Night of the Comet (Thom Eberhardt / U.S., 1984):

An ingenious, rather enchanting Reagan-era museum piece, with the Armageddon promised by the President instead envisioned as a shop-till-you-drop spree rudely interrupted by ghouls. Los Angeles is visited by a rogue comet, leaving the people in its wake as either piles of dust or decomposing beasts; the heroine (Catherine Mary Stewart), an usherette first seen lost in the glow of a video arcade, is spared from decimation because, in a sign of the project's movie-love, she took refuge in the theater's projection room. Daybreak brings a reddish filter over the skies ("Ugh, bad smog," Stewart sighs) and mutated foes, Stewart's kid sister in a cheerleader outfit (Kelli Maroney) and a truck driver (Robert Beltran) are among the few survivors. The voice of authority comes from a sinister group of blood-harvesting scientists (including Mary Woronov and Geoffrey Lewis), the voice of the generation comes from a gaggle of stockroom wonks-turned-New Wave zombies: "I'm not crazy, I just don't give a fuck." Thom Eberhardt relishes the satirical value of his teenage wasteland and foregrounds a decade's inane cinematic standbys (smoky neon, synthesizers, musical montages) with amusing low-fi effects -- George A. Romero, The Twilight Zone and The Omega Man lay the groundwork, Michael Bowen's presence supplies the Valley Girl connection, the "burden of civilization" is acknowledged in a very subtle allusion to the finale of Stagecoach. Only Spaceballs surpasses it in the honorable art of taking the piss out of Eighties sci-fi. With Sharon Farrell and Peter Fox.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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