May 4, 2010

Night of the Comet (Review)

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Night of the Comet  (1984)

Director: Thom Eberhardt

3/5 zedheads

Night of the Comet starts off as a fun tongue-in-cheek homage to cheesy science fiction disaster films, but the zombie aspect of the plot leads the story into a confusing and awkward and -- sad to say -- boring finale.

For the first time in 65 million years, a rare comet passes into Earth's orbit. In Los Angeles, people gather to watch and celebrate the comet's passing just before Christmas. 18-year-old Regina (played by Canadian-born Catherine Mary Stewart) is more interested in avoiding her bitchy step-mother and shirking her duties at the El Rey movie theatre to preserve her high score at the arcade game booth and hang out with her boyfriend in the projection booth. When she spends the night with her boyfriend in the steel-lined projection booth, Regina is spared the terrible fate that befalls everyone exposed to the comet. All those caught in the comet's energy either disintegrate into dust or slowly degenerate into violent zombies before they too turn to dust. When Regina clues into the global disaster, she finds her sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney), meets up with a young trucker named Hector (Robert Beltran), and eventually comes into conflict with a group of surviving scientists with dubious plans.

 Regina's hair almost qualifies as a co-star.

The best part of this movie is watching Regina and Samantha. On the one hand, they're funny as realistically typical suburban Valley Girls. They're not Clueless Valley Girls, but they're still interested in fashion, boys, being young and having fun. Kelli Maroney as Samantha is especially cute in her youthful and flippant attitude. They're more charming than annoying. On the other hand, Regina and Samantha are also capable action heroes. Trained by their military father, Regina and Samantha know self-defense and how to handle firearms. Regina, in particular, kicks some ass in this movie. It's refreshing to see female characters who are action heroes without over-exploiting their sexuality or maternal qualities.

 Cheerleaders with guns? Now that's an apocalypse!

The real flaw of this film is the zombies. It's never really explained what the zombies are after. When people are exposed to the comet but do not automatically disintegrate, they start to turn into insane sunken-eyed ghouls who are inexplicably violent. We see one homeless zombie eating flesh but no other flesh-eating in the film. We see a zombie child (who I suspect is actually a little person ala Burial Ground) and a few zombie scientists, but I can't figure out what they add to the story. They could have just played this film straight as a post-apocalyptic film where people are afraid of disintegration or exposure (because that's what the majority of the scenes are already about). The zombies add almost nothing to the movie. The best zombie scenes turn out to be dream sequences anyways, so what was the point? It slows down the movie and introduces a convoluted plot that the film doesn't even attempt to explain well.

I never thought I'd say it, but this film needed less zombies. As it stands, it's a somewhat charming science-fiction adventure film, but its zombie horror elements are more of a hindrance.
 What? Is there something on my face?