Horror Re-Education: "Night of the Comet"

Since we've recently taken on more reviewers here at Bloody Good Horror, it's given me a little bit of extra time each week that in the past was spent reviewing screeners. This has allowed me to do something that's been sorely needed in the last few years, ie dipping back into horrors of old and continuing to expand my horizons as a purveyor of the horror genre on the internet.

These aren't always profound "classics" as we know them, but generally a list of standout titles I have sitting on my shelves that I have yet to delve in to. I had a few extra hours to burn last night, so I tossed in this gem, 1984's "Night of the Comet".

"Night of the Comet" has one of the best - and most quintessentially 80's - opening sequences ever filmed. In it we meet sexy Samantha (Kelli Maroney) hammering away at an old-style arcade machine in the movie theater she works in. In the same sequence we meet her boyfriend, valley girl sister, and slutty stepmom. After deciding to stay the night in the theater's projection room (and putting out, nice!) she wakes up in the morning only to find out that the entire world has been obliterated by the comet that passed earth the night before. Here's a nice little synopsis from IMDB.

Two girls from the Valley wake up to find that a passing comet has eradicated their world and left behind a mysterious red-dust and a pack of cannibal mutants. With the help of a friendly truck driver, the girls save the earth from a villainous "think tank," karate chop their way through flesh-eating zombies, and, of course, find time to go to the mall.

It's unfortunate, but as much as I loved the opening sequence of the film I didn't really feel like the rest of it lives up to those highs. The 2nd act in particular is a real drag, although to be fair, it is quite impressive that a film with a budget as small as this one's presumably was, was somehow able to empty out large sections of LA in broad daylight in order to shoot their post-apocalyptic sequences. The ending picks up things a little, but I still wasn't all that impressed.

I was doing some digging on IMDB though, and one of the user's thoughts gave me a new appreciation for what I had watched:

Generally--and wrongly--categorized with typical 80s teen horror films, "Comet" is in fact a smart, skillful parody of the low-budget sci-fi horror classics of the 50s, 60s and 70s--and a wry commentary on teen culture in the 1980s as well. For those familiar with the original films, the parody "clues" are all over the place--not least of which is that the early part of the film takes place in the back of LA's classically offbeat El Rey movie theatre, which is showing low-budget B horror movies. Most of the "scary" scenes are preceded (subtly or otherwise) by the famous "red light" warning used commonly in the 60s and 70s. And the apocalyptic plot, settings and dialog, especially among the scientists, are straight out of the 50s.

Not being an expert on that era myself, I would be interested to know if some of our readers that are familiar with it have ever made this connection with "NOTC". I read that about halfway through watching, and I will say that from that point onward I did begin to notice the over-the-top, parody-like nature of the film. It still doesn't make up for the dry 2nd act, but it definitely gave me an interesting outlook on what I was watching.

Even though I wasn't crazy about it, "Night of the Comet" is a fun, neon colored mash-up of 1980's action, sci-fi and horror films. Kelli Maroney is positively dreamy as Samantha, and if the theater job and arcade skills don't get you revved up enough, you'll certainly appreciate her penchant for heavy artillery. I spent half of last night dreaming about her, so it definitely worked on me.

The films that I have sitting ready for my "Re-Education" come from all ends of the spectrum. I started out here with a flawed, yet fun entry into the horror genre. My verdict? Watch it, just keep your expectations in check.

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