Night of the Comet

UK Release Date 1984
Director Thom Eberhardt
Starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran
Runtime 95 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Mark
Reviewed 21st September 2014

Who’d be a Valley Girl? All you want to do is shop at Sherman Oaks Galleria, buy those BITCHEN heels and make the cheerleader team. So why are people, like, so grossed out?  They’re much maligned in movies like Clueless and Mean Girls and brutally attacked by Moon and Frank Zappa in their 1982 single, Valley Girl, fer sure, fer sure. If that wasn’t bad enough the American intelligentsia in the 1980s and 1990s, held them directly responsible for the collective decline of teenage IQs throughout the United States and the end of Western civilization, as we know it.

Thank god then for Night of the Comet, a low budget love letter to Valley Girls the world over. Director Thom Eberhardt attempts to redress the balance by placing two San Fernando Valley sisters slap bang in the middle of the apocalypse caused by the same comet that wiped out the dinosaurs. Set eleven days before Christmas, Night of the Comet begins with a montage of revellers gathering outside at various parties to watch the once in an existence phenomenon. We know this isn’t going to end well as the overpriced diddy boppers bounce up and down upon heads of gigantic 80s hair. For Julie Brown’s sake someone show them The Day of the Triffids before it’s too late!

Regina and Samantha Belmont have more pressing concerns than watching a comet that only appears once every 65 million years. Regina works at a cinema but is more obsessed with becoming queen of the arcade and making out with her projectionist boyfriend than walking the house. “Don’t be an overachiever,” deadpans her boss “you’ll fit in better with your age group.” Younger sister Samantha is a cheerleader stuck in a comet party with her adulterous stepmom Doris, “You were born with an asshole Doris, you don’t need Chuck.” Grody to the max.

The morning after the night before finds both Belmont sisters still standing where everyone else has turned into red dust and a pile of clothes-Doris even leaves her fake nails behind. LA is deserted, pristine under a red filtered sky; sprinklers and pumps give an automated semblance of life where there is none-except for the zombies who were partially exposed to the comet’s strange properties. Regina and Samantha have free rein over their city of birth, Regina guns a motorbike downtown, way more tubular than Sarah Connor in The Terminator, she rode a scooter and Samantha shoots up cars with her MAC-10, “Daddy would have gotten us Uzis.”

What makes Night of the Comet such a fun take on the end of the world is the interplay between the sisters. Samantha clearly hero worships Regina but her love is tinged with jealousy after years of living in her perm shadow. When Hector, the last man on earth turns up Regina can’t help but dominate his affections-sibling rivalry doesn’t stop just because the human race is on the brink of extinction! In fact Night of the Comet has a socially progressive take on the survival of mankind-not only are the last women on earth Valley Girls but the unflappable and dependable Hector is Mexican, a frightening thought for white Republicans who might be too slow to their nuclear bunkers.

Night of the Comet owes a debt to Dawn of the Dead with its own shopping mall shootout and to The Omega Man and Target Earth for the unsettling shots of vast empty urban spaces, but its progressive message of hope and upbeat ending set it apart from the more nihilistic post apocalyptic movies. Importantly Night of the Comet has its own film legacy to be proud of, a direct influence on the tongue in cheek tone of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Zombieland. As Regina says, “You may as well face the facts Samantha. The whole burden of civilization has fallen upon us.” Psych!

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