mourning, the group seem to lighten up – with Sam taking over the radio station and broadcasting to the world. When she receives a telephone call, things begin to take a shift.
The caller explains that there is a hidden think tank of researchers somewhere outside the city, and that they may be the only people who can help. Hector decides to take a trip home to see his family, but promises to return. While they wait, Reggie and Sam decide to have some fun and head to the local shopping mall, where they dance to a montage of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun while trying on different clothes and make-up. Their presence, however, doesn’t go unnoticed, and the girls soon become the target of a group of semi-zombified stock boys.
The danger doesn’t stop there, however, as the think tank researchers separate the girls for their own nefarious deeds. But will Reggie and Sam stand up for their new found independence, or will they fall victim to the evils that remain in the world? Can Sam get a date with Hector, or are his sights set on Reggie? Who even is this DMK character who took Reggie’s place on her favourite arcade game?
All valid questions.
Night Of The Comet (1984) is to Dawn Of The Dead (1978) as Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992) is to Lost Boys (1987). It tells a story without losing the all important visuals so iconic to post apocalyptic fiction – where the film takes many obvious references to the likes of The Omega Man (1971) and The Day Of The Triffids (1962). It is also great fun, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour and sharp dialogue that feels pretty genuine, as far as it’s what teenagers would say to each other.
The music, too, is so of the era it may as well be catalogued for its historical importance. Together with some wonderfully cheap special effects, it’s no wonder why this film found cult success in recent years.
Definitely a must watch. Also, as I mentioned Buffy already, it is worth pointing out that Reggie has been named as a major influence on the character of Buffy Summers – so that’s a nice bit of trivia for you all.
Anyway, you can find it on Netflix over here in the UK, but I know for a fact it’s also available on Blu-Ray thanks to those wonderful folks over at Arrow Video – so get it, love it, and listen to Cyndi Lauper all evening to get it out of your head.
No? Just me then.
Yours, A P Tyler