Movie: Night of the Comet (1984)
Why Did I watch this?
Bro, I forget, haha! This got on my radar somehow, I really forget why. I definitely have an interest in B-Movies and the more 80s the better. I like existing in that world between camp and sincerity, with a little bit of winking goofiness that's sort of lost in our more modern age that oscillates only between ironic cynicism or humorless self-seriousness. Anyway, I love the genre and read somewhere at some point that this was good or interesting, so I pressed play. It was also leaving Pluto soon, so go watch it.
What Did I know ahead of time?
Whelp...there was some kind of comet and then some bad stuff was going to happen. I knew it was in that B-movie zone and that some dastardly weird sci-fi weirdness was at stake. That's honestly more than I usually have go go on.
How Was It?
This movie is amazing. I loved every second. The basic premise is that a comet is headed perilously close to earth, but I mean, it's fine, it's not going to hit or anything. But the tail comes close and that makes everything go cuckoo bananas! Most people turn into dust (a full thirty-five years before Thanos), others are turned into ghouls, and some are just dandy. Those dandy people are our main protagonists.
Regina and Samantha are sisters with a very specifically complicated family life - their dad is a Green Beret in Central America so they live with their philandering step-mother. At one point Doris punches Samantha in the face, to which I laughed out loud because it was amazingly unexpected. They both sleep in steel containers through contrived means, but this means they are immune to the dust from the comet's tail that messed up everyone else.
They do keep saying Zombies, but they aren't really mindless brain munchers (well, some are), but being a zombie in this world just means they become total homicidal dicks. So they battle these ghouls for a while, find a radio station that is actually just a recording, and eventually encounter a team of scientists going through sort of a parallel story. But they're evil! They explode and then the movie ends.
What makes this work is its attitude. It is totally a teen comedy set in the apocalypse but again, with none of the irony. The girls are most oblivious to anything wrong going on, despite the sky being turned from blue to red, empty clothes and dust everywhere, and the streets of downtown Los Angeles being abandoned. It take them sooo long to figure out something is amiss. Then they go to the mall. The jokes actually land, although there is again one unfortunate homosexual slur (but it's part of a really good joke...I hated how hard I laughed at that one...). This is also fabulously 80s, with the music, fashion, and big hair kicking into very high gear.
I'm struck by how much our typical view of movies of old is one of backwards values, poor roles for women and people of color, and outdated stereotypes. Well, that really just seems to be a problem, for whatever reason, for our most popular movies. A film like this nails the Bechel test over and over and presents incredibly fleshed out female characters who solve their problems without just being masculine stand-ins. This B-movie in 1984 is doing what so many modern movies are trying to do. Why not remake this one instead of creating a distaff counterpart movie that rings as hollow virtue signaling? Maybe it's because this film was largely ignored for the past forty years.
It maybe has a cult following, but I couldn't believe how modern its sensibilities felt. These underground B-movies were stealth doing the cultural work that we've been trying desperately to achieve in the #MeToo era. This film balances all this with genuine thrills, a compelling plot where stuff actually happens and has consequence, a distinctive visual palette, and a cavalier attitude towards the apocalypse that actually works and feels fresh. I give it to big toes up!