Night of the Comet

The post-apocalyptic valley-girl zombie movie
Released:
1984

Director: Thom Eberhardt

Starring: Cathertine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell

The Setup:

Most people turn to dust after a comet passes Earth. Others turn into zombies. Two valley girls survive.

Discussion:

My boss at work suddenly asked me if I’d seen this, then couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even heard of it. He described it as an 80s movie in which everyone on Earth is killed except for these two valley girls, so obviously it went straight to the top of my list. With my other friend at work recommending Neon Maniacs, another 80s sorta-zombie movie, I had a nice little double-feature on my hands.

The movie opens by telling us that the Earth will pass through the tail of a comet. Then we see a comet that doesn’t have a tail. We have some ominous voice-over about how scientists warn people that there could be terrible effects, but we see how much the populous cares as we see throngs of revelers in Times Square who are making a party out of the whole thing. Now one way to easily win my affection is to mock the stupidity of the general populous, so at this point my hopes shot high.

We now cut to our heroine Regina, who works as an usher in a movie theater. It took me a while to figure out that we are now in California, not New York, as the movie gives no indication of this. Regina is displaying a questionable commitment to customer service as she ignores her bosses’ demands that she do her job to play her video game [Tempest! I used to love Tempest!]. She finally leaves the game, and soon after returns home, where we find her blonde sister Samantha and Doris, their hot-pants stepmom, who punches Samantha. Then Regina returns to the theater to sleep with the projectionist in his booth.

The comet passes overnight. The projectionist wanders downstairs in the theater and is killed by a zombie. Regina comes down after and is menaced by the zombie in the back alley—and kicks his ass. She comes around the front of the theater and sees that everyone has turned to dust. There are clothes arrayed on the streets in people-shapes with yellow dust where their flesh would have been. There’s also a nasty thick red smog in the air.

Regina goes home and finds Samantha, still alive. We are told that the projection booth Regina slept in was steel-lined [why?] and that Samantha snuck out in the night to be with some boy and ended up sleeping in a tool shed! So the idea is that they were protected since they slept in steel enclosures. There follows a scene in which Regina tries to convince Samantha that there’s no one left alive on Earth, including picking up a dress out of the driveway and shouting “THIS is Doris!” and my boss’ favorite line: “The future of the human race depends on US!”

So it goes on, but I was bored already and in fact soon fell asleep. I’ll tell you a few of the amusing parts I was awake for. There is some weirdness that the radio stations and nightclubs are still operating, although everyone has died. This is a little creepy. Then Sam has a double nightmare, and soon after delivers a delightful freak-out scene on a bridge. Then this helicopter lands and out comes this hot trooper with a bulbous crotch, who is later revealed to have an appealingly growly speaking voice. My notes about him read: “Hot package trooper.” Then after a while Samantha and Regina go shopping, and then it’s more zombie attacks and various other stuff.

Like I said, I was falling asleep and waking up and drifting back into sleep, but it must be said that when I woke up, I was not interested in watching the rest of this movie to catch up on what I’d missed. I just wanted it out of my house.

It’s curious, because when my boss told me it was a post-apocalyptic thing with valley girls, I thought that the valley girls would be the source of humor, and they are, it’s just that the humor is treated much more dryly than one might expect. The valley girls aren’t mocked or mined for humor, it’s just a straight-ahead post-apocalyptic movie that just happens to center around valley girls. Yes, they are the source of humor, but lines such as “the fate of the human race rests on US” are delivered in a straightforward manner, and there’s very little in the tone—as there is in most movies—that consciously or otherwise directs audiences on when to laugh. And while that can work sometimes—I wish I could think of an example, but I’m SO tired. Oh, how about Shampoo? —for me it didn’t work here. My boss loved it, so maybe if I was more in the mood, or maybe someone else would be into it, but for me it just wasn’t all that funny or interesting.

And that’s pretty much the story.

Should you watch it?

If you want. Recommended for 80s fans and lovers of valley girls, but even then, I’d consult someone first.

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