Thursday, 10 September 2015

Night of the Comet - review

1984 (USA)

Contains spoilers.

Truth be told, as much as I like a good gory undead rampage, I'm also rather partial to the big grand apocalyptic event. Whether I'm just anti-social, or if we're going deep, probably acutely too social, the portrayal of such extreme sudden escapism from all social responsibility or more accurately accountability is salivating. I know it's all illusionary, and the burden of isolation in reality wouldn't be quite so appealing, I mean look at Castaway, but small fantasy interludes, offered by such films as Night of Comet do satiate some hunger that wishes everyone would, even for a just an hour or too, just bugger off. Sartre was quite right when he proclaimed 'Hell is other people.'
The other good thing about finding out you're truly alone in a world where electricity still works, water still flows and all the bodies, both human and animal, that would normally pile up, rot and introduce another problem all together, is the great sand box you have to play in; or more specifically shop in, especially if you have your sister by your side.

This is the new world, the valley girls, who just wanna have fun (more on the kicking eighties soundtrack later) Reg (Regina - played by Catherine Mary Stewart) and younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney) find themselves in. Okay, there's the initial shock and acceptance that everyone they know is now a pile of red ash, that there's the odd deranged cannibal pyscho aka zombie on the prowl, and getting a new boyfriend might be a bit of a struggle, but overall I felt they acquitted themselves to the end of the world pretty well. It also helped they were both well versed in self-defence, and had a father who wasn't shy about guns. This all isn't to say director / writer Thom Eberhardt hasn't been sensitive to the Reagan inspired eighties paranoia, that mutually assured destruction was mere moments away, just that this film wasn't going to be too serious about it. A tear may be shed for lost love but primary this is a heart-warming tale of two incredibly likeable sisters who find themselves together in an intense situation, get into a few scrapes, but try to make the best of it.

Night of the Comet is an audio and visual delight made truly stunning with this nice crisp clean HD transfer by Arrow and Eberhardt captures the look and feel of the desolate dead cityscape to perfection. Sweeping shots of early morning downtown Los Angeles, empty, deserted and shrouded in the red dust smog left behind by the doomsday comet is eerie and foreboding, yet calming and beautiful. This is not end of the world zombie or meteor collision or catastrophe, the only destruction is the human loss; this is 'Empty City'; electricity and water still runs, it's like someone just waved a wand and everyone disappeared.

Well, not quite everyone. There's Reg and Sam of course, then there's also Hector (Robert Beltran / Chakotay from Voyager), truck driver and leather-clad b-movie hero, who arrives on cue to deliver hope, that there may be other survivors, but also fear, that there is also a darker threat. Whether the antagonists he tells them of are zombies or not, for once is easily answered; Chakotay says they are, and I'm not going against Chakotay, so they are. Snarling, cannibalistic, devoid of humanity and compassion they also certainly fit the zombie bill, even if they're not actually dead, can ride motorbikes (okay this was in a dream, but I'm still using it), can talk a bit and probably wouldn't have made my cut a few years ago. They're degenerative humans exposed to the red dust, and the only shame is other than Sam's dream sequence and an early spat Reg has newly emerged from her theatre retreat, is the bulk of the girls troubles come from encounters with humans somewhere on their debilitating descent, and not with the full made up undead-alike's themselves. Whether the sociopath warehouse boys or the desert brain cult who want to harness them for their blood its the humans exposed who are demonstrating a loss of humanity, drive for self-preservation and acute deterioration both physically and mentally that provide the biggest threat.

Night of the Comet is a sumptuous dead-city post-apocalyptic piece of cinema with addictively likeable characters and a well-paced flowing narrative full of wit and heart. Eberhardt intelligently tells a story that's truly dark and menacing with enough gentle parody, that fear and the threat of menace never truly overwhelms, and yet, it neither at any point descends into infantile or farcical. Again the characters, both full of cliché and superficiality constantly hint at inner depth, and are portrayed by the main three actors triumphantly with measure and nuance. Night of the Comet wears its eighties heritage proud, with an ever upbeat synth rock/pop musical score and some even louder haircuts and costumes and it all helps cement a unique identity that stands tall against all the other end-of-the-world films. The perfect blend of tension, humour, horror, action and sisterhood, it's a film that can't help but leave a smile on your face and is now a huge personal favourite - 8/10.


No comments:

Post a Comment