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Film / Night of the Comet

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The comet's coming, and the world will never be the same.

"In 1910, Halley's Comet Returned. Everyone thought they were going to die then."
Party Guest

Night of the Comet is a 1984 film directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney. It has elements of such diverse genres as science fiction, horror, zombie apocalypse, comedy, and romance.

The plot centers around The Earth passing through the tail of a rogue comet — an event which has not occurred in 65 million years, the last time coinciding with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. On the night of the comet's impending mid-December passage, large crowds gather to celebrate the event. The next morning, a reddish haze covers everything, and there are no people, animals or other signs of life, only small piles of red dust and empty clothes where people stood and watched the comet's passage. The people who "survived" are either dying, or turning into flesh eating zombies. Siblings Samantha and Regina Belmont are the film's protagonists.


Despite the schlocky opening scenes, the movie seems to be an attempt at a Deconstruction of typical thriller movies of the era, in that both leads are capable Action Girls rather than just monster bait (in fact, another Californian blonde who fought the undead in the next decade bears suspicious similarities to them), the lead male is Hispanic, bridge-dropping is played with, and so on.

Not to be confused with Year Of The Comet.


This film contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: Oh dear Lord, yes.
  • Abusive Parent: The girls stepmother, whose reaction to Samantha mouthing off is to slap her. Samantha slaps her back, and the stepmother punches her. Her nonchalant reaction to having a busted tooth the next day tips implies that this happens often. Also, it is implied the stepmother cheats on their father while he is away. Their father doesn't gets like a complete saint either even if the girls love him more — he's implied to be a Blood Knight in some ability (Doris mentions on her rant that he wouldn't feel good "unless he comes home having killed a Sandinista") and his decision to marry Doris was out of intended practicality rather than love.
  • Action Girl: Samantha and Regina. Justified by both being military brats.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 3b. There are still survivors, but they are incredibly rare. Civilization is still functioning, but by the time the film ends it's only been three days at the absolute most so we don't get to see when automated systems really go to hell.
  • Artistic License: Reggie erases DMK's #6 ranking by doing better. His high score should have just been dropped to #7.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Comets are visible long before and after they pass, so not wanting to "miss the comet" is a little silly, though they probably meant its perihelion, when most visible.
    • Justified in that in this case, the comet is passing unusually close to the Earth and there's one prime observational time (probably when the Earth passes through its tail).
  • Asshole Victim: Reggie and Sam's abusive, cheating step-mom, who is reduced to ash along with the guy she was cheating with. Also, all the scientists, save for Audrey.
  • Ax-Crazy: All the zombies, but especially the mall stockboys.
  • Black Comedy: And loads of it. One moment that stands out at the end is when Hector stashes guns and ammo away in a concrete garbage receptacle, and Sarah (the little girl) asks if she can have one of the guns that he's throwing away.
  • Brick Joke: At the beginning of the film, Reggie is playing a video game, where she is the only top scorer. However, this time she discovers there's another set of initials above hers. Annoyed, she wonders who they belong to. At the end of the movie (that is, post-end of the world!), another survivor is seen driving a car. The initials from the video-game scoreboard are on the license plate.
  • The Cameo: One of Andy Warhol's girls, Mary Woronov, plays Dr. White. She starred in Paul Bartel's films.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Sam is aghast that Reggie has the kids wait until the traffic light changes before crossing the street, noting Los Angeles is now a "ghost town" and there's no traffic — then nearly gets hit by DMK in a sports car.
    Regina: (aside to kids) See what happens?
    Danny: God, I'm sorry but you shouldn't cross against the light like that.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: One of the scientists, Rogers, is mentioned as missing towards the end and Dr. Wilson says he has probably already regressed. This is waved off by Dr. Carter. Guess who shows up for one last scare to menace our heroes after Hector has blown up Carter and the others in their car?
  • Comet of Doom
  • Contrived Coincidence: So the only two female non-zombified survivors in the entire city happen to be sisters? How convenient for them that they both managed to adequately shield themselves in different places on the same night. Then there's DMK.
    • Justified in Hector's case, as it would be a bit safer to sleep in the back of the truck than in the cab, where someone might decide to mug him as he sleeps.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Once the flesh-eating zombies are dealt with, the survivors actually don't have it too bad. The power stations and water/sewage just keep on chugging!
  • Crazy-Prepared: The Sole Surviving Scientist group detected a relationship between the comet approaching and the extinction of the dinosaurs and so made an advanced bunker lab to ride out the approach. It only partially worked. Some idiot didn't fully lock down the bunker and enough radiation seeped in through the open ventilation that they are all dead men walking.
    • Hector at the end, when he stashes weapons and ammunition in an easily accessible spot that the average person would never consider checking for any reason.
  • Damsel in Distress, Damsel out of Distress: Played with. As noted, these are Action Girls, aggressive, resourceful, and expert at handling weapons. Even when one of the girls is captured, her sister is a major part of the rescue plan. They do both get captured by the mall stockboys and wind up needing to be saved, but they put up one hell of a fight beforehand.
  • Dead Man Walking: All of the zombies.
  • Death by Sex:
    • Subverted, twice. The reason Reggie and Hector survived the comet is that the former was busy having sex in a steel-lined projection booth and the latter was spending the night with a girl in the back of a steel-lined truck.
    • Played straight with their partners. The guy Reggie hooked up with is bludgeoned to death with a wrench the next day as soon as he leaves the projection booth and Hector recounts seeing the girl being torn apart by zombies after she ran away from them in fright.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The comet. By the end of the film, we are looking at near-total human extinction at the very least.
  • Desolation Shot: Los Angeles. The crew needed to do their takes very early in the morning during weekends in order to prevent traffic and bystanders from appearing (and they were still not successful on a couple of takes).
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: A few hints - decorations in stores, radio broadcasts, Hector dressing as Santa to surprise the girls - suggest it's the holiday season, although the buildup to and hype about "Comet Night" seems to have taken precedence due to the latter being a rare celestial event.
  • Disappeared Dad: Reggie and Sam's father, whom both girls idolize, is in the military and is always away from home "looking for a war". It's all but implied that he married Doris just so the girls could have a mother-figure and basically left them behind.
  • Dream Within a Dream: Sam has one (two?) of these involving zombie motorcycle cops.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Project's bunker. It was supposed to be deep enough to prevent the Comet's radiation from reaching them... but someone left the air ducts open.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: The only thing left of most of the world's inhabitants.
  • Fanservice: In one scene Sam (who already was running around in a cheerleader outfit) undresses down to her bra and panties to wash off in the radio station's bathroom, and then the zombie cop of her nightmare one moment prior suddenly appears behind her and stabs her. Turns out that the scene was a Dream Within a Dream.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: The white marabou jacket and boa Samantha wear in the (sort of) shopping spree scene.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Invoked by Willy, who says he was a lowly department store stockboy but now he rules L.A.
  • Gamer Chick: Reggie's first scene has her playing an arcade game rather than working.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Samantha and Regina go by "Sam" and "Reg"/"Reggie" during the film.
  • Girly Bruiser: Despite their Military Brat upbringing and being capable of defending themselves and handling weapons, the sisters still take time to do 'girly' things like trying on clothes at the mall. Nothing could exemplify this trope further than seeing Sam in a cheerleader costume shooting up a car and discussing the relative merits of different makes of submachine gun.
  • Groin Attack: Unleashed by Sam upon one of the zombie stockboys.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Minder and Davenport are "sent to see Santa" in the same manner as their victims.
  • Human Resources: The scientists plan: to capture uninfected people, induce brain death and put them in life support so they'd provide a constant source of flesh blood to try to cure their infection. Dr. White, before killing herself, says it's pointless, only delaying the inevitable.
  • Improvised Weapon: A keyboard is used to hurt one of the scientists on the climax.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: The sisters fighting off the mall stockboys after trying on the mall's wares.
  • The Last Man Heard a Knock...:
    • Reggie has to shake Sam into understanding that everyone else in the city is dead — then the DJ's voice is heard on the radio. When they get to the radio station, they find that although the station is still broadcasting, the DJ's voice had been pre-recorded. (He's likely dead too.)
    • At the station, Sam plays around with the equipment, and playfully broadcasts the station's number — and the phone rings. It's the Project calling them.
    • Hector hears somebody knocking and rattling the knob of his parents' front door when he stops by to see if they're alive. He ends up running from an Undead Child because he doesn't want to shoot a kid.
    • Sam demonstrates that in a depopulated city, there's no need to wait for the signal before crossing the street. She's almost hit by DMK's speeding car.
  • Large Ham: Willie delivers his lines with the cadence and gusto of an insane game show host.
  • Left the Background Music On: During the scene at the mall, the background music is cut off when the boombox is destroyed.
  • Look Both Ways: Parodied and subverted in the final scene. Sam manages to say that it's a ghost town and how the hell does it matter anyway that she stands on the street just two seconds before she has to get the hell out of a way of a racing BMW.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Carter, the leader of the surviving scientists and the guy who pushes for trying to use any other survivors' blood as a serum to try (emphasis on try) to stay alive longer.
  • Mayor of a Ghost Town: The girls pretty much have the run of the city, zombies aside, trying to take over the local radio station (in Samantha's case at least, trying her hand at DJing) and looting the mall for clothes. Also, the zombified mall stockboys who have other ideas and think they now own the place.
  • Military Brat: The girls, which is the reason they know how to handle sub-machine guns (and one of the gags being that they loathe the MAC-10s that they managed to find, preferring Uzis) and they have to tolerate their abusive stepmother Doris (because their father left to do a tour in Central America (Doris mentions him fighting the Sandinistas) and married Doris so they would have a legal guardian).
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Reggie poses like a mannequin to get the drop on the mall-stockboy zombies.
  • Pair the Spares: Implied with Sam and the hitherto mysterious "DMK" after he shows up at the end.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: The boy and girl Reggie, Sam and Hector save are wearing bathrobes over their pajamas that make them this.
  • Pretty in Mink: A blue fox jacket Regina wears in the (sort of) shopping spree scene.
  • Precision F-Strike: Willie, upon shooting one of his own gang members in a standoff.
    Regina: You're CRAZY!
    Willy: I'm not crazy, I just don't give a fuck!
  • Promotion to Parent: Reggie for Sam, and Sam is not happy about it. At the end of the movie, Reggie, Sam and Hector are these for the two children, Sarah and Ryan.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Short term version. The film ends about two or three days into the apocalypse, long before any systems start to fail.
  • Reduced to Dust: When the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, all of the living creatures fully exposed to the comet chemicals are reduced to a red dust.
  • Shout-Out: When Reggie's boyfriend leaves the theater, and the zombie gabs him with a wrench, the shot very much looks like an homage to the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The way the door opens to show a close-up of the murderer, and the long shot where he lands a few more extra blows to the downed victim.
    • To Valley Girl. Both movies are produced by the same company, share an actor (Michael Bowen) and Sam holds up the Valley Girl soundtrack LP during her brief stint as a DJ.
  • Shown Their Work: The Mac-10 jams, and Sam says "Daddy would have gotten us Uzis." The Mac-10 is notoriously prone to jamming, and the Uzi is famously robust. According to interviews with Catherine Mary Stewart, the director originally wanted Uzis, and the Mac-10s did keep jamming, and ruining takes, so that the director ended up including some of the scenes in there with a nice bit of improvised dialog.
  • Sick and Wrong: Reggie's reaction to the scientists telling two children they're "going to see Santa" when they're planning to make them brain-dead Human Resources.
  • Sigil Spam: The think tank's logo is on a few things you'd normally expect to see like the guards' uniforms, the helicopter, etc., but it starts getting silly when it's plastered on computers, tabletops and storage canisters.
  • The Slacker: Regina 'Reggie' Belmont.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: True of Sam, Reggie and Hector — though in Reggie's case, it's "had sex during the apocalypse".
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: A small group of these (who got a minor dose of comet radiation even with their preparedness, and thus are trying to stave off their inevitable doom by any means necessary) becomes the antagonists for the final act.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The "comet zombies" aren't so much undead as simply slowly decomposing people who must drink human blood to stave off their transformation into dust and become increasingly crazy from their brain functions shutting down.
  • Token Good Teammate: Audrey is this to the think tank. She is the only one out of all the scientists to point out that capturing survivors for the purpose of rendering them brain-dead and draining their blood to make a serum that may not even work is utterly despicable.
  • Undead Child: Hector opens the door to his house to find a zombie kid, who chases him.
  • Valley Girl: Samantha. It takes her a while to figure out that Everybody's Dead, Dave, for starters.
  • Vanity License Plate: The film's Brick Joke involves one.
  • Visual Gag: There is a poster for the Clark Gable and Jean Harlow movie Red Dust on the theater door after everyone has been turned into a literal approximation of the film's title.
  • Wicked Stepmother: The girls consider their stepmother to be one of these. Considering she thinks nothing of cheating on their father with the neighbor and punching them, they've got a point.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Aside from the Wicked Stepmother:
    Willy: If bachlorette number one isn't out here in half a tick, I'm gonna ice bachlorette number two, got it?
  • Would Hurt a Child: The desperate scientists have no problem draining kids for their blood.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Hector, however, can't bring himself to shoot the zombie kid that chases him through his house.
    Hector: Lucky for you I like kids!
  • What an Idiot!: In-universe. Audrey basically says this about screwing up their survival plan.
  • Wrench Whack: The first zombie that Reggie encounters comes after her with a wrench.
  • The X of Y: The Night of the Comet.
  • You're Insane!: Invoked by Regina - and gleefully defied by the leader of the zombified stockboys.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: People who were only partially exposed to the comet. Dr. White snarks that the genius scientists got infected because some idiot forgot to close the ventilation ducts.


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