Prior to the opening credits, an enjoyably sombre male narration warns of a danger from outer space that approaches Earth once in a blue moon ...
Then ... it's Christmas. We meet Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart), a refreshment attendant at a crappy cinema who's more interested in playing arcade games than serving her customers.
Staying late after work to shag the projectionist, Regina rings her younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney) to ask her to lie to their slutty mother Doris (Sharon Farrell) about her whereabouts. This fails, but all is not lost - Regina gets her fuck and Doris goes out to a street party with her new boyfriend to watch the passing of a comet ...
This just so happens to occur on the night that the Earth passes through the tail of Haley's Comet and, as a result, anyone exposed to the night air is evaporated into a small pile of red dust.
Having fallen asleep in the projection room and spent the night there, Regina is oblivious to this and even misses out on her boyfriend being bludgeoned by a zombified passer-by the morning after. It's only when she eventually ventures outside that she realises the streets are deserted.
She stumbles across the zombie and manages to use her knowledge of kung fu to fend him off, before racing home to check in on cheerleader sister Samantha.
Samantha's fine, but she won't believe Regina's warnings that there is something very wrong with the world. Not until she sees the barren streets for herself.
Hearing a DJ on their radio, they race in their car to the broadcasting station only to find an empty DJ desk and a dodgy Eric Estrada-lookalike called Hector (Robert Beltran) who reluctantly agrees to protect the girls from the "freaked out zombies" lurking outside.
From this point on, the trio work together to find a safe haven away from the marauding zombies (it transpires that anyone who'd been protected by steel was immune from the comet's effects, and those only partially affected became scabby murderous monsters).
Our heroes seem to have a pretty good chance of making it to safety - even taking in time for the girls to 'shop' at the newly empty mall - but the situation becomes less of a joke, even for numbskull Samantha, when a group scientists also start chasing them, eager to have their blood to test as a possible antidote to the zombie epidemic.
Luckily the girls have karate skills and a crash-course in Uzi usage to fall back on ...
NIGHT OF THE COMET is a snappy, taut and stylishly shot horror-thriller from writer-director Thom Eberhardt, who had previously given us the superb - and in it's own way, equally apocalyptic - SOLE SURVIVOR.
The film benefits from appealing performances from the two female leads, and a good grip from Eberhardt on keeping things hectic in an action movie manner. The cinematography, aided by some distinctly 80s-looking filtered visuals, is often striking too, making this an aesthetically pleasing proposition.
Having said that, the big hairdos and stylised coloured studio lighting often make this look like a Motley Crue promo video. It's exceptionally dated in this respect.
However, a witty script that teeters agreeably between comedy and sci-fi thriller chills keeps things from feeling old. Throw in some decent make-up FX (as well as some cheesy optical FX), a rousing score and energetic cameos from Geoffrey Lewis and Mary Woronov, and you have a film that retains it's fun feel while never quite gelling in the way that the superior NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, from the same era, does.
This is the UK DVD debut of Eberhardt's film. The disc here is a disappointingly bare one. But at least the transfer used is great.
While the picture is a little soft, grain is minimal and blacks are strong throughout. Colours hold up well and in general the print utilised is surprisingly clean. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1, which appears to be correct despite some reports that the film was shot in 1.33:1.
The English mono audio is similarly very good, offering an even and clear playback throughout.
There are no extras whatsoever, not even a trailer.
NIGHT OF THE COMET has taken a long time to reach DVD, especially considering its cult reputation. While this UK DVD release looks and sounds good, I'd be surprised if this hasn't opened the door for a far more satisfying US release to follow before too long.
Dodgy perms, hideous MTV colours and bad rock songs aside, NIGHT OF THE COMET is a brisk and fun - if somewhat tame - addition to the comedy-horror films that were popular in the 1980s.
Worth a cheap buy.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Optimum Home Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|