Night of the Comet is a successful pastiche of numerous science fiction films, executed with an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek flair that compensates for its absence in originality.
Comet closely resembles in structure the prototype for end-of-the-world cinema, Arch Obeler’s 1951 Columbia feature Five. When nearly everyone is out watching the arrival of a comet, a few lucky people are indoors protected by steel walls from the comet’s deadly rays. [Premise of course recalls The Day of the Triffids.] Survivors regroup and fight amongst themselves, attracted by an automated LA radio station signal.
Baddies are scientists led by Geoffrey Lewis and Mary Woronov. They’re rounding up unaffected survivors, draining them of their blood to perform tests to come up with a serum before they gradually turn into disfigured monsters, a number of which are prowling the city’s streets (a la Omega Man).
Other key plot elements are liberally lifted from Dawn of the Dead (and its shopping mall locale), The Andromed a Strain, and even a gender switch on Roger Corman-Robert Towne’s Last Woman on Earth.
While SF fans are busy sorting out the influences, filmmaker Thom Eberhardt (whose previous feature was the minor Sole Survivor) creates a visually arresting B-picture in the neon-primary colors of the cult hit Liquid Sky.
Much of the film is played straight, but what makes the picture work is a light-hearted approach, typified by the reaction of one of the heroines during a suspenseful dangerous last reel scene. Suddenly reunited with her sister she exclaims: ‘What a great outfit.’
As the resourceful sisters, Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney are delightful, providing, respectively, a believably feisty battler who can beat up monsters and a new, improved Valley Girl (pic was produced by Atlantic’s Valley Girl creators and features frequent plugola on-screen for that film).