31 DAYS OF HORROR #30: Jed Shepherd on NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)

Spoilers

Jed Shepherd – co-writer of horror hits Host and this year’s Dashcam – takes it back to the 80s teen sci-fi horror which remains his favourite film of all time…

I can’t recall the day, the month or year, but I can remember with supernatural clarity the feeling I had when I first watched my favourite movie of all time Night of the Comet. I was doing some last-minute homework and realised that I’d probably have to pull an all-nighter. The plan was to get some coffee on the go, maybe a Red Bull on standby and mostly importantly, have late-night terrestrial television on as a white noise comfort blanket. The thought of spending the night alone with my own thoughts was (and still is) terrifying. So a little after midnight, I flick through the channels to find something suitably nonsensical that would keep me idly entertained between paragraphs, but also not too distracting. It’s a fine balance.

As I flick, I’m confronted by the worst title font ever, superimposed over a schlocky representation of outer space proclaiming that tonight is NIGHT OF THE COMET. Cool, I thought, sounded like the perfect background noise while I belatedly finished off my school work. You’ve probably guessed how this story ends. Yes, I found myself transfixed by this complete surprise of a movie and spent my journey to school the next day practising my best excuse. As I sat in detention that evening I knew it had been totally worth it.

There are so many reasons why I LOVE this film so much but it all starts with the Belmont sisters. The cast led by the sensational Catherine Mary Stewart & Kelli Maroney deliver some of the best/funniest dialogue I’ve ever heard in a movie, and we get to scratch that wishful thinking itch – the wish fulfilment of having the entire earth to yourself (and your wisecracking sister), firing machine guns without consequence, looting low price boutiques and dancing around empty malls to a cover version of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is surely every guy’s dream. Right? It’s my ultimate comfort movie; one where I can live out my fantasy of being on the run from a corrupt government while spinning vinyl in an abandoned neon-drenched radio station to an audience of nobody.

My love of this film genuinely knows no bounds and in the years after my Night of the Comet initiation I’ve found myself becoming good friends with the main cast. Kelli Maroney and CMS are two of the most talented and lovely people in the game and getting to hang out with them (especially near the actual locations in the film) has been really special to me. I get to live out my childhood dream of running around Los Angeles with the Belmont sisters, and although we have yet to fight any alley zombies we have made up for it with cocktails. 

We are a few years out from the 40th anniversary of Night of the Comet and if I get all my ducks in a row I’m going to host a massive screening at the cinema that Reggie Belmont works in (now the El Rey) complete with Tempest arcade machines and piles of red dust everywhere. I realise my evangelism for the movie may not carry to the general public (yet) but I firmly believe that the positive re-evaluation for Comet is near, and I’ll be at the front of the queue holding a massive banner proclaiming my love for the film, in the worst font ever.

Jed Shepherd

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