Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Distributed by Scream Factory
As I imagine it is with most viewers, this writer can usually tell you whether or not he liked a movie the very moment the end credits begin to roll. A movie can be good or bad, brilliant or terrible, or any number of shades in between, and I can discuss at length why I did or did not like what I had just viewed with a decent set of reasons or arguments to back myself and my opinion up.
But every once in a while, a very long while, I run across a flick like Night of the Comet.
Released in 1984 and directed by the man who would eventually give us Captain Ron, this quirky sci-fi/horror comedy introduces us to Regina (Stewart), a valley girl/theatre usher who elects to spend the titular occasion in the arms of her projectionist boyfriend Larry (a crazy-young Michael Bowen, for those of you who are Tarantino or “Breaking Bad” fans). Y’see, the “night” in question heralds the coming of a noteworthy celestial event, as a massive comet will streak its way across the heavens for loads of enthusiastic onlookers to witness. Regina misses the event, waking up to find that the comet has eradicated most of the human race (turned them to red dust, in fact), save for a handful of survivors – including her spunky sister Samantha (Maroney), loveable Chicano Hector (Beltran) – oh, and a collection of gang members, mutated zombies, and evil scientists to boot. What follows is a series of episodic adventures with our trio of heroes as they traverse this new post-apocalyptic world (with the occasional bit of shopping), all while the film somehow walks a tightrope between straight-faced and goofy, between genuinely funny and ridiculously camp.
Anchoring the film and all its zaniness are its leads. As Regina, the drop-dead gorgeous Stewart makes for a fantastic heroine, playing her character with the perfect balance of strength and good humor. Maroney is also great, making Samantha so adorable that the end of the world doesn’t seem all that bad with her to share it with. And as Hector, Beltran gives us a truly likeable, straight-arrow hero (one of the bonus features on Scream Factory’s disc has Beltran explaining that, in order to avoid typecasting in the wake of his success as the eponymous character in Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, he elected to portray Hector as a Gary Cooper type).
Add to the performances the film’s nifty makeup effects, cool design work, and solid photography (well represented by the Blu’s sharp, colorful image – which does bear some minor damage and speckling), and you have a technically competent film sprung forth from a script that is interesting at best, a complete mess at worst. While Eberhardt’s intentions are honorable, the film never quite rises above the script’s lack of certainty about what type of film it wants to be. And yet… in a strange way, that’s absolutely part of the movie’s charm. Don’t like a segment of the movie? Give it five minutes to shift gears entirely, and see what you think then. And, again, it doesn’t hurt that you have a great cast of characters to drag you along for the ride.
Scream Factory has brought Night of the Comet to disc in a nifty Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack, with the type of impressive presentation and supplemental material we’ve come to expect from that outfit. As noted, the image is quite good, as are the two provided audio tracks (both 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are supplied).
Heading up the Blu’s bonus features are (not one, not two, but…) three audio commentaries – one with stars Stewart and Maroney, another with director Eberhardt, and yet another with Comet’s production designer, John Muto. In addition to those, we get a trio of Red Shirt-produced featurettes discussing the film and its making (with Maroney and Stewart, Beltran, and Comet makeup effects guru David B. Miller). Rounding out the collection are a pair of slideshows (featuring stills, promotional artwork, and behind-the-scenes shots) and the film’s fun and oh-so-80s theatrical trailer. As usual, a lovingly produced release from Scream.
Though the film initially left this reviewing scratching his head, I’ve finally decided that while Night of the Comet is far from a perfect film, it’s a well made and fun flick featuring great characters and performances. And for those reasons alone, I’m happy to have seen it. For those with an affinity for 80s era cheese and seriocomic genre benders, I should think this rescued cult item will be well worth a look.
2 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5