Movie review: ‘Night of the Comet’

You can find aliens influencing life on Earth in films. Take the aliens-come-to-earth genre (say, “Independence Day” or “They Live” – click here for my review) that pretty much always ends up less than perfect for humanity. Then you can find those that are alien-like influencing Earth, such as in “Night of the Comet” when a comet passing near our planet introduces an alien disease that nearly wipes out our species. “Night of the Comet” is somewhat creative in its plot and how the survivors of the comet fare in the post-apocalyptic world, but it could have been better. I’m not a big fan of most sci-fi outside “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” but I’m looking at “Night of the Comet” today.

‘Night of the Comet’
(1984; 95 minutes; rated PG-13; directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney and Robert Beltran; available on DVD through the Collier County Public Library; available on DVD through amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com; available only on DVD via Netflix; has recently been on cable movie channels)

SURVIVING THE COMET WAS THE EASY PART

I’ve reviewed a number of films I enjoyed years ago and as I’ve revisited most of them I found that there is something mostly good to report even 30 years later. However, that’s not always the case and I’ve hit on a few in recent days (such as “TAG: The Assassination Game” – click here for my review) and now I’ve come to the sci-fi effort called “Night of the Comet.”

(CLICK HERE FOR ALL MY MOVIE REVIEWS)

When I saw it listed on a cable channel recently I recorded it on the DVR. I recalled that I liked the film and thought it was good sci-fi with a touch of zombies. What I didn’t remember was the mostly wooden performances by the actors (although headliner Catherine Mary Stewart has her moments), its poor directorial effort and not very clever filmography.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’d recommend against ever watching it, but I believe you should only if you are on the couch, it’s coming on and you don’t have anything else to do for the next hour and a half.

In “Night of the Comet,” the world is awaiting the passage close to Earth of a comet. There are street parties planned and it’s the “event” of the time. The characters are introduced as a young woman who’s working at a theater and wants to keep only her initials on a video game and her younger sister is having a brouhaha with their abusive stepmother. Through a confluence of events both girls manage to stay protected overnight while sleeping in a metal or steel-reinforced room (the older one in a projection room at the theater and the younger in a steel shed in the backyard).

They wake up to find everyone gone – finding piles of clothes and just handfuls of dust where the people used to be. Of course there’s a quick tangle with a zombie by the older sister then she gets home, finds her sib and she manages to put two-and-two together – some who survived the comet are now deteriorating and go into a zombie phase before dying and leaving a pile of calcium dust.

The girls then hear a disc jockey on the radio and drive to find him. What they find is a station on automated play but do find another healthy survivor. The trio hook up and begin an adventure that takes them to a shopping mall and finally out in the boonies where a bunch of scientists had prepared for the comet (with one fatal detail forgotten) and had survived.

The scientists had planned to be protected from the comet, but basically forgot to turn off the ventilation system and the comet’s particles got in and infected them. The scientists hear them when the girls broadcast through the radio station and then use helicopters for a rescue from zombie stockboys at the mall (neat gunfight in this part of the film). The girls manage to escape from the scientists’ facility with the help the guy they found at the radio station and a rain washes away the comet dust and everything’s beautiful again.

I’d go into a little more detail about “Night of the Comet,” but you don’t need it. Actually, I didn’t need it. The plot, while creative, isn’t played out well and the effort of a couple of excellent supporting actors is wasted.

Stewart plays “Regina ‘Reggie’ Belmont” and gives an acceptable performance here. She is tough and tough minded and doesn’t mind making decisions (and she’s pretty handy with a MAC-10 machine pistol). I’m not sure how she could have better distinguished the character but she does have her moments. Stewart was better in “Weekend at Bernie’s” (click here for my review) and one of her earliest roles was a bit part in “Nighthawks” (click here for my review) and she has had a variety of TV roles including “White Collar.”

The two whose talents are mostly wasted here are veteran supporting actor Geoffrey Lewis, who plays the leading scientist “Dr. Carter,” and an actor who revels in eclectic roles, Mary Woronov, who plays scientist “Audrey White.” Both actors look like they’re trying to get into it – especially Woronov as she builds to her fatal injection scene – but both come up short of what you’d expect if you’re familiar with their respective careers.

Lewis has been in several Clint Eastwood films, including “Every Which Way But Loose,” as well as “Dillinger” (click here for my review) as well as the excellent TV vampire movie “Salem’s Lot” (click here for my review). Woronov, along with friend Paul Bartel, made a mark for themselves with the very twisted film “Eating Raoul” that featured very strange antics, a lot of murder and finally cannibalism – eclectic, see? She was also in “Warlock.”

The two co-stars of Stewart are Kelli Maroney playing “Samantha ‘Sam’ Belmont” and Robert Beltran as “Hector Gomez.” Both are OK and get excellent screen time, but neither one gives performance worth remembering – 10 minutes after watching the film they’re pretty much forgotten. Maroney has also been in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Chopping Mall” while Beltran was in “Bugsy” and is also an alumnus of “Eating Raoul” (he’s “Raoul).

One of the few clever lines is when the scientists have landed in the city to get the girls, one asks aloud, “Where would adolescents with nothing to do go?” Of course it’s the mall and the scientists go to the nearest one and save the girls from zombie stockboys.

Now, if there were just more scenes of the zombie stockboys!

Night of the Comet” was the 65th rated film of 1984 at the U.S. box office with $14.4 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was made on a budget of $3 million, according to Wiki, but the same source did not have a worldwide total (maybe it was only in domestic release). The No. 1 film of the year was “Beverly Hills Cop” with $234.7 million. Running a close second was the now-classic comedy “Ghostbusters” with $229.2 million.

Assorted cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Sharon Farrell plays “Doris,” the girls’ abusive stepmother who disappears into a heap of dust. Farrell was also in “Can’t Buy Me Love” (click here for my review).
  • The actor here with the best name is Dick Rude as one of the stockboys. Rude has also been in “Repo Man” and “Straight to Hell.”
  • Brick dust was used for the dust left behind when people died.

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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