NIGHT OF THE COMET. Cult science fiction comedy-horror of the 80’s

Year 1984. Gaudy colors and constant fun in the shadow of the slowly fading Cold War.

Jacek Lubiński

7 January 2024

NIGHT OF THE COMET. Cult science fiction comedy-horror of the 80's

The era of sequins, comic books, John Rambo, and giant, fluffy “poodle” hairstyles. Also, shopping in malls, massive arcade machines, cheerful musical hits, and UZI rifles. And zombies – did I mention zombies? All of this and more can be found in Thomas Eberhardt’s film, based on a survey among teenagers. “What would you do if you survived the end of the world?”

That’s how Tom approached different girls on the streets of his hometown Los Angeles (I wonder if any of them sued him for harassment?). Then, based on their mostly not very profound answers, he wrote the screenplay of Night of the Comet. Simple, right? That’s the whole story, highly visual. Just before nightfall, the titular comet is supposed to pass by, and the whole world is preparing to observe it. The only place not interested is a single cinema in the city, where Regina Belmont (the awesome Catherine Mary Stewart with classic wild hair) constantly resists the onslaught of customers, her numb boss, and competition on the Atari machine. After work, she stays in the projection room to be with her lover – the same one who will “honor” her with his nocturnal visits in the future. In the morning, the deserted streets filled with clothes and some dust attack her almost immediately, along with some zombie-like creatures.

Night of the Comet

In short, in Night of the Comet – this one and a half hour film, she and her younger sister (the charming Kelli Maroney, whose character directly inspired the birth of Buffy Summers – the vampire slayer) must survive alone in the vast, not entirely deserted metropolis, facing boredom, the effects of the comet’s passage, and the lack of males to entertain them. Somewhere in all of this, scientists on the verge of a nervous breakdown are wandering around, and a cheerful radio station plays in the background. In a word: live and not die! Of course, to the rhythms of the music hits of that time – not yet exploited for decades since the premiere, as the soundtrack here consists of less canonical pop-rock hits, even if sealed with the inevitable “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (here, exceptionally, performed by Tami Holbrook). After all, isn’t it all about not only entertaining screen heroines but also entertaining viewers who interact with them – providing good (even if sometimes cheap and unsophisticated) entertainment?

Night of the Comet Catherine Mary Stewart Kelli Maroney

And Eberhardt has enough of that for just ninety minutes of the show and the gravity of the chosen topic. After all, a cosmic holocaust turning most people into cat toilets, chosen lucky ones into tomato-bloodthirsty mutants, and the rest into people dealing with (relatively normal) life that gives you shivers, is not a matter to be taken lightly. So there is a slight touch of horror, but also nostalgia – not necessarily for specific past times – which is involuntarily triggered by the images of the deserted streets of a big city, atmospherically bathed in reddish filters, setting the entire mood of the film’s adventure. There are also a few more dramatic moments, even those leading to sudden heart attacks, a welder, or a process server hiding behind the door. There are also a few twists, or scenes based on the principle of “oh, I didn’t expect that!” And a few treats for the attentive.

However, all of this clearly fades under the pervasive mood of unrestrained, feline joy, which filmmakers never try to hide for a moment because they know very well that although they have ambitions and ideas, they are making pure escapist cinema – and it is also of the second kind, i.e., the “drink and watch” genre. However, even sober and for a symbolic glass of wine consumed during a family dinner, it is simply, humanly, a nice production, automatically bringing a bowl of exotic fruits to the faces and restoring youthful acne to those who remember the film’s premiere. At times, Night of the Comet is very kitschy, and overall, the whole project exudes a distinctly virgin naivety, its own kind of refinement, and a cheap package (the project cost only seven hundred thousand dead presidents, roughly the amount Disney spends on one shot of anything today).

Night of the Comet

But the beating heart of moving pictures is clearly evident, sparkling with energy, wit, and the carefree spirit of youth that doesn’t fade even on the day of the (almost) final judgment. And that well-liked chemistry. And physics too. And it defends itself with a professional finish, inventiveness, some originality, straightforwardness, and, above all, by not treating the viewer like a complete idiot just because they received a product recently labeled as “straight to VHS.” Ironically, despite its obvious B-movie vibe, Night of the Comet was a box office hit, transforming its meager budget into several million bucks – which was undoubtedly helped by the fact that you didn’t need an ID to watch it. It’s one of the first films in history marked with the not-so-glorious PG-13 certificate.

Night of the Comet

The possession of this – and therefore the lack of some gore, excessive violence, sex, or many curses – should not, however, rule out the entire title in the eyes of survivors of the new era, filled with the Internet, cell phones, and a flood of superheroes in spandex. Here, ordinary, immature girls fight for Earth – or rather, for its piece with the Walk of Fame. And perhaps that’s why the film easily captivates, embodying the quintessence of the definition of a video hit. By the way, Night of the Comet is also an extraordinary chronicle of the second youth of the 80s, as you’ll find everything that defined that decade and the entire pop culture of that time. A mega cult. Just watch. And drink. After all, the goal is to have a good time – even in the apocalypse…


Jacek Lubiński

CINEMA - a powerful tool that I absorb, eat, devour, savor. Often tempting only the most favorite ones, which it is impossible to list them all, and sometimes literally everything. In the cinema, I am primarily looking for magic and "that something" that allows you to forget about yourself and the gray everyday life, and at the same time makes you sensitive to certain things that surround us. Because if there is no emotion in the cinema, there is no room for a human being - there is only a semi-finished product that is eaten together with popcorn, and then excreted just as smoothly. That is why I value most the creators who can include a piece of heart and passion in their work - those for whom making films is not an ordinary profession, but an extraordinary adventure that overcomes all barriers, discovers new lands and broadens horizons, giving free rein to imagination.

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