Zombies? Motorcycles? Arcade games? How NIGHT OF THE COMET made the apocalypse fun
1984 was a landmark year for movies: The Karate Kid, Ghostbusters, The Terminator, Sixteen Candles, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Footloose, and Gremlins, just to name a few.
Today, I’m not talking about any of those old-school classics but instead about Night of the Comet, the science-fiction thriller by Thom Eberhardt. Night of the Comet takes a humorous, lighthearted approach to the end of the world.
Night of the Comet features Robert Beltran (The Circuit), Catherine Mary Stewart (Imitation Girl), Kelli Maroney (Hell’s Kitty), Sharon Farrell (Broken at Love), and Mary Woronov (Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader). This movie cost $700,000 to make and grossed $14.4 million in the United States, making it very profitable.
A comet is expected to fly by Earth, and people are excited. Many plan parties, but arcade-game fanatic Regina Belmont has other plans. She stays at the movie theater where she works at in order to spend the night in the movie booth with her coworker. She can’t wait to play arcade games, but she accidentally gets locked out the morning after the comet. Things seem weird—where is everyone? And why are there zombies??
The only difference between before and after the comet is a red tint on the upper half of the screen signaling a vaporized atmosphere. Oh, and everyone who was looking at the comet was vaporized into red calcium dust! Slowly, Regina, her sister Samantha, and a young man named Hector begin to realize that some others are alive too. The group hang out at a local radio broadcast center and play around with the radio, not realizing that there are people listening.
Regina is an interesting lead—she’s “made it” with half the boys in town, she loves arcade games, she rides a motorcycle, she curses. She’s described as a Valley Girl, but she’s more of a tomboy. Conversely, Samantha embodies the Valley Girl stereotype as she bounces around in a blue and pink cheerleading outfit, blissfully unbothered by the comet’s deadly results. Regina and Samantha are both bratty bad-asses who are easy to root for.
There’s a delightful “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” shopping montage—certainly not what you’d expect from an apocalypse movie. Night of the Comet refuses to take the end of the world seriously. There’s something really nice about a light apocalypse movie; it’s goofy 80’s schlock that can make you forget for a moment that the world really is headed for an apocalypse. Today’s apocalypse movies are mainly quite serious (I reviewed several for Nightmarish Conjurings—The Unthinkable and Only are both quite good.)
Maybe it’s because the film is comedy, but it rang hollow to me. There isn’t much character growth, and the growth that does come is bizarre and forced. In the end, Regina and Hector decide to raise 2 children they’ve picked up along the way. They want to keep society respectable and maintain the norms that they formerly rebelled against. Samantha finds a man to fuck and rides off into the sunset with this guy she sort-of knows. It’s not a satisfying ending for either character. Nothing really happens, and that's kind of the point of Night of the Comet.
Overall, Night of the Comet is a cult film that’s just okay. It’s sometimes funny, it looks pretty good, the acting is okay. If you’re looking for an alternative to heavy, soul-crushing apocalypse movies, this may be the one for you. But if you decide to skip it, you’re not missing out.