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  • Rev Horror

Night of the Comet

Dir. Thom Eberhardt (1984)

A comet passes and eliminates most of the life on Earth, leaving behind two valley girls who must fight against irradiated zombies and try to escape an evil group of scientists.

Horror fans often laud the 1980's as the golden age of the genre, the decade that basically kickstarted the slasher film and contains copious amounts of big hair, gratuitous nudity, and an embarkation from the sleaziness of the grindhouse in an attempt to make the genre more palatable for mainstream audiences. Unfortunately, 80's horror films have one major strike against them: they don't hold up particularly well if you weren't already enamored by them from a young age. As such, the decade's films are difficult to appreciate if they're not watched until later on, with what once may have been seen as subtle critique now being seen as over-the-top cheese and the charming low-fi productions as difficult-to-watch depreciations in value. Perhaps never is that more true than in Thom Eberhardt's 1984 cult classic Night of the Comet.

Essentially a post-apocalyptic Valley Girl with zombies, Night of the Comet is about teen sisters Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney), survivors of a cataclysmic event that results in 99% of humanity disappearing into a clowd of red dust after a comet passes by Earth for the first time in millions of years. They find themselves facing off against zombies who are breaking down after exposure to the cosmic rays, eventually running afould of an evil cabal of scientists as well. As the pair hole up in an old radio station and try to make contact with the outside world, they must fight against the remaining forces of evil to help good fashion and their Southern California dialect survive in whatever is left of the world.

Night of the Comet is pure 80's, with everything from the wardrobe to the music dripping with the era's trademark saccharine sweetness and vibrant style. This does not, unfortunately, make a good film in and of itself. Most of the movie is dreadfully boring, with the pair of siblings stumbling about various empty buildings and streets trying to find other survivors. Stewart and Maroney are a good pair, however, and while the movie never truly becomes interesting, the duo are charming and sweet enough to make it a watchable film regardless. The zombie effects are decent, Corman-level prosthetics that come off just as cheesy as necessary in a film like this. The most impressive accomplishment of the film is director Thom Eberhardt's shots of an empty Los Angeles, a deserted city that is constantly teeming with humanity. The movie isn't particularly interesting, but it is effective in conveying what a major metropolis would look like if it was almost completely devoid of its populace, and it has some truly gorgeous cinematography at times.

The film does succeed, however, in being a fairly cute comedy. It doesn't take itself seriously at all, and in fact even takes a lighthearted view of its own social critique. When the scientists finally catch up to Regina and Samantha, they look for them in the local mall because it's a perfect representation of consumerist culture. The rise of the mall's stockroom boys to owners of the entire business could be seen as a commentary on the working class, though the metaphor quickly shoots itself in the foot by making them even more evil than their old bosses. The teens' vapidity is exuded from two actors who play the part exceptionally well, lending to their credulity as the last two people you'd ever expect to survive an apocalypse. And, in that way, the film does succeed in its goal of lampooning the ditzy aesthetic of the 80's feminine mystique.

Ultimately, the film is just a bit too drab and boring to hold up to a modern audience. It's slow as hell, generally fairly tiresome, and even the comedy isn't all that funny. Stewart and Maroney are the bright shining spots, though both are in better movies elsewhere. If you want a brilliant satire of 80's consumerism starring Maroney, Chopping Mall is a far better and more entertaining bet. If you want sci-fi or comedy involving Stewart, The Last Starfighter and Weekend at Bernie's are much more entertaining fare. If you want the two of them together and don't mind a movie that wears out its welcome at times, this cult classic is available if you must. And yes, Virginia, it is a Christmas horror movie, though it's lacking on both the horror and the Christmas.

Who this movie is for: "Christmas" horror fans, 80's cheese lovers, Arcade enthusiasts

Bottom line: Night of the Comet is a relatively boring cult classic that nevertheless contains a couple of fantastic performances from its leads. The empty shots of Los Angeles as very well delivered, and the 80's-ness of the film carry a certain nostalgia factor, but this is definitely a film that begs to have been watched in an era in which it was impressive. That era is unfortunately not the current one, and if you're looking for more than nostalgia, you're not likely to find it here. The film is streaming on Shudder, though, and you can certainly check it out for yourself.


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