I love discovering 80's movies that I have never seen. They're like a forgotten part of my youth. No matter how I feel about the movie, I love seeing that era on film, it captures a time when the world seemed limitless. How Night of the Comet escaped my attention for so long, I'll never understand. A dark-comedy about the end of the world, made during the zenith of the decade, 1984; I really couldn't find a better undiscovered gem. Unfortunately the film didn't live up to my high expectations.
Regina's your typical 80's teenager, she works in a movie theater, prides herself on her video game skills and doesn't mind spending the night with the theater's projectionist in his projection room. Luckily the room is lined with lead, for when a comet passes by the earth that night, it turns almost everyone into cosmic dust. Those it doesn't, it turns into murderous-mutants. When Regina returns home, she's lucky to find her little sister Samantha still alive, who spent the night in the shed (also lined with lead), while her step-mom and friends were having a comet party. They soon find they're seemingly the only ones left alive in L.A..
They travel to a local radio station to see if they can find anyone over the airwaves. Soon a lone guy, Hector, comes calling. And unknown to them, someone else is listening in, a group of scientists who expected the aftereffects of the comet, and are hiding out in a bunker off in the desert. There's a great scene after the girls leave the radio station, they head straight for the local mall, and start trying on clothes; I could have done without the 80's clothes montage, but when a gang of psyched-out store employees attack the girls with machine guns, it's a lot of fun. Hector's gone off to find out if any of his family has survived, running into a crazy-mutant boy instead. At this point I had a lot of hope for the film, it was carrying a great tone between apocalyptic-horror and dark-comedy. There had been a few cool mutant scenes, and I was expecting a lot more.
When the scientists show up to kidnap the sisters, the film starts to lose it's touch. It turns from these girls discovering their new world, into a rescue mission from an underground bunker. Bunker's just don't excite me. I know it's a way for the filmmakers to keep costs down. They set up a few "sci-fi" props in these dark-gray tunnels and call it a film set. I've seen too many movies, especially post-apocalypse types, made in these boring tunnels. Anyways, Hector comes to the rescue, the scientists get whats coming to them, and the gang's back together to enjoy the empty world together.
I really loved Kelli Maroney's performance as little sister Sam. She has this undeniable spunk that lasts throughout the film, from her beginnings as a naive teenager, to a true apocalyptic warrior. Unfortunately the performances by Catherine Mary Stewart (who also played the girlfriend in 1984's The Last Starfighter) as Regina, isn't nearly as memorable, she doesn't take anything off the table, but also doesn't bring much too it either. Robert Beltran as Hector is completely forgettable, they needed an actor with much more charisma in this role. The film really hinges on these three characters and the bond that they form, but even while Regina and Hector are becoming a couple, they never seem to be on the same page. Three great leads would have tremendously helped this film.
It's so hard for films to keep the energy that is initially set-up through the entire film. Night of the Comet is another casualty of this all-too-common film-making problem. The first half of this film really rocks, the excitement of discovering this apocalyptic 80's setting, a few crazy-mutants, and an empty L.A. all to themselves. But once they're taken to the bunker, the film loses all momentum. Samantha is also missing during this section of the film, which doesn't help, as she's by far the most entertaining character.
But even as I write about these problems, I have a feeling that I'll give the film another chance in the future. It has enough good stuff going for it to make it a worthwhile film. If they had thrown out the scientists, and had a lot more mutants, I think I would have heard of this film long before I did. Not a forgotten classic, but a misplaced, rusty toy car whose wheels still spin. - Grade: B-