1. Night of The Comet (1984)
Purchased on ebay recently, I first caught this memorable horror/sci-fi movie years ago when it was part of the screening programme on Moviedrome. I was in love with lead actress Catherine Mary Stewart at the time, having previously fallen for her after seeing The Last Starfighter a couple of years earlier. For her first scene in this film, she’s wearing what looks like a ‘Khan’ era Starfleet uniform, while try to beat the highest score on a video game in the cinema where she works. Hot on all counts.
The film is set in Los Angeles where a comet, initially perceived as harmless, has wiped out all humankind, turning everyone into piles of red dust. A couple of girls who manage to avoid obliteration, blond cheerleader Kelli and her older, headstrong sister Regina (Stewart) set out on a search for fellow survivors. This is end-of-the-world eighties style, with its light, cheery content at odds somewhat with the subject matter. Even the zombified humans, transformed as a result of red dust poisoning, aren’t particularly threatening. The two sisters, both tooled-up to the max, even take time to indulge in an ill-fated shopping spree in a huge, deserted department store. We get the obligatory fashion and frolics montage, with jump-cuts of various hats and items of clothing being tried on and paraded around, all to Cyndi Lauper’s hit of that era, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’.
None of the comments above are meant as a criticism though, and for such a clearly low-budgeted film, it’s well made and actually looks great. From scenes of a deserted down-town LA, shot through red-filtered lenses, to the effective image a of toy frog swimming alone in the pool of an eerily quiet suburban garden, the imagery is equally as powerful as contemporary films in this genre. The opening credit sequence, which has scenes of huge crowds gathered around in a comet-welcoming celebration, must have only been achieved by the production team going to an actual event and asking attendees to hold banners adorned with hand-drawn comet and alien imagery.
Unfortunately the film falters after the second half, failing to deliver on its intriguing premise (probably due to budgetary restrictions) and opting instead for a fairly flat and contrived escape sequence involving the sisters and Hector (a truck driver they meet and Regina’s potential love interest) rescuing two annoyingly cute children from the clutches of some mad infected scientists. It’s still definitely worth a look if you haven’t seen it however, if only for the comforting reassurance that the human desire to shop doesn’t diminish after most of the world has been snuffed out.