Night of the Comet

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Night of the Comet
Original 1984 theatrical poster
Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Produced by
Written by Thom Eberhardt
Music by David Richard Campbell
Cinematography Arthur Albert
Edited by Fred Stafford
  • Thomas Coleman and Michael Rosenblatt Productions
  • Film Development Fund
Distributed by Atlantic Releasing Corporation
Release dates
  • November 16, 1984 (1984-11-16)
Running time
95 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $700,000
Box office $14.4 million[2]

Night of the Comet is a 1984 American science fiction horror comedy written and directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran, and Kelli Maroney.

The film was voted number 10 in Bloody Disgusting's Top 10 Doomsday Horror Films in 2009.[3]

The film is also noted as one of the first mainstream films to carry the PG-13 rating.


Eleven days before Christmas, the people of Earth congregate to celebrate the arrival of a comet which only passes through the solar system once every 65 million years. Everyone in the United States except for a small group of scientists is oblivious to the fact that the last passage of the comet coincided with the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.

On the night of the comet's passage, eighteen-year-old Regina "Reggie" Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) heads to works at a movie theater in southern California, leaving her younger sister, Samantha (Kelli Maroney), in the care of their abusive stepmother, Doris (Sharon Farrell). After Doris hits Sam, Sam decides to sit out Doris' comet party and spends the night sleeping in a toolshed in the backyard. Meanwhile, Reg, after discovering that someone with the initials DMK has taken one of her high scores on the theatre's arcade game, decides to stay after hours in order to get her score back. She then goes to the projection booth and spends the night having sex with her boyfriend, Larry(Michael Bowen), the theater's projectionist.

The next morning, the sky has changed from blue to red and piles of red-dusted clothes fill the streets. Unaware that anything unusual has happened, Larry goes outside and is killed by a zombie. When Reggie goes looking for him, the zombie attacks her, and she escapes by stealing a motorcycle. Reggie returns home to find that everyone at Doris' comet party has been reduced to red dust. She finds Sam unharmed, and reasons that the steel reinforced tool shed and projection booth shielded them from the comet's effects. [4] The daughters of a United States Army Colonel, the girls nonchalantly retrieve a stock of submachine guns with which they have been trained and make plans to fight any zombies they encounter.

Looking for signs of other survivors, the girls hear a disc jockey making an apparently live broadcast from a nearby radio station. Upon arriving, they discover that the broadcast is actually an elaborate recording, but do encounter Hector Gomez (Robert Beltran), another survivor drawn by the broadcast. Hector tells the girls that he spent the night sleeping in the back of his steel semi truck. Sam switches off the tape and begins making her own broadcast, which draws the attention of the scientists from the film's opening. The scientists, who holed themselves up in a bunker in the California desert, attempt to determine the location of the broadcast. They also note that the zombies are the result of humans who were only indirectly exposed to the comet's radiation, and that as a result their blood and internal organs are slowly turning into dust, driving them insane before they ultimately disintegrate.

Hector leaves to see if any of his family survived, with plans to rendezvous with the girls at the radio station. At his house, Hector finds most of his family gone; as he gathers Christmas presents to take back to Reg and Sam, he's attacked by the zombie of a small child and flees. Waiting for Hector's return, Sam and Reg go to the mall, where they are ambushed by a group of zombie stock boys. The girls engage in a firefight with the zombies; the remaining zombies are gunned down by a strike force sent by the scientists to find Reg and Sam.

The scientists examine Reg and Sam; mistaking Sam's hives as a symptom of exposure to the comet, they leave her behind at the mall and take Reg to their bunker. Unbeknownst to the girls, the scientists accidentally left their ventilation shaft open during the comet's passage, and are slowly turning into zombies themselves. They plan on using unaffected survivors' blood to create a serum and save their own lives. Audrey White (Mary Woronov), a disillusioned scientist, offers to dispose of Sam, but instead injects her with a harmless sedative before killing her partner. When Hector returns, Audrey tells him of the scientists' plot before committing suicide with an overdose of sedative.

At the bunker, Reggie catches onto the scientists' plan and escapes; she discovers a room containing survivors of the comet, whom the scientists have rendered brain dead so that they can use them as a perpetual source of blood. Reggie rescues two children whom the scientists are preparing to kill, then unplugs the other victims from their life support machines. Hector and Sam arrive to help Reggie and the children escape, blowing up the bunker and killing the scientists in the process.

Eventually, rain washes away the dust, leaving the world in a pristine condition. Reggie, Hector, and the children have become a cohesive family unit, leaving Sam feeling neglected and marginalized. One day, ignoring Reggie's warning not to cross a deserted street against the still-operating signal light, Sam is nearly hit by a sports car driven by another teenage boy, Danny Mason Keener (Marc Poppel). After apologizing, he invites her to go for a ride. As they drive off, the camera focuses on the car's vanity plate, reading DMK. Reggie, Hector, and the children play football in the street as the movie ends.



When writing the script, director Thom Eberhardt wanted to merge the idea of strong female protagonists with his love of post-apocalyptic films set in empty cities. For the women, he was inspired by Ginger Rogers. Further inspiration came from real-life teenage girls whom he met while filming PBS specials. Without telling the girls details about the script's premise, he asked them to describe how they would react to an apocalyptic event. The girls saw the scenario as an exciting adventure and only saw a downside to the experience when Eberhardt brought up the subject of dating. Using their answers, Eberhardt wrote the script to be lighthearted and adventuresome. Eberhardt initially had trouble convincing the studio to let him direct it, but they relented when he held out, as Atlantic Releasing Corporation was looking to immediately invest $700,000. Atlantic also wanted to capitalize on the success of their 1983 hit Valley Girl and the popularity of quirky drive-in films like Repo Man. The producers, Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, clashed with Eberhardt during filming; Eberhardt would later say that they did not understand the film and resented being assigned to such a low-budget B movie. Early in the production, they attempted to have him replaced. Regardless, Eberhardt praised their producing skill and said the film could not have been made without their help.[5]


Atlantic released Night of the Comet in the US on November 16, 1984, earning $3,580,578 in its opening weekend, coming in at third place. It stayed in theaters for six weeks and grossed $14,418,922 total in the US.[2]

Home media[edit]

Night of the Comet was released on VHS cassette and CED Videodisc on August 30, 1985, and distributed by CBS/FOX Video. A second U.S. VHS printing, distributed by Goodtimes Video, was released on August 30, 1990.[citation needed]

MGM released the film on DVD in the US on March 6, 2007.[6] The film was released in a Collector's Edition on Blu-ray by Shout! Factory on November 19, 2013.[7]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, gave the film an 82% based on 28 critics reviews; the average rating is 6.4/10.[8] Variety wrote that Eberhardt "creates a visually arresting B-picture in the neon-primary colors of the cult hit Liquid Sky as well as pointing similarities with Five, The Day of the Triffids, The Omega Man, Dawn of the Dead and Last Woman on Earth. They described the film as "a successful pastiche of numerous science fiction films, executed with an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek flair that compensates for its absence in originality."[9] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a good-natured, end-of-the-world B-movie" whose "humor augments rather than upstages the mechanics of the melodrama".[10]

It has since become a cult film.[11] Keith Phipps of The Dissolve wrote that the film's cult following comes from how matter-of-factly it treats its weird premise.[12]

Author Neil Gaiman wrote in 1985 that the film was "one of the most amusing, witty, imaginative, and thought-provoking films I've seen that was made with no budget and is also cheap exploitation."[13]

Maroney's character was an influence on Joss Whedon when he created Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.[14]


A soundtrack for the film was released on vinyl LP record and audio cassette from Macola Records, shortly after the film's release.[citation needed] The soundtrack's "Learn to Love Again", a love duet performed by Amy Holland and Chris Farren, played in the final scene in the film and in the closing credits. Other songs include "The Whole World is Celebratin'" (also performed by Chris Farren), "Lady in Love" by Revolver, "Strong Heart" by John Townsend, "Trouble" by Skip Adams, "Living on the Edge" by Jocko Marcellino, "Virgin in Love" by Thom Pace, and "Hard Act to Follow" by Diana DeWitt.


  1. ^ "NIGHT OF THE COMET (15)". British Board of Film Classification. May 8, 1985. Retrieved November 20, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Night of the Comet". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ Eggertsen, Chris (October 26, 2009). "The Top 10 Doomsday Horror Films!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  4. ^ Everitt, David (December 1984). "Night of the Comet". Fangoria (40): 21. 
  5. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (2012). Horror Movies of the 1980s. McFarland & Company. pp. 397–402. ISBN 9780786455010. 
  6. ^ "Night of the Comet". IGN. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ Tyner, Adam (September 5, 2013). "Night of the Comet (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Night of the Comet (1984)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Variety Reviews – The Night of the Comet". Variety. 1984. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (November 16, 1984). "Night of the Comet (1984) FILM: 'NIGHT OF COMET,' ADVENTURE IN CALIFORNIA". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Connelly, Sherilyn (November 19, 2013). "In Honor of Night of the Comet, a Cult Time Capsule of '80s America". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  12. ^ Phipps, Keith (November 19, 2013). "Night Of The Comet". The Dissolve. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  13. ^ Gaiman, Neil (August 1985). "Night of the Comet". Imagine (29): 45. 
  14. ^ "100 Greatest Characters: Nos. 1-25". Entertainment Weekly. May 28, 2010. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 

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