Originally published on So So Gay on 25 September 2014.
The Earth is set to pass through the tail of a comet – an event that hasn’t occurred since the dinosaurs were wiped out. Instead of being able to observe this once in a lifetime event, 18-year-old cinema employee Regina ‘Reggie’ Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) has to spend it working. After sloping off to spend a night of passion with colleague Larry (Michael Bowen), Reggie wakes to find things aren’t quite how they were a few hours earlier. It soon becomes apparent that virtually everyone has been wiped out by the cosmic event, leaving nothing but piles of clothes and dust behind. Reggie returns home to find her sister, Sam (Kelli Maroney), has also miraculously escaped death and the pair then go off in search of survivors at the local radio station but instead bump into Hector (Robert Beltran), who happened to be passing through Los Angeles during the comet. Along the way the trio run into some gun-wielding zombies at the local mall, as well as a group of callous government scientists, including the disillusioned Audrey White (Mary Woronov).
With the unmissable big hair and its classic synth-heavy soundtrack, it would be very easy to dismiss this 80s gem of a film immediately out of hand as cheesy rubbish. However, Night of the Comet is an unexpected delight, and unusually envisions a post-apocalyptic story that’s driven by three strong female characters – Reggie, Sam and Audrey – but never makes a point of labouring this novelty. While there’s some obligatory boy chat, sisters Reggie and Sam are well-rounded characters that are wonderfully portrayed by Maroney and Stewart, whose chemistry and dynamic is really where the film shines. Both effortlessly bring pathos and humour to their respective roles, and deliver their one-liners with expert style, such as when Sam back-chats her stepmother, Doris, about her bit on the side: ‘You were born with an asshole, Doris, you don’t need Chuck!’ Cue soap opera style slap.
In combination with an impressive cast, what undoubtedly keeps Night of the Comet an engaging watch all these years later is its zinging script. Even at the time, the film was put together on a low budget, so things like special effects were fairly minimal – it’s main special effect being a partial red filter on exterior shots to depict the altered atmosphere, post comet – but they do the job. Fortunately, the important ingredients of a strong script and cast it has in spades. While the surface elements of Night of the Comet are obviously dated, at its core is a funny, post-apocalyptic movie with heart, which stands the test of time as an undeniably enjoyable movie that is low on gore but high on humour.
For this new release of the film, the DVD/Blu-ray package comes with a healthy dose of extras that starts with a neat booklet featuring an interesting contribution from film critic James Oliver, who puts Night of the Comet into a little bit of historical and cinematic context. Along with the obligatory original theatrical trailer, on the disc itself there are some nice new interviews with all the main stars (Stewart, Maroney, Beltran and Woronov) and the film’s special make-up effects guy, David B. Miller, as well as three separate audio commentary tracks; the most entertaining being the joint chat with stars Stewart and Maroney. Some of the chatter from the interview segments and commentary overlaps in terms of facts and trivia, but this is a minor gripe. In terms of extra content for your buck, Arrow Films have created another first rate package to help bring a 20th century movie classic to a 21st century audience.
Night of the Comet is available to buy now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon. All images courtesy of Arrow Films.