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John’s Horror Corner: Night of the Comet (1984), this character-driven cult classic is among the earliest of the zombedy subgenre.

September 18, 2020

MY CALL: This low budget, early-era zombedy is really something. The incredibly satisfying characters and world-building completely compensate for minimal action and gore. Also, and don’t quote me on this, but this may be the first zombedy (since 1981’s The Evil Dead lacked the slapstick candor of Evil Dead 2). MOVIES LIKE Night of the Comet: Looking for more funny yet still gory zombie movies (i.e., zombedies) of the 80s? Try Re-Animator (1985), Return of the Living Dead (1985), Night of the Creeps (1986) and Dead Alive (1992).

Check out MFF Podcast #284: Night of the Comet, Red Dust and Zombies for a more in-depth discussion of the film.

The world is agog over an imminent astronomical event—the observation of a passing comet. And I am agog with the child-stepparent insubordination, disrespect and assault going on in our star characters’ household. Apparently, Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart; The Girl Next Door, Nightflyers) and her kid sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney; Chopping Mall, Not of this Earth) aren’t terribly fond of their stepmother Doris (Sharon Farrell; It’s Alive, Arcade, The Premonition) and her obvious infidelity. In fact, this movie has a lot to say about indiscriminate sexual proclivities; some more healthy than others.

But back to this comet. It comes and goes, and leaves its billions of human observers reduced to red dust and piles of empty clothes in the city streets. Well, not all of them. Some of them have become zombie-ish monstrosities. I mean, they look like zombies, have no qualms about killing anyone and eat human flesh. But they also talk and use tools quite effectively. Maybe they’re in the turning process…?

Shots of empty city streets aglow with a hazy red sky ominously bring Regina to the jarring realization that something strange has happened. At first, they are shaken by their worldly loss and take out frustrations on each other. But they’re all they have, and they do what they can to embrace that by talking things out, venting over outdoor target practice with automatic weapons, and post-apocalyptic shopping spree dance montages to Girls Just Want to Have Fun. For a zombie apocalypse movie, it’s quite uplifting. Writer/director Thom Eberhardt (Sole Survivor, Captain Ron) really served horror fans well here.

The zombie effects are adequate. What little there is, is actually pretty decent. It’s just very limited by the budget. But this movie still works surprisingly well, and the grimy bloody zombie cop scene makes up for a lot. When zombies are on the screen, they really go for it.

As Regina, Samantha and another survivor Hector take stock of what has become of their world, a group of scientists led by Dr. Carter (Geoffrey Lewis; Double Impact, The Lawnmower Man, The Devil’s Rejects) and his colleague Audrey (Mary Woronov; Warlock, The House of the Devil, Chopping Mall) seeks to accumulate survivors. Being that they are scientists in an 80s apocalypse movie, their motives are questionable.

All said, there’s truly not much action in this, and few zombie attacks. But the characters, writing, sets and cinematography still succeed in building this world and these characters alone are more than enough for me to like it anyway. This film is really much better than I realized when I saw it as a teenager (in the early-mid ‘90s).

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 20, 2020 9:29 am

    As a teenager I went to see this when it was released, then watched it again a year or two ago and really enjoyed it. More for the nostalgia than the plot, I think, haha. Fun review to read! Thank you.

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