Night of the Comet

Night of the Comet is currently available on instant Netflix.

Night of the Comet (1984) – Rated PG-13

“Earth has been ripped to shreds after a run-in with a killer comet, and those who have survived are in a fight for their lives in this campy cult classic. Valley girl Reg (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her sister (Kelli Maroney) discover they’re two of the lucky few. But scientists are after them, and now they must run. Why? Because the researchers believe they need the blood of survivors to concoct a drug that can save them all from further ruin.”

“Don’t be an overachiever. You’ll fit in better with your age group.”

Okay serious apocalypticos need not apply. Night of the Comet is more in the nature of a comic zombie movie and predates Shaun of the Dead by two decades. It even arrives a full year before Return of the Living Dead would turn zombies into a figure of fun, although Return would popularize the zombie need for brains.

Night of the Comet is all over the map – science fiction, romance, horror, comedy, buddy picture, female empowerment and it ties all of them up in a nice zombie romp package. Thom Eberhardt is both writer and director here and his sole credit before this was the not bad low-budget shocker Sole Survivor (1983).

Yes it is cheesy but Night of the Comet is funny, intelligent, charming and has strong female characters. As always, seeing a city without people moving around is quite eerie. There is great use made of a Tempest arcade machine and Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun that set the tone for the movie.

Robert Beltran receives top-billing here as Hector. While he is fine, I am not sure why the top-billing as he is not the star and had only been in a few movies before this, though he was Raoul in Eating Raoul. He would go on to television fame as Chakotay on Star Trek: Voyager.

The stars here are clearly Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as sisters Regina and Samantha. Never mind that the 25-year-old and 24-year-old play high school students, they are still wonderful together. They have a real bond with Regina being the serious older sister and Samantha the young flighty one.

Cult actress Mary Woronov had previously worked with Beltran in Eating Raoul. Here she plays a mysterious scientist named Audrey. Veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis (Maverick, Salem’s Lot) shows up as another scientist, Carter. The much despised Buck from Kill Bill, Michael Bowen, plays Larry.

The film opens with a 1950s-style science fiction narration about the upcoming comet. Speaking of which, we are getting our own comet, the newly discovered comet 2012 S1 (catchy name isn’t it?). If the sun doesn’t do much damage to it, we could see the end of the world, I mean the comet late next year. Meanwhile have some fun with Night of the Comet.

Wicked Little Things – After Dark Horrorfest

Wicked Little Things (2006) – Rated R

“When a grieving widow moves her two daughters to a rustic house in the Pennsylvania mountains, she hopes the solitude will help them work through feelings of abandonment. But they hardly have time to reflect, as they discover unexpected neighbors. As it turns out, the ghosts of children who were killed in a tragic accident more than 90 years before are still “playing” in the mine shaft nearby, and would love to have the neighborhood kids join them.”

“Are we lost? We’ve been walking for a really long time.” – “No baby – we’re just a little turned around.”

Wicked Little Things is a mashup of two of my favorite horror subgenres – the killer kid movie (The Exorcist, The Omen series) and the zombie film.

Lori Heuring stars as the recently widowed Karen, moving to a new home in rural Pennsylvania left her by her husband. I do have to say that when I arrive at my new house and in place of electricity there are rats, I would turn around and head back (I am spoiled that way). Her daughters are played by Scout Taylor-Compton and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Scout Taylor-Compton assays the standard role of the angry, sullen, whiny teenage daughter Sara. She has since become something of a scream queen nabbing the role of Laurie Strode in the two Halloween movies made by Rob Zombie as well as appearing in the April Fool’s Day remake and 247 Degrees. Both Lori and Scout do a fine job but are clearly shown up by 9-year old Chloe Moretz.

Chloe Moretz is one of my absolute favorite child actors. Her portrayal here of Emma shows a lot of the potential she had in her more recent, juicier roles. Her turns in Let Me In and Kick-Ass were fantastic and were the best things in those films. She gets to be much more natural here as she is neither a vampire nor a superhero but the role is not as showy either.

The supporting cast is ably rounded out by character actor and Clint Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis and Ben (Chariots of Fire) Cross. The rest of the cast have names that end in v or va pointing to this being filmed in Eastern Europe – presumably these are the various non-speaking children.

That said Bulgaria does a fine job subbing in for the more expensive to film in Pennsylvania. Cinematography is fine which is good as the vast majority of the film is shot at night and mostly outdoors. There is one beautifully lit chase across a foggy field. A warning though – the film is quite gory in parts.

The Lawnmower Man – King of Horror week

This week we are covering movies based on works by Stephen King. Lawnmower Man is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Lawnmower Man (1992) – Rated R for language, sensuality and a scene of violence.

“A developmentally disabled landscaper named Jobe (Jeff Fahey) crosses paths with an obsessed government scientist (Pierce Brosnan) who has something to prove. Thanks to brilliant lab work, the mad doctor unlocks his test subjects potential for genius — and for evil. As Jobes intelligence grows, his pent-up rage begins to boil over. Based on Stephen Kings short story of the same name, the film is a knockout vision of high-tech horror.”

“This technology was meant to expand human communication, but you are not even human any more! What you have become terrifies me. You are a freak!” – “Your naive idiocy makes me VERY ANGRY!”

Bwahaha! I hardly know where to begin with this review.

Okay first let us cover the Stephen King connection. Stephen King wrote a short story titled The Lawnmower Man. The film claimed to be based on the short story. Hysterically it only has a slight tangential connection to that story in that the events that take place in it are mentioned briefly in the film.

Naturally, Stephen King sued (successfully) and had his name removed from the film. This however has not stopped Netflix and others from describing this as a Stephen King flick.

The opening scene where our scientist has used “aggression drugs” on his lab monkey is absolutely hysterical. The monkey apparently had too much because, while wearing a goofy virtual reality outfit, finishes the program, escapes, and grabs a handgun from the holster of a guard and blows his head off.

Brett Leonard is responsible for this unintentional laugh fest. He not only directed but co-wrote it with producer Gimel Everett. Keep in mind when watching this (if you must) that the King story was not even about virtual reality.

Strangely this is a virtual reality update of the classic science fiction story, “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. Only in addition to becoming more intelligent, Jobe also becomes EVIL!

This is because apparently giving someone the ability to learn Latin (or anything else) in two hours is not enough of a military operation. This causes the military to switch the drugs they are giving Jobe into the “aggression” ones they gave the monkey that worked out so well in the opening scene.

Not content with botching this movie about virtual reality, Brett Leonard would go on to make Virtuosity, another bad virtual reality movie.

Pierce Brosnan is actually pretty terrible here as the scientist. I think it might be because he was embarrassed by the script. Perhaps real cutting edge techno-scientists do not have a game room/laboratory that looks dated even for 1992. Thankfully Brosnan caught his TV-to-movie career break when he was picked as the new Bond for Goldeneye.

Jeff Fahey is fun as Jobe. He definitely does not give the heartfelt performance that Cliff Robertson gave in Charly (the real adaptation of Flowers for Algernon) but he has a keen grasp of B-movie acting. He is in really good shape here and has quite a stare with those striking ice blue eyes of his. Currently Fahey can be seen as Frank Lapidus on Lost.

Also having fun here is a very attractive Jenny Wright as the sexually adventurous Marnie Burke. Veteran character actor Geoffrey Lewis plays Terry McKeen, a sort of father figure to Jobe.

The plot makes almost no sense. They throw in every possible lawnmower reference they can even though that did not really have anything to do with the King story.

Apparently as soon as you become halfway intelligent, you realize that maybe you want to cut the hair BLOCKING YOUR VISION! After that when you become evil, you apparently acquire a new hairdo as well.

The final act is ridiculous beyond comprehension and I mean literally beyond comprehension. There are a dozen or so guards armed with shotguns just standing in the open doing nothing. When their heads begin bothering them, they cannot think clearly enough to shoot the approaching vehicle but apparently have the presence of mind to move out of the way. Immediately after that they have no problem shooting at something else.

Is there any cliche more hackneyed than the bomb on a timer? Seriously does no one use remote detonators? Heck even a length of fuse would work better.

Later Dr. Angelo (Brosnan) does something inexplicably moronic BECAUSE THE SCRIPT TELLS HIM TO. Unfortunately this too close to the end for me to discuss without spoilers.

People Watch: Doug Hutchison has a small role here as a Security Tech. He would later play the uber-creepy Eugene Victor Tooms on two episodes of X-Files and Horace Goodspeed in seven episodes of Lost.