By Stacey Longo
Night of the Comet (1984) must have made its debut on VHS around 1985, coincidentally, the same summer that my family first got cable. Having subsequently watched it approximately 55 times on HBO (it was a movie! On television!), imagine my surprise when I found out that not everyone has seen this horror/sci-fi classic. Boy, are you missing out!
Sisters Reggie and Sam Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, respectively) find themselves in a strangely empty world the day after the Earth has passed through the tail of an extraordinary red comet. Even more amazing is the fact that these sisters didn’t manage to survive the night together, but each on their own: Reggie by fooling around with her boyfriend in a steel-lined projectionist booth at the theater where she works, and Sam was in a steel-lined shed after fighting with her stepmother. The odds of two siblings both individually surviving a cosmic event that wiped out 99% of the population is about as likely as a huge cosmic event wiping out 99% of the population, but put your skepticism aside. Plenty more will happen to test the limits of your suspension of disbelief.
While the idea of tooling around the neighborhood now that humanity is mostly dead is overall pretty appealing, the two sisters quickly figure out that not quite everybody is dead. There’s a rabid zombie or two running around, and the sisters are at the top of the menu. They hear another survivor broadcasting over the radio, and head to the station, where they find Erik Estrada-lookalike Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran). Since everybody knows that the only thing to do after a mass extinction event is to find someone of the opposite sex to begin repopulation of the Earth with, it seems that things are looking up for the sisters. They decide to celebrate by going shopping.
Anyone who has ever watched a zombie apocalypse movie could’ve told Reggie and Sam that the worst place to go is the mall, but the sisters are a pretty clueless pair. To nobody’s surprise except Reggie and Sam’s, there’s a group of zombies there, and they barely make it out alive, and even then, only with the help of the government. Guess what? The government agents are baddies, too, and once again, the sisters are in trouble. Hector shows up to save the day, rescue the girls, and rescue a couple of little kids who were also being held by the big bad government. In the final scene, the zombies have died off, and an attractive young stud driving a sports car nearly runs Sam over as she crosses the street. Hooray! Now both of the sisters have boyfriends!
Cheesy, silly, and setting back women’s rights for decades to come, Night of the Comet is a fun glimpse at what used to pass for quality entertainment. The hairdos, outfits, and attitudes are all a tribute to times gone by, and you’ll find yourself missing those simpler days. Or not. At the very least, you’ll remember your Aqua Net and legwarmers fondly.