September 8, 2018

Night of the Comet (1984)

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I have a very distinct memory of loving this movie as a kid. I would have been eleven years old in 1984, so I probably saw the film when it hit video stores around 1985, making me twelve/thirteen-ish when I watched it. I haven't seen it since, and watching it as an adult and a parent is a much more cringe-worthy experience than I remember. 

The film starts out with older sister, Reg, playing the video game Tempest at her B-movie theater usher job. She ignores her boss' constant pleas to be more productive and sasses him when he yells at her to get back to work. As a kid, I'm sure I found this to be hilarious. As an adult, I whispered "no paycheck for you" to the television. When Reg finally agrees to do her job, she flounces away (after stealing popcorn) and goes up to the projection booth to fool around with a guy who is presumably her "boyfriend," but whom she clearly detests. She agrees to have sex with him for $15. Seriously! And then they proceed to make the beast with two backs. Again, they are both on the clock. They fall asleep completely naked and wake up the following morning. Nobody bothered to kick them out when they closed up the theater, I guess. The boss even implied that he knew they were regularly having sex up there, and though it bothered him, he didn't have the gumption to take any action against it. What's even worse is that the next morning, Reg asked the "boyfriend" for the fifteen bucks he promised her and he refused to hand it over. So, what's a girl to do? Just eat more stolen popcorn and play Tempest again. Of course!

In the meantime, her younger sister Samantha, whose character is supposed to be 16 years old, is at home, getting slapped and punched in the face, in full view of dozens of adult Comet Party guests, by her openly philandering stepmother. None of the adults respond whatsoever, and a bleeding Samantha is sitting on the floor looking only mildly annoyed. What world is this?!

After the apocalypse happens, the two sisters bicker over the only guy they've come across, a fella named Hector. Seriously, it hasn't even been 24 hours since Reg humped her dumb boyfriend in the projection booth and now she and her sister are talking about how Hector might be gay because he didn't "try anything" with Reg. Jeez, Reg. Let your vagina cool off a little bit, okay?

When Hector goes on a recon run, the girls do what every girl would do in the apocalypse, they shop! Cue the montage of two big-haired, 80s teens dancing to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and changing into new outfits every five seconds. 

Kelli Maroney, who plays younger sister Sam, is the stand out as the feisty, sharp-tongued teenager. She's got a sassy attitude and she looks adorable holding a gun in her cheerleader outfit. My only problem is that she is supposed to be sixteen and there is a lot of emphasis on looking at her boobs. But that's the 80s in a nutshell, right?

Some middle-aged man (in this case, it was  Thom Eberhardt, who was 39 at the time) writes a movie about teenage girls in an apocalypse. The girls are sexy and fun, but tough and cool. They have weapons training and they can take care of themselves. I'm seeing shades of Buffy here, which is great. But the middle-aged man wants to see their boobies, so he writes that in for the, again, SIXTEEN year old female character. He also wants the girls to be vapid and slutty, because that's every middle-aged man's fantasy, right? (I know some guys aren't assholes, I'm just generalizing for the sake of argument.) So, rather than food, shelter, and protection, what these girls are after in the apocalypse is sex and bling!

My numerous feminist complaints aside, for a fan of 80s schlock, it's an enjoyable enough film. While today's audiences are accustomed to hordes of the undead in any given zombie venture, there are scant few "zombies" to contend with. But the better story is the one about the underground (government?) research lab that is tricking survivors by promising safety and shelter. What they are really doing is killing survivors and using their blood to stave off the zombie disease for themselves. I liked that twist and thought it added a fun layer of tension. 

All of the performers were good! The actors worked well with the material they were given. They earned their paychecks. I liked the cinematography - the redness of the atmosphere after the comet passed over was haunting. There's a lot to like! And I think this film flew in the 80s because audiences hadn't seen anything like it before. However, we're jaded now. With all the apocalypse movies and TV shows at our fingertips, we've gotten down to all the dirtiest nitty-gritty the genre has to offer. Shopping and dates barely fit into any of those worlds, making the whole thing just seem a bit silly.

Conclusion: It's fun. But, will I let my kid watch this? Not on your life, buddy.

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