NIGHT OF THE COMET
Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Produced by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford
Written by Thom Eberhardt
Director of Photograpy Arthur Albert
Music by David Richard Campbell
Cast: Catherine Mary Stuart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis
1984/95 mins/Color/Dolby Mono
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD
Every decade can be defined by its horror films and the 80s was a very odd time for scary movies. This decade was dominated by series, such as FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, the slasher cycle, and European imports. The films which fell outside of those categories usually got very little attention from a wide audience and fell into obscurity. 1984's NIGHT OF THE COMET is one such film which garnered a loving fan-base when it first arrived on the scene. Now, over 20 years later, the film is debuting on DVD. Is it still a diamond in the rough?
The title of NIGHT OF THE COMET says it all, as a comet is passing by Earth and millions of excited spectators look to the night sky to experience the event. Regina (Catherine Mary Stuart) is working late at a movie theater and decides to spend the night in the projection booth with her boyfriend, Larry (Michael Bowen). Meanwhile, Regina's little sister, Samantha (Kelli Maroney), has a fight with her step-mother and spends the night in the tool shed. The next morning, Regina leaves the theater to find that Larry has disappeared. Also, she's promptly attacked by a strange man with blank eyes. Regina takes Larry's motorcycle and heads home. Along the way, she notes that the streets are deserted, save for piles of clothes and red dust. Upon arriving at home, she finds that Samantha is safe. Together, the two begin to explore the city and realize that something disastrous has occurred and that they are all alone. They do meet another normal survivor, Hector (Robert Beltran), and some which aren't so normal. Their behavior, which includes shopping sprees and fighting off zombies with automatic weapons, attracts the attention of a scientific group who has survived the comet's effects in their underground lair.
I can remember seeing NIGHT OF THE COMET on HBO circa 1985 and thinking that it was a fun movie which was action-packed. My, how memories can be deceiving. What to my adolescent mind was exciting now seems very dull and dated.
Most movies are a product of their era, and to an extent, they will reflect the look of that era. Thus, we shouldn't hold a movie responsible for looking like it came from a certain period of time. Having said that, NIGHT OF THE COMET is incredibly dated looking. One glance at Catherine Mary Stewart's wardrobe informs us that no steps were taken to give this movie a timeless look. The production design in the radio station, which is filled with pastel neon, simply screams 80s. The movie is also filled with cheesy 80s pop music. For some, this may be a fun trip down memory lane, but it just made me feel old.
From the film's look, we now move to the pacing. For all intents and purposes, NIGHT OF THE COMET only has three scenes where something actually happens. There's Regina's encounter with the zombie, a shootout in a store, and the finale. Other than those action scenes, the movie is simply filled with boring dialogue scenes. These "moments" drag on and on, and the dialogue, which may have sounded fun and hip in 1984, falls very flat today. Director/writer Thom Eberhardt would go on to make several comedies and one can feel an attempt to inject humor and whimsy into this story, but it simply feels trite.
Eberhardt also fails at crafting a working storyline and his script bites off far more than it can chew. If feels as if he had several ideas and didn't know which one was best, so he shoved them all into this 95-minute movie. First, we've got the end of the world. The comet idea isn't exactly original, but it's well-played here. However, the film's budget truly shows when the streets are devoid of the cars which would be clogging the streets of L.A., comet show or not. Into this story, he's thrown the idea of the two lone survivors being teenaged sisters who are more focused on boys and shopping. This is also a nice idea...for a straight comedy. Then, we get the zombies...which goes nowhere. At least one looks like a classic flesh-eating ghoul, while others are wise-cracking thugs. (Yes, I know the explanation lies in how much comet-exposure the individuals received, but it still makes the film feel uneven.) Lastly, we have the think-tank scientists who want to aid the survivors. These characters feel as if they were imported from another end of the world script and incorporated into this movie. The end result is a film with very little character development which hops from one idea to another. One would think that this willy-nilly approach would lend to a fast pace, but it doesn't here.
Again, I truly remembered liking NIGHT OF THE COMET, so I was looking forward to this DVD release. Now, I have to file this one under "Movies Which I Saw on HBO When I was 12-15 which I Swear Were Great". The overall idea of two teenaged girls battling zombies created by a world-ending comet is still a good one, but the execution shows many flaws. The movie is slow and at times, cheap looking. Unless you've seen this one recently and are sure that you still like it, I recommend renting this blast from the past.
NIGHT OF THE COMET hurtles towards Earth on DVD courtesy of MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The transfer shows its share of pros and cons. On the plus side, the colors on the image are very good, showing off the bright neon and other colors used in the film. The image is fairly sharp and free from grain, although the shots showing the red sky look grainy. On the negative side, the image is incredibly flat and doesn't display that "crisp" look which we associate with DVD. While the picture looks better than VHS, this certainly isn't the kind of transfer one would use for a home theater demo. The DVD features a Dolby Digital mono audio track. This track does a fine job of reproducing the 80s music on the soundtrack, but the dialogue is somewhat muffled at times. In fact, in some scenes, I had to turn on the subtitles to accurately make out what was being said.
There are no extra features on this DVD.
There are no extra features on this DVD.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©
You can purchase this DVD at our official sponser by clicking on the image above.