Night of the Comet (1984)

I’m often surprised at how great “Night of the Comet” holds up. Watching it years after I saw it back in the mid-nineties, I was pleasantly entertained by it, and how it unfolded as that perfect post-apocalyptic tale. It garnered comedy, horror, suspense, and valid villains, all the while reveling in its eighties kitsch. “Night of the Comet” remains an influential apocalyptic horror film, and for good reason. It manages to touch upon the doldrums of the apocalypse while also setting down on some truly entertaining characters.

There isn’t that big of an enemy to topple, and when it’s all said and done the movie isn’t that violent, but “Night of the Comet” does reveal a steady growth for all of its characters, and how they deal with the end of humanity. You can kind of consider “Night of the Comet” something of an unofficial loose sequel to “Dawn of the Dead” as it posits the same ideas about humanity at the end of the times and allows some interesting insight in to the trauma and psychological effects it puts on its survivors. There is a shopping montage in an empty shopping mall, there are psychotic nomads looking to take advantage of our survivors, and our trio of heroes cling to a local radio station because it reminds them or normalcy much in the way our heroes in “Dawn of the Dead” clung to the massive mall.

Mary Catherine Stewart gives a great performance as the film’s inadvertent heroine Regina. Given an obnoxious step mother, she spends most of her days killing time at her job at the local movie theater, and decides to smooch with the camera operator the night a massive comet is supposed to pass Earth. Despite the Christmas celebrations, the Earth has literally stopped their festivities in order to witness what promises to be an amazing sight. Save for a small group of scientists that have locked themselves in a bunker. As the comet is witnessed, Regina and her lover rendezvous in the basement of the theater awaken the next morning to discover that everything is different. After a nearly deadly skirmish with a zombie-like monster in an alley, Regina escapes and flees back home.

There, she learns that everyone on Earth that witnessed the comet were reduced to Calcium dust, while those that barely survived were turned in to flesh eating zombies. Regina discovers her sister Samantha and a trucker, both of whom survived due to their own circumstances, and trek to the local radio station to learn where everyone went, and how to fend off the zombeis. “Night of the Comet” takes this time out to reflect on the tedium of the apocalypse, and how it can chip away at someone’s sanity gradually. Director Thom E. Eberhardt keeps the film in a consistent neon tint that paints the Los Angeles cityscape as harrowing and menacing. Mary Woronov is especially good as a scientist convinced that those who survived the comet will become victims of calcium disintegration and seeks to systematically murder the folks around her to ensure her own survival. “Night of the Comet” has touches of eighties silliness, but it’s definitely a superb apocalyptic tale that’s surpassed its decade trappings.