Uncovering Curiosities: Tom Eberhardt’s NIGHT OF THE COMET

Night Of The Comet hits all the right notes as a post-apocalyptic-horror-comedy. It’s not the best cult film to come out of the ‘80s low-budget horror scene, but it gets marks for trying. Tom Eberhardt writes and directs with enough enthusiasm to paper over the film’s many absurdities.

This 1984 film sees a mysterious comet pass by the earth for the first time in 65 million years. The last time it happened the dinosaurs vanished, this time it’s the turn of the human race. A group of survivors (Mary Catherine Stewart, Kelly Maroney and Robert Beltran) try to find a cure, whilst battling mutated zombies and a group of evil governments scientists (aren’t they all?).

Eberhardt’s film is very much a product of its time – a youth-centric sci-fi with a focus on video games and pop music. It’s a piece of movie-making from the Reganite era, a time when commerce and vanity ruled. It’s a tough film to dislike, but it feels like the concept was never fully conceptualised at the script stage. The film opens with a comedic voice-over which covers a lot of ground, but it’s simply too long.

On a performance level, everyone plays their characters with broad strokes. Eberhardt has to balance a difficult tone, but he manages to pull it off. Too much comedy would have diluted the science fiction elements, while too much horror would have made the film feel self-aware, which would have taken away from what makes the film memorable.

Night Of The Comet has its fans and it’s easy to see why. It’s ridiculous but charming and Eberhardt knows how to get the best out of quirky humour (he went on to direct Kurt Russell comedy Captain Ron and write Honey I Blew Up The Kid). He also knows how to maximise his low budget, giving the film some wonderfully desolate vistas.

While it may not be to everyone’s taste, Night Of The Comet has enough quirky charm to make it an enjoyable ‘80s romp. It’s no Back To The Future, but it does feel like its mutated distant cousin.