Late to the Party: Night of the Comet

This week’s ‘80s movie was Night of the Comet, which was one of the few suggested to me that I’d never heard of.  Only Bree of Geekin’ Out fame mentioned this particular movie to me, telling me that “Zombies + Valley girls = horror comedy gold!”, so I figured there wasn’t a whole lot to lose here.

Click here for the tweeting stream and here for the Twitter account I use for my movie live-tweeting. Scroll to the very bottom (giving it time to load all of the tweets) to start at the beginning of the feed.  Again, you will not be able to view all of the tweets unless you are logged into Twitter. Apologies to my readers of the non-tweeting variety.

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Earth is scheduled to have a brush with a passing comet around Christmas of 1984.  People all over the world fill the streets waiting for an astronomical show of epic proportions.  The morning after the event, the world is devoid of all things living — except for the select few who had chosen to stay indoors while the comet passed.  Two sisters and their newfound friend need to find a way to survive on their own without being killed by less-fortunate “survivors”.

Thoughts

I’m going to say straight-up that I am by no means a fan of this movie.  Movies involving blonde airheads going shopping get on my nerves, and zombie movies aren’t my absolute fave either.  I’d hoped that the zombies would at least take a decent chunk out of the bimbettes, but I wasn’t quite so lucky, so I’m mostly hating on the movie because it didn’t give me what I wanted.  So sue me.

… Anyone still reading?  One or two people?  Okay. I can work with that. Probably.

You could've made this movie so bad-ass ... son, I am disappoint.

One of the problems I have with the main characters, aside from Regina, is that they don’t seem to grasp the sobering concept of being part of the decimated population of Earth.  In most post-apocalyptic movies that I’ve seen (granted, that isn’t many), at least one person has a breakdown and can’t wrap their mind around the fact that everything they know has been wiped away in one fell swoop.  That doesn’t seem to ever really happen in this movie.  Regina yells at her younger sister Samantha about how their mom and neighbours are all just big piles of dust, but that’s as far as it goes.  There is no moment where someone loses their sanity for half a tick and screams, “Everyone’s dead! What are we going to do?! They’re all gone! THEY’RE ALL F—ING GONE!” That’s the way I’d probably react, and I’m a relatively laid-back person, so it irks me that nobody finds the circumstances sobering enough to sit down and think of the implications.

Regina, her younger sister Samantha, and Hector, the young man they meet after the ‘end of the world’, are the three protagonist survivors that we meet in this movie.  Of the three, Regina is easily the most likable, with Hector coming in at a close second.  Regina is a tough girl who took the situation and did the only sensible thing to be done: set off in search of a safe place to bunk up and figure things out.  She’s also able to defend herself, which is a nice break from the stereotype of women in horror movies who are only good at running around screaming whilst wearing only thin shirts and underwear.  Immediately after leaving the theatre where she’d been sheltered from the comet’s effects, she’s attacked by a zombie and kicks him around before racing off on a motorcycle.  (I should note, though, that I think most people would react a little more strongly to picking up a blood-covered wrench. At least that’s what I think that was.)  On top of that, she’s handy with a gun — one of the pluses of having a father who’s part of some military faction of some sort. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the familial details, to be honest.

You're right, leaving the air conditioning on at the time was a horrible idea. Hindsight's 20/20, right?

On the other hand, Samantha, the token ditz, earned one single brownie point from me for getting smacked across the face by her step-mother (at least I think it was her step-mother) and giving her a slap right back.  After that, I basically wanted her to die.  It took her forever to just accept the fact that they were essentially the only people left in Los Angeles and, to me, she’s just too clueless to be tolerated.  Those are the kinds of characters that are meant to be zombie food, but much to my disappointment, they never get their gnarly, rotting mitts on her.

Hector doesn’t stick around for too much of the movie, in my estimation.  He goes back home in search of family but, as expected, finds the house empty.  Here again is the problem of no one really reacting as a normal person would.  Hector goes through the house and collects a few things — trophies, photos, etc. — but doesn’t seem to show any sign that he’s sad that his family’s gone.  It had only been a couple of days since the passing of the comet. Wouldn’t he feel something?  I know I would.  Anyway, he returns to the girls and has a kick-ass time busting into a military compound in which Regina’s being detained by some crazy scientists (who had hunkered down during the comet’s brush with Earth but had left their vents open, so the ‘zombifying’ pathogens are slowly taking them down), but it feels really out of character, considering the softer side that we see when he first meets the sisters.

Samantha and her gun

Sam, all the guns in the world can't make me take you seriously.

I don’t want to continue on much further with this, ‘cause there’d be nothing left of the movie if I did, but I must, must comment on the scene in which Regina and Samantha raid a clothing store just because they can.  This scene was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.  I can understand going into stores and taking what you want, because really, who’s going to care?  But as far as I’m concerned, there is no place — no place — for a shopping montage in a zombie movie, let alone after the half-way point.  I don’t want to watch girls picking out the most ridiculous outfits possible just because they won’t have to charge it to their credit card, and I also don’t want to see them picking out things that are the most impractical pieces of clothing on the face of any planet in any galaxy in the universe. I want to see them trying to survive.  I want to see them going to a friggin’ Costco, draining the place dry of supplies they actually need, and then being chased off by a pack of zombies.  That’s the way that should’ve gone down.  Pick a genre and stick with it; don’t jump back and forth between a chick-flick and a fight-for-your-life style.

Anyway. I’m determined to find one good thing in this film besides Regina’s ability to kick some zombie ass, and there’s only one thing that’s coming to mind.  I loved the effect of the red sky through the entire post-comet movie.  It lent a very eerie sort of feel to things and gives you a sense of foreboding, which would have played in nicely if the movie had stuck with just being a freaking zombie bludgeon-fest.

The Verdict

There is almost no chance that I would ever watch this one again, but I know that that’s because I take it more seriously than I was supposed to.  It’s like taking two of my least favourite movie genres and shoving them together into a big dusty mess.  I had hope at the start, knowing only that it involved ditzy girls and zombies, which could’ve been fantastic if they’d decided whether the audience should root for the girls or the zombies.

This film is listed as a horror/sci-fi/comedy film. Perhaps if I’d found any of it overly funny, my review would have come out quite differently, but … I didn’t get any real ha-has out of this.  Maybe they pushed the silliness just a little too far for me to appreciate it. Who knows.

Frankly, I’m astounded that this movie has such a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’d expected it to be just north of the 50% mark, if not south of it.  This is why I (and everyone else, really) should take ratings from RT and IMDB with a grain of salt. Just because a lot of other people liked it doesn’t guarantee that you will.

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
iTunes – Unavailable
IMDB – 6.2 / 10
Toria – 2.5 / 5

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5 Comments

  1. Ben
    Posted August 4, 2011 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    Good, honest review. Why give false praise where it isn’t warranted? I haven’t seen this movie yet but I feel compelled to just because it sounds like the kind of B-movie schlock that I enjoy.

    Funny you should mention the clothing store scene. A better movie to watch would probably be the original Dawn of the Dead from 1978, which concerns a group of people who hold up in a shopping mall while a zombie apocalypse occurs around them. The joy of being trapped in a mall and able to take whatever you want with impunity is great, but the movie also overshadows this with a sens of doom, dread and isolation that the characters eventually feel. From what I’ve read, Dawn of the Dead achieves what this movie set out to show but to greater effect. Plus, the social commentary on the zombie-like nature of modern consumerism is still relevant.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment. Excellent review as always.

  2. Posted August 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    oh man I just saw this a few weeks ago on netflix. It’s your average bmovie crap. but therein lies the gold. I really feel you let your preconceived feeling about zombie movies get to you. I never once considered this a zombie movie, personally lol

    • Toria
      Posted August 6, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      I never said I would be completely impartial in how I reviewed the films. Even if I had gone in looking at this as a comedy, it wasn’t funny enough for me to have enjoyed it. As I said, I don’t particularly enjoy movies that are centered around characters like Samantha. I know that she was one of three protagonists, but her character bothered me enough that it likely would have overshadowed any moments that would have been genuinely entertaining for me.

      All the same, thank you for the comment, and thank you for writing it the way that you did. I always appreciate constructive criticism.

  3. John G.
    Posted August 7, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    I think you’re terrible, and I hate everything you say in this review. You missed the entire point of this movie, which is not a zombie movie at all, and it definitely isn’t the melodrama you were demanding it be. People don’t scream and cry, because it’s a comedy/action piece from the 80’s. It’s meant to be fun and funny. It’s also one of my favorite films. Whoever recommended this to you shouldn’t be your friend anymore. They have joy in their heart, and you’re a sour old woman.

    • Toria
      Posted August 7, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      You need to remember that I didn’t know what to expect from this movie. I heard there were zombies in it, so I wasn’t expecting a comedy, and because of that, I didn’t enjoy it. I’ll liken it to going to a waffle house, thinking that the white dollop on your pancakes is whipped cream, and discovering after having a mouthful of it that it’s butter. Because it’s so different than what you expected, you find it unpleasant, even though you may have liked it if you had known what it truly was from the start. (And yes, it’s a weird example, but it’s something my lovely sister experienced. True story.)

      As it is, I doubt it would have entertained me anyway because, as I pointed out in my review, it is not my type of movie. The humour and hijinks aren’t something that I subscribe to personally. I am allowed to have my opinion, as you are allowed to have yours.

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