Our choice for Apocalypse Night was the 1984 cult classic Night of the Comet. Our decision was based on the fact that none of us had seen it and we were all in a fairly punchy mood, which turned out to be the perfect state of mind for this flick. The movie is delightfully campy, complete with low budget sets, a soundtrack that pushes the limits of what can be called “music,” and the acting was superbly terrible. The basic premise of a rarely seen comet (not since the time of the Dinosaurs we learn, in some expository dialogue) whose tail irradiates the earth vaporizing most, mutating others, but sparing the few covered by a tin roof or similar is the perfect set up for 90 minutes of mindless fun.
Let’s start with our protagonists. The two valley girls whose father raised them as if they were boys until puberty kicked in are a combination of survival savvy and clueless teenagers. Trained in firearms, hand-to-hand combat and other necessary survival techniques while at the same time concerned most about boys and clothes is enough to blow a post-modern feminists head off in juxtaposition. These two girls are immensely capable despite their own desire to be a prom queen/sexual object, which even as a male is surprisingly entertaining to watch. Having never taken a woman studies course in my life, and ticking every box on the privilege checklist makes it difficult to relate to the heroines; yet I can’t help but root for them both in their clueless, hormone driven endeavours supported by their Navy SEAL training. It’s unclear if it’s by design or sloppy writing, but the girls are both able to pull themselves out of trouble with sharpshooting and sass, but still require someone to come to their aid. I’m going to give the writers credit and say it speaks to the chaos of a post-apocalyptic world where even the most well-prepared survivalist needs some blind luck and help getting out of a tight spot sometimes.
If the writers are in fact looking to get to delve into the human condition and how we would react in the event of a global catastrophe, their crowning achievement comes with the bad boys they plant in a large department store (which of course attracts our valley girl protagonists). Turned partially into mutants these boys engage in a shoot out eventually capturing the girls. While the young men are on their way to becoming blood-thirsty mutants they appear to be partially human, still having cognitive abilities and the capability of speech, giving in to their base insticts (violence of a non-sexual kind). It is at this point in the film that the crowning piece of dialogue is revealed:
I’m not crazy. I just don’t give a fuck!
Though from the outset it was clear we were watching a ‘B’ movie, this cemented it and set the tone for the bizarre conclusion to the film. The clarity with which the character delivers the line lets the viewer believe that there is still some humanity left to be salvaged from this half-mutant, but the look in his eyes when he removes his sunglasses removes any hope the girls have. There is a deus ex machina moment in the arrival of a group of scientists that had been hinted at all along, but their timing is too perfect to be believable (“Where would a teenage girl hide out?” “To the mall!”).
The film has its share of cheesy special effects and some good make up that really round out a good B-movie, and that alone makes up for the otherwise lacking production quality. We had a good laugh through the flick, and seeing a young Robert Beltran gives us great context for his role in Star Trek: Voyager, but the movie really doesn’t have much rewatchability. It’s a great flick for popcorn and a loud group of friends, and refreshing to see a movie where the female characters can kick a little ass, but otherwise I found it tough to get behind the movie. Give it a watch if you’ve got nothing better to do, but don’t expect much.