In 1984, the low budget film Night of the Comet was released. It was kind of like Valley Girl meets Night of the Living Dead. But that might give you the wrong idea. For one thing, the female leads in this film are incredibly strong. And for another, there are surprisingly few zombies. Although they are the cool ones like we saw in Omega Man. They can talk and wear cool sunglasses.
The plot of Night of the Comet is pretty straightforward. There’s a comet that circles the sun every 65 million years. Get it? Well, if you don’t, the movie tells you: that was when the dinosaurs went extinct. (For the record: I’m pretty sure a comet with that long a period would be theoretically impossible, given it would have to reach into other solar systems.) But most people think this is a coincidence, and everyone comes out to party to see the comet. (For the record: I’m not going to critique any more of the science in this film.) And almost all of them die. Those that don’t get turned into zombies. And those who were shielded by lead or iron or something survive.
The main plot is about a group of scientists who screwed up and got exposed, and are now living off the blood of the survivors until they can create a cure. Or something. The details of the plot don’t much matter. Night of the Comet is really about sisters (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney) who have a very cool post-apocalypse. I saw the film at the time and I recall liking it, but not remembering much other than the ending when the cute boy drives up in a sports car, and the younger sister goes off with him, having a happy ending.
The film is silly but completely entertaining — exactly what it intends to be. It was written and directed by Thom Eberhardt. You probably know him for directing Captain Ron. I know him because he directed one of my favorite silly films, Without a Clue. His films have a tendency to be panned by critics — at least when they first come out. I think this is typical of critics who usually get caught up in what they think the film should be, rather than judging it on its own terms.
Of course, that wasn’t true of Night of the Comet. Eberhardt makes it so clear what he is doing that even film critics couldn’t miss it. And it’s a good thing. This is a film that deserved to be seen and deserves its cult status today. It is primarily a film about women. The three principal characters are the two sisters and Audrey White (Mary Woronov), the only one of the scientists who has a problem with killing people for their survival. In fact, if it weren’t for White’s actions, the sisters would have died and that would be that.
Night of the Comet is, in other words, the kind of film that conservatives would now claim was all PC. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, “Eberhardt wanted to explore the idea of strong female protagonists with his love of post-apocalyptic films set in empty cities.” At the same time, he doesn’t shy away from sexing the film up with a very revealing scene involving Maroney — and zombies! So maybe repressed conservatives would like it! Regardless, Night of the Comet is well worth checking out — even after all these years and even with all that early 80s music.
Night of the Comet Online
At least for now, there is a copy of the film online: