The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet was released in November of 1984. It opened in a market where The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Amadeus were all thriving. Even Ghostbusters, which came out that June, was still hanging around. In spite of serious competition, the movie didn't go unnoticed; it opened in third place at the box office that weekend. While it may not have entered the pop culture lexicon the way those other films did, Night of the Comet has always maintained a loyal cult audience. On November 19, Scream Factory is releasing the movie in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, loaded with the kinds of first-class extras we've come to expect from the company. This disc should ensure that NOTC's cult continues to grow.

In the film, the world is celebrating the passing of a rare comet. Unfortunately, it wipes out most of human existence and turns those who don't evaporate into zombies. A few lucky people, who happened to be properly sheltered, manage to survive. One of them is Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart), an 18-year-old movie theater employee. Another is her younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney). Because they are tried-and-true Valley Girls, the sisters greet the apocalypse the only way the know how: by going to the mall, and arguing over which one can hit on Hector (Robert Beltran), a male survivor they meet after taking shelter at a local radio station. In their efforts to survive, the three occasionally encounter zombies. A government rescue team saves them from one such attack, but it turns out they may not be any safer at the base than they are on the streets of southern California.

Night of the Comet is the rare film that's effective as both a science-fiction movie and a parody of a science-fiction movie. On one hand, it shows these two teen girls struggling to survive and fight off zombies in a world where there's no more help. They have to learn to make it on their own. On the other hand, there's a twinge of humor in the way Regina and Samantha are so oblivious to the world that they actually consider a shopping trip to be a viable coping skill. Writer/director Thom Eberhardt includes a substantial amount of off-kilter humor along with a few genuinely creepy scenes. It helps that his two lead actresses perfectly understand the material, expertly walking the line between seriousness and comedy.

Scream Factory has assembled a nice assortment of supplementary material for this release. There is a full-length audio commentary from Eberhardt, who sounds absolutely delighted by the continued interest in his film. A second commentary features Stewart and Maroney sharing production stories and general thoughts on Night of the Comet. The third commentary is from production designer John Muto, who did a terrific job creating the look and sets for the film.

Additionally, there are three retrospective documentaries on the disc. “Valley Girls at the End of the World” focuses on the female leads. They discuss their sisterly bond on set, how certain lines of dialogue were improvised, and what it was like to shoot on the empty streets of L.A. It's clear they are both very proud of the movie. “The Last Man on Earth?” is all about Robert Beltran, who speaks extensively about fighting to preserve his idea of what the character should be. “Curse of the Comet,” meanwhile, is an interview with special make-up effects creator David B. Miller. He discusses creating the zombie make-up and how Night of the Comet opened the door for him, career-wise. Two still galleries and a theatrical trailer round out the package.

Night of the Comet looks and sounds great on this new Blu-Ray edition. Combined with the terrific bonus material, the disc represents a great way to experience a genuine cult classic.

Night of the Comet is rated PG-13 for language, sexual content, and some violent. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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