NIGHT OF THE COMET
‘It was the last thing on Earth they ever expected..’
Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Mary Waronov, Geoffrey Lewis, Peter Fox, Michael Bowen, Sharon Farrell / Screenplay Thom Eberhardt / Soundtrack David Richard Campbell / Cinematography Arthur albert / Director Thom Eberhardt
The feelings that this little horror spoof evoke are difficult to express..camp, cheap & derivative to the extreme, but an adorable timecapsule akin to warm memories of a favourite 80’s jacket or music video. The effect has been somewhat magnified over the years, due to Comet existing only on aging VHS tapes, unavailable to the present DVD age until 20th Century Fox caved in following a substantial online petition calling for the film’s release. The decade’s preoccupation with nihilistic attitudes to civilisation and ultimate apocalyptic destruction sets the scene for an effective ‘What if’ drama.
A returning comet (that ‘may have wiped out the dinosaurs’) results in an almost complete annihilation of the human race, bathed in it’s light the population are instantly turned to red dust. Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney) were lucky enough to have been under cover, and later meet Hector (Robert Beltrum) a truckdriver who spent the night in his trailer. All is not as quiet as it at first seems though..those who recieved a partial dose of the comet’s light are half mad zombies running amok. Director Thom Eberhardt makes great use of an empty early morning cityscape that later became the feature of ’28 Days later’. Aside from a few inevitable jumps here and there, Comet relies more on witty dialogue and style than lazy slasher gore, and consequently stands out from many of it’s more expensive contemporaries.
What’s refreshing too, is the independance of the two female leads who are more than capable of looking after themselves without too much help from Hector the Protector : ‘C’mon Hector, the MAC-10 submachine gun was basically designed for housewives.’ Indeed, Hector’s role exists more as a bone of contention between the two sisters rather than as traditional hero. The other male characters are even less trustworthy. The girls have a run in with two nasty stockboys in the local K-mart (one of whom is Punk Rocker Dick Rude incidentaly), and the only other initially helpful male is Geoffrey Lewis (Clint’s brother from ‘Every which way but Loose’), who at first seems a savour, but turns out to be more dangerous than the zombies.
We first meet Regina working in a cinema as an usherette, giving us the sense of open homage to the cinema experience. As reference point we have Jack Arnold’s ‘It Came from Outer Space’, which in true Carpenter & Landis fashion is actually playing on the bill. The connection’s fairly superficial though, aside from the Sci-fi elements there’s more of 70’s apocalyptic ‘The Omega Man’ and Romero’s commentary on consumerism ‘Dawn of the Dead’ about Comet.. In the wake of the comet’s destructive passing – ‘The stores are open!’
Along with ‘Wargames’ a year earlier and ‘The Last Starfighter’ (also featuring Catherine Mary Stewart), the Arcade game plays a prominent part in terms of teen escape from the mundane adult world, and as training ground for a future eventuality that requires such skills & reflexes. T2 & Jurassic Park neatly continue the idea of kids applying their computer based skills to real life tasks to save the world. Excepting of course that the ‘real life’ portrayed is just as unrealistic as the computer game, with zombies, dinosaurs and killer robots on the rampage. That said, with the explosion of technology in the decades that followed the eighties, such game play really does lead to the kids taking over the asylum.
‘The Burdon of Civilisation is upon us..Bitchin’, isn’t it?’