A Sci-Fi Honey Retro Review by Katie

Night of the Comet (1984)

August is #ItCameFromThe80s month, and kicking it all off last week was a look at some of the best sci-horror offerings of 1984: the year that gave us icons like the T-800 and Slimer, as well as some lesser-known zombie-slaying valley girls. In a decade full of deliciously cheesy cinematic fare, it’s easy for films that weren’t big blockbuster successes or recently-rediscovered cult classics to make a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of the moviegoing public. Some of these overlooked films are worthy of a resurrection from the VHS graveyard, and today’s retro Sci-Friday feature is no exception. Writer/director Thom Eberhardt’s awesomely underrated Night of the Comet is a satisfactory sci-fi send-up infused with just enough levity to warm any b-movie lover’s heart, especially those who are sentimental for this totally tubular decade.

In 1984 Los Angeles, young women who weren’t busy fighting off Terminators were hanging out in malls and movie theaters, unknowingly averting certain doom of another kind. A comet expected to blaze through the atmosphere shortly before Christmas Day is swiftly approaching, and the humans of Earth throw parties under the night sky in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the rare celestial spectacle. Teenaged sisters Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Sam (Kelli Maroney) are stuck inside for the event, unintentionally escaping the devastation the titular comet has wrought. The girls wake up the next day to a changed world: the sky is overlaid with a dense red haze, all living creatures have disintegrated into dust, and those who were only indirectly exposed to the comet’s flame are staggering through the streets in a bloodthirsty, zombified stupor. Wait, this means the mall is empty… time for a wicked shopping spree!

Because you’ve always got to look your best when killing zombies. 
It was the 80s, after all, and it was a time when the Valley Girl reigned supreme. Reggie and Sam’s mall raid (scored to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” of course) is a non sequitur that feels right at home in a movie full of allusions to the ostentatiousness of the ‘Affluent Eighties.’ Reggie is a bodacious babe with hair teased up to the heavens, but she’s a “cool girl” – she can kick ass at arcade games as well as attacking space dust-infected zombies. Sam spends a majority of the movie in her cheerleader uniform, flinging high heels as weapons and lusting after every male survivor they encounter. When not at the mall, they pass the time at their local neon-illuminated radio station, allowing the film to line the soundtrack practically end-to-end with synthy and schmaltzy pop tunes. Everyone they knew is dead, but Reggie and Sam are decidedly upbeat about their situation and use it to their materialistic advantage. Is there a deeper meaning to this? Is the filmmaker is trying to incorporate a commentary on the problematic mores of his contemporary society? More than likely, it’s just fun to watch a ditzy Valley Girl fire an automatic weapon at zombies and yell “bummer!” when she’s out of ammo.

How do I use this thing without breaking a nail?”
Though the look and feel of the film bears a strictly 80s sensibility, the sci-fi aspect of Night of the Comet hails from the over-the-top B-movie camp of the 1950s and early 60s. The film’s booming opening narration warns that the comet resembles the one that coincided with the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, yet no one besides a handful of scientists in the Southern California desert thought it necessary to protect themselves from the comet’s doomsday probability. These scientists – including Mary Woronov, who most recently chilled my bones in The House of the Devil (2009) – are eager to harvest the blood of survivors when their bunker is accidentally exposed to the deadly space dust. They wear nondescript jumpsuits, converse in indecipherable science speak, and act in an increasingly callous and cartoonish manner reminiscent of the over-the-top scientist villains featured in mid-century sci-fi cinema. If they’d all taken the time to watch Day of the Triffids (1963), the events in Night of the Comet could’ve been avoided entirely.

No comet zombies, either.
While the film isn’t a perfect revisionist take on the standard space invasion tropes, Night of the Comet maintains a lovable charm, and brings to mind another film that utilized a unique fusion of 1950s and 1980s science fiction: Fred Dekker’s 1986 cult classic Night of the Creeps. Both films take the bleakest of circumstances and infuse them with moments of lightheartedness, led by improbable heroes who rise to overcome astronomical odds. Going to the extreme in all the right ways, Night of the Comet is memorable purely for the entertainment value of a post-apocalyptic world ruled by fashion-conscious, gun-toting mall babes.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: Three-and-a-half comet zombies out of five.

Night of the Comet is available via Amazon Instant Video, & Shout! Factory Collector's Blu-ray

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