The apocalypse doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom!
I first caught this memorable, cheaply-made horror/sci-fi hybrid back in the late-80’s, when it was part of the screening programme on BBC2 show, Moviedrome. I was in love with lead actress Catherine Mary Stewart at the time, having fallen for her after seeing The Last Starfighter a couple of years prior to this.
When introduced in Night of the Comet she is wearing what looks like a ‘Khan’ era Starfleet uniform, while try to beat the highest score on a video game in the cinema where she works. Hot on all counts and the kind of scenario which could only have been dreamed up by some nerdy screenwriter in his attempt to encapsulate the living embodiment of the perfect girlfriend.
The film is set in Los Angeles where a comet, initially perceived as harmless, has wiped out all humankind, turning everyone into piles of red dust. A couple of girls who manage to avoid obliteration, blond cheerleader Kelli and her older, headstrong sister Regina (Stewart) set out on a search for fellow survivors. This is end-of-the-world eighties style, with its light, cheery content at odds somewhat with the subject matter. Even the zombified humans, transformed as a result of red dust poisoning, aren’t particularly threatening.
The two sisters, both tooled-up to the max, even take time to indulge in an ill-fated shopping spree in a huge, deserted department store. We get the obligatory fashion and frolics montage sequence here, complete with jump-cuts of various hats and items of clothing being tried on and paraded around, to the sounds of Cyndi Lauper’s hit of that era, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
None of the comments above are meant as a criticism though, and for such a clearly low-budgeted film, it’s well made and actually looks great. From scenes of a deserted down-town LA, shot through red-filtered lenses, to the effective composition a of toy frog swimming alone in the pool of an eerily quiet suburban garden, the imagery is equally as powerful as contemporary films in this genre.
The opening credit sequence, which has scenes of huge crowds gathered around in a comet-welcoming celebration, must have only been achieved by the production team going to an actual event and asking attendees to hold banners adorned with hand-drawn comet and alien imagery.
Unfortunately, for all the fun to be had here, the film falters in the second half, failing to deliver on its intriguing premise (probably due to budgetary restrictions) and opting instead for a fairly flat and contrived escape sequence involving the sisters and Hector (a truck driver they meet and Regina’s potential love interest) rescuing two annoyingly cute children from the clutches of some mad infected scientists. It’s still definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it however, if only for the comforting reassurance that the human desire to shop doesn’t diminish after most of the world has been snuffed out.
Night of the Comet is available on Region 1 DVD, and Region 2 people can buy it here.
Here’s a trailer,