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Night of the Comet(1984)
A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive.
For more about Night of the Comet and the Night of the Comet Blu-ray release, see Night of the Comet Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 11, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Sharon Farrell, Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis (I)
Director: Thom E. Eberhardt
» See full cast & crew
Night of the Comet Blu-ray Review
Is it possible to gag a zombie with a spoon?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 11, 2013
Okay, so on the pro side of the column, according to many astronomers it was actually a comet that led the Three Wisemen to that fabled manger in Bethlehem. That's kind of cool, right? But on the con side of the aisle, evidently it was a dastardly comet that wiped out the dinosaurs. So perhaps we need a tie breaker. If one takes the lunatic Night of the Comet as that deciding vote, the ultimate response as to whether a comet might be a good thing or a bad thing might still be somewhat questionable. The comet in this film wipes out almost all of humanity, which is certainly going to be met with vast approval by the cynics out there in the viewing audience (who will of course simply assume that they will automatically be exempt from such interstellar genocide). On the other hand, the comet "lets" two Valley Girls survive, so maybe the comet and Darwin should go head to head to decide what survival of the fittest actually boils down to. Moon Unit Zappa had immortalized the peculiar patois of young females residing in the San Fernando Valley in 1982, rather incredibly giving her father Frank his only Top 40 single in one of the most distinctive careers in 20th century music (anyone who writes Zappa off as only a "mere" novelty rock star has obviously neither seen nor heard his incredible quasi-classical pieces, many of which are as complex as anything his idol Edgard Varèse ever wrote). A year after the Zappa hit Martha Coolidge played off the title of the single by recrafting Romeo and Juliet in a modern Los Angeles environment. Two years later writer-director Thom Eberhardt mined much the same (literal) territory, though in this case his valley-centric Romeo and Juliet were among the last people alive on Earth. Night of the Comet is a genial enough entry in the darkly humorous post-Apocalyptic subgenre, a niche probably further narrowed by its two Valley Girl heroines. The film tiptoes fairly gingerly between scares and laughs, and it has developed a very devoted fan following in the years following its initial theatrical release.
Reggie Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) seems to have a job at the locat movie theater, but she is obviously more interested in capturing all of the top scores on a video arcade game in the lobby than she is in doing anything ostensibly work related. (Writer-director Thom Eberhardt mentions adding the final "callback" joke to this moment which serves as a sort of coda to the film only after getting a lot of flack for not having provided an identity for the person whose name is supplanted by Reggie.) That night she shacks up in the steel lined projection booth with her boyfriend Larry (Michael Bowen). A brief phone call to her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) gives the audience a little insight into a fractured home life where the girls are having to learn to deal with a harridan stepmother (Sharon Farrell).
The next morning Reggie's boyfriend steps outside and is almost immediately attacked by a vicious zombie-like creature. Reggie is initially unaware of this state of affairs, but soon becomes cognizant of it when she finds a bloody wrench lying on the pavement and then sees the zombie evidently snacking on her erstwhile boyfriend. She is barely able to escape on Larry's motorcycle and tears off through an abandoned Los Angeles (looking especially spooky due to Eberhardt's ubiquitous use of red filters). No one appears to be alive, and in fact when Reggie finally gets to her suburban neighborhood there is nothing but piles of sand in empty clothes where her neighbors had evidently gathered outside to see the passing of a historic comet the night before.
Rather incredibly, Reggie finds Sam alive—and completely unaware of what has happened—inside the family home. Sam it turns out had run away the night before and had, like Reggie, taken refuge in a steel lined shelter. The two girls aren't quite sure what to make of this state of affairs until they hear what appears to be a live disc jockey at a local radio station, so the two set off to investigate. At the radio station, they find out that everything is actually prerecorded and is simply playing out with no human supervision, but they're shocked to be confronted by Hector (Robert Beltran), who, like the girls, had escaped the destructive wrath of the comet by having spent the night enclosed by steel. The girls play around in the studio and end up broadcasting some silly snippets out over the airwaves, which are actually heard by a horde of surviving scientists (including Beltran's Eating Raoul cohort Mary Woronov) who have squirreled themselves away in a bunker and evidently know a lot more about this state of affairs than any survivors out in the general populace do.
Hector sets out to see if any of his family survived, while the girls tool around Los Angeles and then, like any good Valley Girl, go shopping at the local mall. Both Hector and the girls eventually encounter zombies, but ultimately all three of them are brought back to the secret government base. Without spoiling all of the "secrets" the government agents have up their jumpsuit sleeves, it turns out there are actually gradations of zombiefication going on, and both the scientists themselves as well as at least one of the trio of focal survivors may be well on their way to becoming one of the undead. A disturbing plan to rescue Mankind, which plays out like a kind of sibling to some of the elements in George A. Romero's Day of the Dead .
While Night of the Comet is one of the more genial zombie movies of its era, it also has a rather peculiar melancholic subtext to it. A couple of the scenes between Stewart and Maroney ache with a kind of depressive angst that is a rather peculiar mix with the film's otherwise brisk mélange of scares and wryly gentle humor. There's a certain disconnect between the initial setup and the scientist aspect (these characters don't even appear until well into the film, and they frankly often feel like more of a distraction than part of a well constructed story). The film nonetheless is quite enjoyable, and it benefits from a rather nicely handled production which belies its miniscule budget. Night of the Comet also flouts tradition when it finally sets up the kids to recreate their own private Garden of Eden after a series of not very threatening skirmishes, in one of the few zombie entries where the undead actually make it all the way into fully deceased territory.
Night of the Comet Blu-ray, Video Quality
Night of the Comet is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory, an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. Night of the Comet was filmed on a mere pittance, and it often looks like it, though Eberhardt actually masks some of the low rent elements surprisingly well. Much of the film features a red tint, especially in exteriors, which only exacerbates an already generally quite soft looking presentation. That said, close-ups and even midrange shots can offer better than average amounts of fine detail—take a look at the ribbing on Maroney's red socks in the second screenshot or the tiny threads sticking up from her shoulder on her blue outfit in screenshot 13). Colors are well saturated and accurate looking. The elements utilized for this transfer have more than the usual amount of speckling and dirt, though there's no major damage to report. There doesn't appear to have been any overt digital tweaking of this image (as evidenced by those selfsame specks and dirt), leaving a very healthy layer of grain (which is of course magnified in some of the optical effects shots).
Night of the Comet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Night of the Comet features both a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix recreating the film's original sound design, as well as a still fairly front heavy DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix. The 5.1 mix does have some good surround activity, especially with regard to the ubiquitous wind foley effect, but immersion is not consistent or overwhelming enough to really make a cogent case for why this "upgrade" was considered. Both tracks offer excellent fidelity, cleanly delivering the well prioritized dialogue. Neither of the tracks has any damage to report.
Night of the Comet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Night of the Comet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Night of the Comet has a rather large fan base fueled by repeated broadcasts which were no doubt seen by impressionable young kids who probably fantasized that they could wake up the next morning with any pesky parental units hanging around making their lives miserable. The film is actually quite enjoyable and even charming in its own way, but it also has some structural issues that more objective adult eyes may see despite rose colored "nostalgia glasses". Night of the Comet really just reinvents a couple of longstanding cinematic tropes, including lone survivors of some sort of apocalypse and those nefarious zombies (at least as pesky as anyone's parental units), but it does so in a fun and self-deprecating way. This new Blu-ray offers generally very good video (given reasonable expectations) and audio, and the supplemental features are great. Recommended.
Night of the Comet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Thom E. Eberhardt's Night of the Comet Detailed - September 18, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has dated and detailed its upcoming collector's edition Blu-ray release of director Thom E. Eberhardt's Night of the Comet (1984), starring Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary ...
• Eve of Destruction Blu-ray - July 29, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has revealed that it will release on Blu-ray director Duncan Gibbins' thriller Eve of Destruction (1991), starring Gregory Hines, Renée Soutendijk, Michael Greene, Kurt ...
• Night of the Comet Blu-ray - July 17, 2013
Scream Factory, the horror-thriller offshoot of independent film distributor Shout Factory, has revealed that it plans to release a combo pack edition of director Thom E. Eberhardt's Night of the Comet (1984), starring Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli ...
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