Tuesday, February 06, 2007

NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) - Thom Eberhardt
& ZOMBIE (1979) - Lucio Fulci

Sometimes you just get a hankerin' for zombies. Last week was one of those weeks, where you feel at one with the living dead. Perhaps it had something to do with having a birthday. Or maybe it was this article, a very scholarly discussion on the politics of zombie cinema. That's right, zombies rock the vote, too.

Anyway, I ended up sampling two very different zombie pics -- one from the '80s and one from the '70s. It could be argued that Night of the Comet is not, in fact, a zombie movie but a post-apocalyptic satire. Though in short supply, there ARE undead types with decaying flesh and Flock-of-Seagulls hairdos who make appearances in shopping malls and government lab facilities which, I believe, would qualify them as zombie-fodder even if they are more sentient and stylish than the standard corpse-shuffler. As for Zombie, well, the name says it all. I don't think there's any contesting that one.

For some reason, Night of the Comet has been kicking around my mind for years as a movie fondly remembered from my youth. I lucked out when I was back East for the holidays and managed to snag a copy off FLIX. How did Night of the Comet hold up after all these years? Surprisingly well. Yes, there were far fewer zombies than I remembered but much more self-aware dry humor than you would expect from an '80s B-Movie basically made to sell a soundtrack. Think Heathers by way of Romero.

The setup is thus: When a much ballyhooed comet (ala Haley's) ends up turning a world full of spectators into red dust, it's up to one valley girl (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her cheerleader sister to carry on the human race. What qualifies her for the job? Well, she's got the top-five high scores on her arcade's Tempest machine not to mention that she looks bitchin' wearing leg warmers and holding an uzi. And if that isn't enough for you, she also is a military brat (Dad's not available because he's away fighting "the Sandinistas") and doesn't mind having casual sex in musty steel-reinforced projection rooms in the back of grungy, revival movie theatres. Every film geek's wet dream, basically. In a complete inversion of the standard horror movie "if-they-screw-they-will-die" rule, Stewart is one of the few to survive because she WAS having sex instead of watching the comet, thus sparing her from infection. A curious genre-reversal in the dawning days of AIDS.

So what do Catherine Mary and her sister do when they discover the world is mostly dead...and undead? Well, they ride motorcycles, go on empty-mall shopping sprees, hang out with a dude who likes Eric Estrada and basically bemoan the fact that there are a lot less "hot guys" to choose from. There's also some subplot about a group of survivor scientists trying to get the girl's uncontaminated blood to use as a serum. But who has time for serums when the malls are wide open and there for the taking?

Because Night of the Comet didn't quite satisfy the gore quotient, I had to follow it up with Lucio Fulci's movie-of-many-names Zombie (aka Zombi 2, aka Zombie Flesh Eaters, aka Island of the Living Dead, aka Dawn of the Dead 2 in Europe). Needless to say, my cravings were satisfied.

Here's all you need to know: This movie has the best and, as far as I know, the only Zombie vs. Shark sequence in the history of movies. And perhaps the best eye-gouge this side of Evil Dead 2. And lots and lots of zombies, of course.

Though hard to see, this is a zombie fighting a shark.

The storyline is the standard zombie-epidemic becoming widespread saw. But the scene at the end with an army of zombies descending on New York City across the Brooklyn Bridge with no-CGI enhancement, in addition to that zombie-shark fight and eye-gouge, earn this flick a place at the top of the zombie heap. Together, the two make a nice little double header. Or double deader.


Dhani said...

I loved Night of the Comet! I remember watching it as a kid and thinking that having the world to myself would be the best thing! I too, ran into it again about a year ago at a video store fire sale and purchased my own copy. Though the quality and acting was worse than I remembered, I still found alot of joy in watching it. I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only one out there who has even heard of this one! :)

Mathew said...

OMG remember when they tried to put the kids to sleep? "Going to see Santa"

db said...

There is a Night of the Comet fan site at www.nightofthecomet.info