Thom Eberhardt / USA / 1984 / 95 mins
Being a teenager can be hard work, what with family, friends, school, cheerleading practice and being killed by an ancient, malevolent comet to contend with before Christmas. But if this sounds like your standard low budget doomsday parody movie, you’d be wrong, as Thom Eberhardt’s 1984 offering, Night of the Comet, succeeds spectacularly where so many others, before and after it, have failed.
Catherine Mary Stewart is Reggie, an 18-year-old cinema usher and self-defence enthusiast who narrowly misses out on certain death when an ancient comet passes Earth and turns almost everybody into tiny piles of red dust. Waking the next morning to find LA lifeless – apart from a few ravenous zombies – Reggie, her sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney) and fellow survivor Hector (Robert Beltran) attempt to stay alive in a new and dangerous world.
Often unfairly labelled as yet another ’80s teen horror comedy, Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet is an exceptional post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror parody – one that successfully subverts its genre whilst simultaneously celebrating the entries of the ’50s and ’60s that preceded it, including such classics as The Last Man on Earth (1964) and The Day of the Triffids (1963). This is because Eberhardt’s script is thoughtful, intelligent and funny. The characters, though stereotypes of the American teenagers of the time, are also believable and – most importantly – likeable, while the chemistry between Stewart, Maroney and Beltran is unforgettable.
Night of the Comet is refreshing because it proves that excellent horror filmmaking doesn’t have to take itself too seriously, or be bursting with scenes of violence, gore, sex and nudity to work. The strength of the film lies in its rejection of tired tropes and its obvious respect for the genre. A must see for all horror fans.