It’s pure ’80s fun in this colorful bit of sci-fi
Note: Arrow’s Night of the Comet Blu-ray is locked to Region B.
Thom Eberhardt’s Night of the Comet could have only been made in the 1980s. That is not a bad thing for people of a certain age – its lightweight humor in a post-apocalyptic L.A. make it stand out from other low-budget horror films of the period. Night Of The Comet is an enjoyable piece of cheesy goodness, led by Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as Valley girls fighting off zombies. Despite the occasionally gruesome zombie encounter, the comedic film is not particularly scary.
I fondly remember a slightly edited version repeatedly getting broadcast on local television back in the 1980s. That accessibility helped grow its cult status over the years, though I would be hard-pressed to proclaim it a classic. Night of the Comet is a good film for those into nostalgia from a bygone era. The PG-13 film attempts some scares but its main focus is on the adventures of Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her younger sister, Samantha (Kelli Maroney). Due to various circumstances, the teens happen to be one of the lucky few that survive a comet’s tail passing through the Earth.
Most of the population has either been zombified or turned into red dust by the comet. One of the more interesting things about Night of the Comet is that its story is almost entirely driven by the girls, very unusual for a genre flick of this kind. Reggie (Regina’s tomboyish nickname) and Samantha wake up to discover a mostly empty city after the comet passes. They soon meet a guy in the same situation, Hector (Robert Beltran). Sparks begin to fly between Reggie and Hector as the trio hang out at a now-deserted radio station. Reggie is one of those girl-next-door types that only exist in movies, a strikingly beautiful girl interested in playing arcade games as much as fashion. It is fun seeing Valley girls get their run of an empty city, attacking the mall in a montage set to Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. That is the type of humor needed for this apocalyptic setting, a fairly eerie scenario pulled from prior sci-fi movies such as The Omega Man.
Without spoiling too much, the three survivors discover they have more to worry about than just roaming zombies. A group of scientists have also avoided the comet’s dust. They appear friendly in the beginning but their motivations take a more sinister turn. For all of this film’s comedic touches, it has a raw edge to it under the surface. One character decides suicide is the best option when told they are going to die in 36 hours from the comet’s dust. Another character unexpectedly gets killed, a heavy turn of events for what had been an easy, lightweight comedy.
Night of the Comet still holds up as a fun movie, though it is hard to determine exactly why. Catherine Mary Stewart’s charismatic turn as Regina makes for an appealing heroine. When the plot introduces Hector, you might assume he becomes the central hero of this story. You would be wrong. Hector is there as a necessary ingredient for Regina’s personal development but he’s not the hero that saves the day. Night of the Comet recalls a simpler, almost better era in niche filmmaking, when Valley girls could actually rule the world.
British distributor Arrow Video serves up a fine presentation of this 1984 sci-fi comedy. If I had to make a wager, they secured this average film transfer from the same source used on Scream Factory’s American Blu-ray. The film elements are in solid shape, though its ordinary 80’s cinematography results in softness and underwhelming fine detail. The best thing about this BD’s video is its reference-quality video encode.
Night of the Comet often has a red tint in its exterior shots of California. That red push was purposely intended for the comet’s atmospheric aftermath. I was worried going in that this Blu-ray would be filled with chroma noise – red skies would normally pose a difficult challenge to ordinary compression parameters. The main feature runs 95 minutes on a BD-50. The average video bitrate for its AVC encode is 35 Mbps. More importantly, there isn’t a single compression artifact in its entire running time.
I was stunned an older film of this kind was so accurately reproduced in this 1080p presentation. Arrow retains its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1.
Low-budget filmmaking rarely looks fantastic, Night of the Comet possesses average clarity and resolution for vintage film on Blu-ray. Given the soft-looking parts and minor print debris, this transfer was likely an older telecine done at 2K resolution. The press material avoids claiming it is from the camera negative, leading me to believe this film transfer was struck from an interpositive. It does feature solid black levels and fine color purity. Its flat cinematography is nicely reproduced without serious halos or heavy filtering.
If one is looking for a surround mix, fans should head towards Scream Factory’s BD with its 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. Arrow only includes the original stereo mix in 2.0 PCM. It does come to life for a couple of songs during the film, but this is not a flashy stereo mix. The narrow mix is nearly mono, though its dialogue is intelligible with strong fidelity. There is nothing overtly wrong with the PCM audio. The punch-less sound is entirely endemic to the film’s production.
Arrow Video has provided optional English SDH subs in a white font.
Arrow Video includes new featurettes and three commentaries, all of which were included on Scream Factory’s BD. The featurettes all derive from interviews with the cast and crew in the past year. A snazzy collector’s booklet includes new writing on the film. It also comes with a reversible sleeve, featuring original art on one side and newly commissioned artwork on the other side.
These aren’t the most electric commentaries I’ve heard on genre fare, but they deliver a wealth of behind-the-scenes information. Three separate commentaries are impressive in this day of stripped-down releases.
Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Thom Eberhardt
Audio Commentary with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart – This is the most engaging commentary, mainly to hear the women share their feelings on this movie. They both seem to have embraced the film’s legacy.
Audio Commentary with Production Designer John Muto
Valley Girls At The End Of The World (14:50 in HD) – Stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney reminiscence about their casting process in separate interviews cut together.
The Last Man On Earth? (12:30 in HD) – Robert Beltran goes over his feelings on the project in this extended featurette.
The End of the World Blues (09:52 in HD) – Supporting actor Mary Worornov discusses the direction she received for her character and how she came up with her memorable scene.
Curse of the Comet (06:31 in HD)- An interview with Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller.
Theatrical Trailer (01:13 in HD)
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.