Apocalypse Right Now: Night of the Comet

Apocalypse Right Now: Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet is an oddity in the landscape of post-apocalyptic sci-fi, as it upholds several trademark qualities of the subgenre while also bringing other ones into the fold. Shot and released in 1984 - a golden year for the decade in filmmaking - it concerns two sisters - Regina (Catherine Mary Stuart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney) who realize they're two of the last living souls on Earth after a the emergence of a comet wipes out most of humanity. While that sounds like a incredibly dour premise, Night of the Comet is a vivacious tongue-in-cheek comedy for the most part, accentuated by style of the period and a soundtrack that packs in five cassette tapes worth of material.

What really struck me about the film upon seeing it for the first time was the way it captured the feeling of utter isolation in such an event, for a major part of the film the audience only follows Regina as she rides across a sun-soaked desolate downtown Los Angeles, to an almost unnerving effect. The film has a lot of beautifully composed shots like this, though more often than not the production's low budget aesthetic lets down the overall sense of composure in other places. 

This sense of feeling passes once Samantha, as well as fellow survivor Hector (Robert Beltran) enter the mix, who seem a bit too relaxed in dealing with such a mass extinction event. They aren't alone, however, as the effects of the comet have also turned many people into cannibalistic mutants, who roam the streets and prey on whoever they can find. On top of that, the sisters become a subject of interest for a think tank group of scientists, who possess ulterior motives that form the film's final act.

What I like the most about Night of the Comet is how it encapsulates so much visual style and aesthetic from the period, acting as a snapshot of the excessive nature of the era - from its costume design to story structure, and in true 80s fashion - a montage set at a shopping mall (set to 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', no less). Its the kind of campy outing that is so evocative of its time, but could and would never be made today, a shame given that the concept has such potential on top of the fact that there have been quite a few major post-apocalyptic films in recent years.

Night of the Comet got a stellar Shout Factory Blu-ray release a few years ago, that's packed with new audio commentaries and interviews with the creative team, on top of a newly restored pristine V/A transfer. It's definitely worth picking up if you're a fan of films like this.

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