Okay. It feels like all I write about these days is fricking zombies! Here we go again. Night of the Comet, 1984. Loved this film when it was on cable when I was a kid. It stars Catherine Mary Stewart from The Last Starfighter, Kelli Maroney from Chopping Mall, and the ever butch Mary Woronov, who played the Ramones-hating principal in Rock ‘n Roll High School. That’s so 80s, you say? Well, it gets better. The Last Starfighter chick is obsessed with playing the arcade classic Tempest, which gets plenty of onscreen exposure, and the soundtrack is filled with generic power pop and synthpop tracks that could have been on any of the hundreds of 80s soundtracks that would feature one major artist like Cyndi Lauper and then be crammed with artists you’d never hear from again. Best…80s…soundtracks…EVER.
“But what about the zombies???” you ask. What about them? There actually aren’t that many! Upon rewatching this 80s favorite, I was surprised at just how much of this film focuses on the girls instead of the zombies. See, it all starts when a comet hits. The Last Starfighter chick and her sister, the Chopping Mall chick, are two vals, yknow? I am sure. Totally. Anyway, it turns out when the comet hits, they are both holed up in some sort of steel contraption for one reason or another. It just so happens that only people enclosed in steel don’t either turn to red dust or into zombies, as they soon learn when they wake up to desolate L.A. streets that top anything you see in 28 Days Later.
The zombies are pretty darn intense in this film, but there simply isn’t any zombie horde. It’s always these one-off encounters. More than a horror, Night of the Comet is very much a campy teen comedy/throwback to 50s sci-fi films. You could also say it’s a Christmas movie, because there are Christmas trees in several scenes even though the holiday doesn’t get mentioned! The girls even do a dance around a Christmas tree in the mall while trying on cool 80s fashions and listening to a cover version of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (was a cover version really necessary in 1984???). Take a note original Dawn of the Dead. This is how you do a consumerism satire right.
The first half of the film is all 80s goodness, drenched in eerie 80s neon red lighting and paced with occasional zombie attacks that offer some good jump scares. Some of these zombies even talk…and there’s even a relentless kid zombie! The Last Starfighter chick brawls with a zombie in an alley, while the Chopping Mall chick brawls with her bitchy stepmother before the comet hits. Stepmom slaps her…and she slaps stepmom back! You think it would end there, but no. Stepmom punches Chopping Mall chick in the face! WTF? When the girls go back home later to explore their house, you’d swear they live between the family from Poltergeist and the family from E.T. Did they EVER film 80s movies anywhere other than that development in the valley???
Unfortunately, the movie loses its cool in the second half. The Ramones hating principal from Rock ‘n Roll High School is part of an underground government agency that wants to examine any survivors, so the girls are kidnapped and all the charm goes out the window as they try to escape. Now they’re pretty much running from mad scientists instead of zombies right up until the end! Bummer. It’s not surprising I hardly remembered the second half of the film…it probably bored me just as much back when I was fifteen in the 80s.