The whole reason for starting The ’80s Movie Club was to discover all the films we’d missed back in the day and, back then, we didn’t have the internet or even any really comprehensive video rental stores. Invariably you a local off license with a small wall of rentals on offer. That’s our excuse for having waited 31 years to finally see Night of the Comet.
Catherine Mary Stewart (who went on to co-star in Annihilator, one of our all-time favourite things ever), plays Regina, a tough-but-disinterested 18-year old who wakes up to find that a passing comet has eradicated almost all humans from the planet, leaving them as piles of dust and clothing on the streets.
As an added complication, it has also created crazed zombie-type folk who can talk, and are generally pricks, but are thankfully not too tough. The film doesn’t handle that too well though, barely explaining why they turned and why most people just died.
After hitting the streets, getting into a fight with one of the zombies (and winning because she is pretty tough) and acquiring a motorbike she goes home to find her clueless little sister, Samantha, wondering about the house as if nothing has happened.
From this point on the film really becomes about the two sisters who take the end of the world in their stride to a level where it’s almost annoying. Within hours of working out their family is dead, Samantha is at a radio station picking out a selection of dreadful ’80s fodder to play over the airwaves.
It is here that they meet the equally ridiculous Hector, a truck driver who is also trying to survive. With a subplot about how he might be the last eligible man alive and Samantha never having a boyfriend, it all goes a bit teen drama here and is totally at odds with the ‘world has ended and, oh, there are zombies now’ main plotline.
Getting irritated about it is pointless though. This isn’t a horror film, or even a post-apocalyptic thriller. It’s a quirky teen drama set during the end of the world. The silliness of it is fully released when the girls decide to test out sub-machine guns on an abandoned cop car. A ridiculous but fun scene that acts a sign that says ‘seriously, this is your last chance to leave your brain behind.’
Hector eventually leaves to find out just how dead his family is and the girls decide to pass the time by going shopping (to the soundtrack of ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ by Cyndi fucking Lauper). At this point they get into an armed siege with a brilliantly typical ’80s gang, with a charismatic but utterly insane leader. It turns out these psychopaths aren’t just wearing sunglasses indoors because they are pricks but also because they are zombies too (albeit ones that can talk and crack jokes).
A gun battle commences that, yet again, is taken completely lightly by the girls but is ended by a team of scientists who have been living underground as they had guessed the comet might bring with it some problems. The film also gets big bonus points because one of them is played the recently-departed Geoffrey Lewis.
One scientist, Audrey, doesn’t want to rescue more people and sulks her way through her scenes before appearing to kill Samantha with a syringe of poison. She then runs into Hector who returns dressed as Santa for NO PARTICULAR REASON.
Just as you expect her to kill him, she ends up killing herself. She is apparently not too hopeful of a happy ending but thankfully she has already helped to put one in place.
You see, it turns out the other scientists are the evil ones. They are injecting survivors with chemicals that leave them brain dead but able to produce blood that the scientists are hoping to use an anti-zombie serum. Audrey knew this was all bollocks though, which is why she checked herself out early.
With Geoffrey Lewis now turning into a zombie, he ends up revealing to Regina that her sister is dead and that she’s about to end up as a human IV drip. However, Hector turns up NOW DRESSED AS A FUCKING COWBOY FOR NO REASON, takes out a guard, pulls the not-dead-at-all Samantha from the boot of his car (Audrey faked her death to protect her!) and cuts the power to the base.
This gives Regina time to take out the armed guard that is with her and escape. She reunites with Samantha and Hector, as well as two kids they picked up along the way, and they ride off, detonating explosives in the base and condemning the bastard zombie scientists to a firey death.
Eventually the red skies clear and we see the survivors having a conversation about whether or not they can just cross the road or if they should wait for traffic lights (quite where they are getting power I don’t know). Samantha decides to cross wherever she likes and is almost run over by a young man who ends up taking her out for a date. The world’s fucked but young love has triumphed!
It’s a ridiculous film with some odd writing and some mixed quality special effects but the glorious silliness of the movie makes it an essential cult classic. We like it. Mostly because Catherine Mary Stewart and Geoffrey Lewis are in it but also because it is genuinely pretty good.
The film is now available as an extras-laden DVD and Blu-Ray via Arrow Films so check that out if you fancy some quintessential ’80s nonsense in your life.