The 1984 film, Night of the Comet, begins with the end.
The end of the world, that is!
When the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, the end result is that the majority of the world’s population is reduced to red dust. Those who are exposed to the comet but not turned immediately into dust face an even worse fate. They are transformed into mindless zombies. Fortunately, 18 year-old Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her 16 year-old sister, Sam (Kelli Maroney), both managed to avoid getting exposed. Sam was in a steel shed, hiding from their abusive stepmother. Reggie was in a theater projection room with her boyfriend. When Reggie and Sam wake up in the morning to discover that they are two of the few people left alive on the planet, they do what anyone would do.
They go to the mall!
Which is probably the same thing that me and my sisters would have done if we had found ourselves in a similar situation. That’s one reason why Night of the Comet holds up so well. It’s one of the few films to be honest about how most people would probably react to the end of the world. Instead of giving a big dramatic monologue or having a breakdown or getting into a fight about who is to blame and what it all means, Reggie and Sam try to have a little fun. Of course, they also grab some guns while they’re at the mall. They’re not stupid. They know the situation is grim and they need to be prepared. But still, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t try on all the clothes that they previously would not have been able to afford. And why shouldn’t they treat the mall as their own personal playground? They’re young and they’ve survived the end of the world. They deserve to enjoy themselves.
Of course, just because Reggie and Sam survived, that doesn’t mean the world is a safe place. Along with the zombies, there’s also a crazed group of former stockboys who now view the mall as being their own personal kingdom. And then there’s the scientists, who claim that they’re benevolent but who are actually looking for healthy specimens on which they can experiment.
Night of the Comet is a terrifically fun horror movie, a real treat for anyone who has ever imagined what they would do if they were among the last people on Earth. Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, and Robert Beltran (who plays another survivor) brings a lot of energy to their likable roles while Mary Woronov and Geoffrey Lewis are properly menacing as the two main scientists. The zombies, with their crazed eyes and their decaying faces, are genuinely frightening. Director Thom Eberhardt wisely doesn’t overuse the zombies. Indeed, the whole point of the film is that the world is now nearly empty of people, whether they’re zombies or not. But because the zombies aren’t present all of the time, it makes it easy to forget about them and it also makes all the more frightening when they suddenly show up.
Night of the Comet is an enjoyable mix of horror and comedy, one that holds up well nearly 40 years after it was first released.