Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Apocalypse Comet

For the longest time I’ve always wanted to watch Night of the Comet but never got the chance to because our library never had it and I never had the money to buy it on DVD. As time passed I forgot all about it until I saw it on Netflix instant. I was happy. I thought the film was about a comet that passes by and turns everybody into zombies and its up to a group of survivors to fend themselves off from the flesh-eating hoards. I was partially correct. Instead, the film is a cheesy look at two girls who try to cope with the end of the world while fighting for survival against mutated people, a gang of nearly dead hoodlums and a government organization that wants their blood for a cure. Rather than reviewing the film I want to talk about something that scored big points with me concerning the way the movie depicts the apocalypse.

For the most part, apocalyptic movies took a big leap in terms of visuals over the past few years because of bigger budgets, CGI and pyrotechnic advancements. In the 80s, movies like Night of the Comet wasn’t really a blockbuster nor did it have groundbreaking computer graphics at its disposal. For the makers of the film to truly show a world that’s completely barren, dead and “toxic,” they had to rely on production design and color enhancing techniques… and, man, does it look amazing. While most apocalyptic movies then were usually restricted to small towns or had the military trumping over the city (Night of the Living Dead or Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Night of the Comet takes place in Los Angeles with nobody around. No cars, no people, no signs of life whatsoever. I have to applaud the film for how well they depicted an empty world. The skies have a beautiful, haunting red and orange tint to them as if a bomb had went off in the sky, which is so fitting. Very rarely do you see such an effect used by modern apocalyptic films. Here are some of my favorite shots that are so hauntingly good.

I think the movie take all previous apocalyptic movies prior to its production and rolls it all into one giant cheesy movie. There is a scene that is so similar to Dawn of the Dead that it comes off as uncanny; in fact, it has more of a similarity to the remake than the original. The two sisters, having realized that the entire city has become their playground, decide to go on a shopping spree inside a mall. So, with the radio blasting ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper, they begin to goof around while wearing all the rich people clothes and lipstick. It’s a montage and though it’s not as powerful as Romero’s critique of mindless consumerism, it’s fun and it lovingly tributes the idea that when everybody is gone… we can’t help but do all the things we’ve wanted to do. Like shoot a car with dozens of bullets.

While we are on the page of Dawn of the Dead, it’s also interesting to note that there is a scene in Night of the Comet where one of the survivors visits his mother, who is unfortunately dead, Well, after hearing a strange knocking at the door the survivor is confronted by a zombie boy who chases him into the bathroom. Then, the zombie boy begins breaking through the door while the survivor escapes to the car through the window. I didn’t notice it until just now but that almost seems like the inspiration for the beginning scenes in the remake of Dawn of the Dead. Both sequences have zombie kids, both sequences end in an enclosed bathroom and both sequences have the hero/heroine escaping through the window. It seems like Night of the Comet is Dawn of the Dead’s younger brother. It’s great because Dawn of the Dead was the first movie where Romero really showed you just how dead and empty the world is after the zombie apocalypse so it’s only fitting that the two films have so much in common.

I have never read I Am Legend (but I have the book) and I never saw Omega Man but I have seen the film adaptation of I Am Legend as well as the Vincent Price film The Last Man On Earth. Seeing our teenage heroine walk among the clothed dust piles on the sidewalks and the empty streets of Los Angeles really rings a bell to Richard Matheson. It’s not as serious and stripped of playfulness but it wouldn’t surprise me if the entire first half of the movie drew inspirations from the book. Both films seem to have the general idea that the blood of the survivors holds the elemental key to stop the infection and possibly cure them. The military in Night of the Comet is like any other military force in these post-apocalyptic movies, they will stop at nothing to find a cure especially if it means saving themselves. In fact, like a lot of the movie the cause of the end of the world is largely due to the government screwing up a project. Though the zombies in this movie aren’t really flesh eaters so much as they are people with decaying skin that want to start fights. I didn’t see any zombies eating people or hardly any zombies for that matter. I don’t even think they are zombies… they’re just mutants.

Personally, I like the fact that they aren’t your typical, mindless, flesh-craving zombies because then it would seem like every other zombie flick that came off the assembly line. I think this film takes a somewhat more realistic route to show the infection slowly eating away at the person’s skin, making them more hostile and aggressive. I don’t even think there are any scenes that show the zombies eating people, let alone trying to eat people. I think the absents of the zombies throughout the majority of the film was a good decision mainly because it doesn’t end up being a cliché where the entire film is based around surviving a zombie outbreak. If anything, the real enemies of the movie are the scientists who are scheming of ways to save themselves.

So there are a lot of moments throughout this film that borrow from previous apocalyptic movies such as Dawn of the Dead, The Last Man on Earth and even Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was one of the first movies that really showed the barren wasteland that is Earth after shit hits the fan and it was one of the first films that really utilized vibrant reads and oranges to emphasize the unusual setting. There is so much more I can go into like how the comet is associated with the world ending much like Night of the Living Dead and now that I think of it, this movie is really another love letter to Romero. That’s fine by me. I’m sure that many movies nowadays that deal with the apocalypse, especially zombie flicks, can owe a lot to Night of the Comet. If there is anything that people should try and bring back or homage from films like this, it’s got to be that awesome red sky effect. Because, even Die Hard does it and it looks amazing! That needs to be brought back. Don’t let it turn to dust like the people in this movie.

4 comments:

Caffeinated Joe said...

Love this movie, it is an underrated 80s classic!

And your pics are great! Some are just amazingly sad.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

The scenes with the cookies and the table filled with cake was really depressing. Even the pool with the lone rubber duck was sad. It's all about the production and they really nailed it.

Anonymous said...

check out the official Facebook site for actress Catherine Mary Stewart www.facebook.com/catherinemarystewart

Anonymous said...

Will a cyanide comet hit an ocean in the future?

Revelation 8

8. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood;
9. And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

The second trumpet brings about what seems to be a meteor, comet, or other heavenly body hitting the oceans and causing the death of one-third of the world’s sea life. Most comets are made up of deadly cyanide ice compounds like cyanogen which undergoes reduction to hydrogen cyanide when mixed with water, which has an almond odor and bitter taste, and reportedly causes death at concentrations over 5 parts per million. Could a comet large enough to poison the oceans strike the earth in the foreseeable future?

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