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Night Of The Comet Christmas Film Main

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IN PRAISE OF NIGHT OF THE COMET
The Christmas Horror Movie That Doesn't Get Put On Enough Best-Of Christmas Horror Lists

Written by R.J. MacReady

Back in November of 1984, a little movie was released to theaters that didn't make much of a mark even though it quadrupled its small budget in its opening weekend on its way to doing fourteen million dollars at the box office. Most of us – us being the people who love this movie and haven't stopped singing its praises for decades – wouldn't discover this in the theater however. We found it on cable television, and then spent another twenty years buying bootlegs DVDs of it because the studio wouldn't release it.

In the past few years this movie's popularity has rightfully grown and, thanks to Scream Factory, received a worthy Blu-ray release with new extras.

So why do I need to write an article about this movie when so many other people are talking about what a fun horror film this is?

Because I see list after list of Christmas horror movies that don't feature this film. I see people on the socials asking for recommendations for holiday horror, and there's only so many times I can see Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Christmas Evil, and Gremlins before I erupt with some righteous comet anger. (For the record, we've had some other newer flicks that are worthy of that list like A Christmas Horror Story, Krampus, Better Watch Out, and Anna and the Apocalypse.) Note, I don't erupt because of what's on this list, but rather the absence of Night of the Comet.

Let's take a look at why it qualifies as well as some other less-talked-about props this movie should be getting.

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Exhibit A, your Honor, for why this qualifies as a Christmas movie seems pretty obvious. It takes place within two weeks of the holiday. As the pre-taped radio announcer says, "...there's only 11 more shopping days 'til Christmas", and a few holiday songs play throughout various parts of the movie.

Since this takes place at Christmas, there are tons of visuals to accompany the audio cues. Christmas lights can be seen in many scenes, as well as decorated trees. An early scene has Kelli Maroney's Sammy punched, and she falls down next to a Christmas tree.

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Look at this frame of the movie theater that our heroine works at. On the left side is a Christmas tree. Even better, there's a Beastmaster poster on the right side which has nothing to do with Christmas, but when a great movie acknowledges another great movie, it makes the acknowledging movie even better. The whole movie theater is decorated for "the most wonderful time of the year".

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Later in a major set piece, good guy Hector returns to his home to see if any of his family survived the comet's deadly rays. A Christmas record plays and we see the album cover "Feliz Navidad", which thankfully doesn't play or I'd have to skip through this scene every time I watched the movie. Hector doesn't find his family, but he does see a string of Christmas lights have fallen, so he hangs them back up.

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The main girls, played by two beauties from the ‘80s (Catherine Mary Stuart and Kelli Maroney), indulge in what we'd all do if most of the human race disappeared, and that's hit the mall and take whatever we wanted. There's a classic little dance sequence – a staple of ‘80s horror – where the girls dance in slow motion in front of a huge tree. The department store they're in is decorated heavily for the holiday.

Lastly, as far as major indicators go, Hector returns from his trip dressed in a Santa Claus outfit when he finds Mary Woronov with a gun rather than the two girls he expected.

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Christmas permeates this movie, so it's time to acknowledge its place as one of the best and most-fun Christmas horror movies we have.

As for some other props this movie should get, let's start with how "woke" this movie is. For a start, the leads are two women that play cool, sexy yet capable ladies. Catherine Mary Stuart plays Regina, the older of two sisters, and she's smart and strong and completely able to take care of herself. Her sister, played by the hot Kelli Maroney, is a sassy and ballsy valley girl, but also vulnerable enough that you're worried she's not going to make it. However, both were trained by a military father and wield Mac-10 sub-machine guns with confidence.

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Our male lead? He's Hector, a Hispanic played by Robert Beltran, and writer/director Thom Eberhardt makes sure that he's nothing like the Hispanic caricatures you'd see in most movies of the time. He's a strong, well-spoken family man with a reputable job and a strong moral compass. It's a shame this movie wasn't a smash hit, because Beltran should have gone on to bigger things faster. (He eventually was a major player on Star Trek Voyager, but that was a decade later.)

Some of the other props this movie doesn't get is how great the casting is. Besides the aforementioned actors, the great Mary Woronov plays the only scientist with principles. The late great character actor Geoffrey Lewis plays the lead scientist willing to kill kids for a cure. Then there's Michael Bowen, who more or less began his career of playing scummy guys around this time, portraying the projectionist boy-toy who is the first to encounter a meteor zombie.

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Ivan E. Roth plays Willy, a guy who used to be a stockboy, but now "owns the store" where the girls go on their shopping spree. He takes what could have been a forgettable role and dominates it with every line delivery. Little-known anecdote: He also plays the axe-murderer zombie in the equally-great Night of the Creeps.

Sharon Farrell has a small but incredibly-memorable part as the girls' stepmother, her bitchiness unequaled while also wowing with this dress.

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Everything this movie did, it did with a budget of under a million dollars. They took over a department store and staged a siege, with gunshots and exploding mannequins and shattered glass. They created an underground research facility that seemed vast and dark and sinister. All those shots of empty L.A. streets? The production went out early on Sunday and stole shots where nobody was around because they didn't have the money to close down roads.

Night of the Comet deserves every ounce of the appreciation that it's getting nowadays, but it also deserves to start popping onto those best-of Christmas Horror lists.

Let's get working on that, people.

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About The Author
R.J. MacReady
Staff Reviewer - USA
RJ MacReady digs horror movies, even though his first memory of horror films is watching the first Friday the 13th movie while a bear mauled his family in the other room. He admits that most of his bio is as fake as his moniker, but witness protection won't let him use his real name.
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