Thursday, December 19, 2013

Night of the Comet (A Shitmas Post from John Tatarelli Jr.)

“Since before recorded time it had swung through the universe in an elliptical orbit so large that its very existence remained a secret of time and space…..but now in the last few years of the twentieth century the visitor was returning.”

            “The citizens of earth would get an extra Christmas present this year as their planet orbited through the tail of the comet. Scientists predicted a light show of stellar proportions, something not seen on earth for 65 million years, indeed, not since the time that the dinosaurs disappeared…..virtually overnight. There were a few who saw this as more than just a coincidence, but most didn’t.”

            I’ve heard Night of the Comet described as a mash up of Last Man Earth meets Valley Girl……close, but its more like Omega Man with valley girls. This is a film that for me relies heavily on tone. Its an apocalyptic tale about two sisters who survive the fallout from a comet passing earth that manages to kill off most of the worlds population. While looking for other survivors they are forced to defend themselves against Omega Man like mutants (some people say zombies, but I like to think of them as mutants). This is where I’m going to stop the summary, because I feel like already I’ve said too much……..most of the thrill of this movie is following along as the story unfolds. If you haven’t seen Night of the Comet I don’t feel like a summary will do it any justice. This films greatest strength that I mentioned before is its tone, best described in one word: FUN! That’s right, I know its hard to believe, I’m sure its been a long time since you’ve actually enjoyed a film for what it is, but Night of the Comet is a fun film. Its pure entertainment that manages to combine action, adventure, comedy, sci fi, and horror with out losing its charm , all the while maintaining perfect balance of all the genres it explores.

            In my opinion, without Catherine Mary Stewart (who plays Regina the more interesting of the two sisters), this film would lack personality. She is the driving force of this film. Through her performance we are able to explore all the genres this film takes on while being totally entertained by the material that she delivers in a very realistic (but fun) way. Watching this I totally buy that she's a fun perky teen being forced to deal with some heavy stuff, she never loses her charm. It may be hard to explain to a younger audience, but a modern actress would completely screw this role up with a fake tough girl act (most young actress’s seem to mistake emotion for chip on the shoulder attitude that they hold onto through the duration of the film, never acting natural, which make most newer genre movies with a young female lead totally unwatchable……but that’s my opinion). I dread the day they toss this film through the remake meat grinder. Night of the Comet is a film that works best in its 80’s environment. Catherine Mary Stewart is an 80’s actress that lights up the screen with personality, exactly what a film like this needs to make the subject matter fun as hell. I really wish she was in more films back then. When I hear her name I instantly think of this and The Last Starfighter ( I know she was in Weekend at Bernie's, The Apple, and recently The Girl Next Door, but I like her best as an 80’s teen). O.K., I promised my girlfriend Mary that I wouldn’t make this a love letter to Catherine Mary Stewart, so let me move on……..

            In 2006 I was a delivery driver, and that holiday season I had a drop at an old video store that hadn’t been run out of business by technology.The store was very small and still had tons of VHS, a lot of films not yet on DVD. Me and the owner got to talking and he told me about a down on there luck couple who brought in a ton of movies looking for a little cash. Him being a nice guy threw them some cash for the now obsolete VHS collection. He wanted to start selling off all his tapes and he wasn’t even going to bother putting the couples collection on the rental shelves (his plan was to create a bargain bin starting with their tapes). He let me take a peak at the collection and before me sat a mint condition copy of Night of the Comet , standing out from the rest of the collection as if glowing with a holy light. I didn’t know it yet but it was the miracle that saved my holiday season, it was the miracle that restored my faith in film, it reminded me that movies were fun and supposed to be entertaining. I asked the guy how much wanted to for Night of the Comet, looking at it I had an overwhelming urge to revisit it ( at the time I didn’t remember much of it, growing up The Last Starfighter was my favorite film with Catherine Mary Stewart, this film was a distant memory). He smiled at me and said Merry Christmas, he laughed and said he didn’t even think he’d be able to give away these tapes.

            At that time my only New Years holiday tradition was always managing to get a stomach virus right after Christmas that would last through the New Year, happened every frigg’n year. Most holiday seasons I’m hugging a toilet, that year being no different. So in an exhausted sick stupor that New Years Eve I crawled onto the couch and popped in my new/used Night of the Comet VHS. For the length of that movie I felt great, it was pure escape from the holiday hell I was experiencing, the battle in my belly subsided as I went an apocalyptic joyride full of  action, adventure and a mid movie music video (as the girls try on clothes at the local mall all the the beat of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun). I rediscovered a classic from my youth that night, a film that always will have a place in my top 5 films of all time. From that New years on I made it a tradition to end each year on a good note by watching Night of the Comet (which also make it’s the first film I watch of the New Year), its something I hope to do through ever video format.