Hello and welcome to the first part of the 80s-tastic Mall-tacular Double Feature! Before this review begins, I’d like to remind my readers there will be spoilers for Night of the Comet. If you’re interested, you can check out the double feature’s introduction at this link:
1. How were you introduced to Night of the Comet?
At the beginning of Dan’s video, ‘DEAD MALL SERIES : Back to the 80s : The Gallery in Philadelphia (Hologram Plaza – Disconscious)’, the scene where Regina and Samantha, the film’s protagonists, go to the mall is included in the introduction. That scene is spliced with Dan’s footage of The Gallery in Philadelphia, as the song, Enter Through the Lobby by Disconscious, plays over the images. In Dan’s video, ‘DEAD MALL SERIES : Best Fountain in the US : Burlington Center Mall NJ **CLOSED**’, he brings up several of his favorite “mall movies”. One of these movies is Night of the Comet.
2. Was Night of the Comet filmed in a mall? If so, which one?
According to a Youtube comment, Night of the Comet was filmed at Bullocks Wilshire. Upon further research, I learned it was a high-end, Los Angeles department store, complete with its own tea room. As of late 2022, the building is owned by Southwestern Law School.
3. What role did the mall play in Night of the Comet?
Before Regina suggests she and Samantha go to the mall, their world had been turned outside down. Most of the population had either been disintegrated into dust or turned into a zombie, due to the aftermath of the titular comet. The sisters are at their wits end, desperately trying to not only defend themselves, but also trying to find answers. After Samantha tearfully confesses how a guy from her class was going to ask her out on a date, Regina sees going to the mall as an opportunity to get their minds off the confusion surrounding them.
4. Why do you think the mall was in the film for a short amount of time?
When Dan Bell referred to Night of the Comet as a “mall movie”, I assumed the mall would play a significant role in the story. I even predicted the mall would play a bigger role in Night of the Comet than in The Legend of Billie Jean, as I thought the story would primarily take place in one location. But the 1984 title is a more expansive narrative. Not only is the aftermath of the comet more widespread, there are more locations for the characters to explore. While Regina and Samantha’s mall excursion was fun to watch, it was interesting to see the comet’s effects on other locales, like the local movie theater and a mysterious science headquarters.
5. Besides including a mall and focusing on teenage characters, do The Legend of Billie Jean and Night of the Comet share a common theme, idea, or message?
I haven’t seen The Legend of Billie Jean yet. But based on the introduction of Dan’s video, ‘DEAD MALL SERIES : Tour of the SUNRISE MALL from THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (1985)’, I can safely assume a shared idea between The Legend of Billie Jean and Night of the Comet is younger characters taking matters into their own hands. As I mentioned in answer number three, Regina and Samantha are at their wits end, as they desperately try to defend themselves and figure out what is truly going on. Since there are very few people to turn to, they rely on themselves and each other, proving they are capable of anything they set their mind on. Through strength, resilience, and adversity, Regina and Samantha become the embodiment of Christopher Robin’s quote:
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
6. Is there anything about Night of the Comet you liked or didn’t like?
Based on the synopsis and Dan’s thoughts on Night of the Comet, I knew the protagonists were described as “valley girls”. But I didn’t know what to expect from Regina and Samantha. When I watched the movie, though, I adored these characters, as they were so endearing! In fact, they’ve become two of my favorite characters from film! Part of this is due to Catherine Mary Stewart’s and Kelli Maroney’s performance. Through their well-rounded portrayals, Catherine and Kelli carried this film, making it worth the price of admission. No matter what their characters experienced, their expressions and reactions felt realistic. Even the on-screen camaraderie was believable, successfully selling the idea Regina and Samantha were sisters. According to Wikipedia, Thom Eberhardt, Night of the Comet’s director, asked teenage girls how they’d respond to a large-scale catastrophe while working on PBS specials. The answers he received were used as inspiration for the film’s script, adding to Regina and Samantha’s believability.
When creating a science fiction story, you need to explain the science in a way that satisfies the audience. Even if the science was made specifically for the story, you still need to provide a logical explanation. With Night of the Comet, though, most of the science was left unexplained. There were also parts of the story that were under-utilized. At the beginning of the movie, Regina is playing an arcade game. She discovers a gamer named “DMK” has beaten her high score. Not only does Regina attempt to beat “DMK”’s high score, she wonders who “DMK” is. While the audience learns the identity of “DMK” (a random survivor named Danny, who used his initials to record his high score), this part of the story was forgotten about until the end of the movie. To me, this was a missed opportunity. Regina could have used her video game/arcade game skills to save the day. She and “DMK” could have met face-to-face earlier in the story, setting aside their differences to recruit more survivors to safety. But, alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.
7. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?
As I said in answer number six, most of the science was left unexplained. While watching Night of the Comet, I found myself more confused than entertained. I’ll list some of the questions I had after I saw the movie, as I don’t want this review to become even longer than it already is:
- Why did the effects of the comet cause some people to disintegrate into dust while causing others to become zombies?
- Why exactly did steel protect Samantha, Regina, and the other survivors from the comet’s effects?
- How did Brian and Sarah survive? Where did they come from?
- Why did Willy and his gang of zombies possess more intelligence than other zombies the survivors encountered?
- What was the mission of the scientists? Were they trying to save or harm humanity?
- Why did Audrey White go rogue? Was she a zombie?
8. In your double feature for Rich Kids and Over the Edge, you discussed certain events from the ‘70s that likely influenced the creation of those films. Is there anything from the ‘80s that you think either affected Night of the Comet or teenagers from that time?
Imagine you’re a teenager in the 1980s. You’ve got a lot of your plate as it is, from trying to pass your upcoming math test to figuring out how you’re going to get that latest album from the music store. But from time to time, you hear about this thing called The Cold War. That phrase puts a concerned look on your parent’s face as they drive you to school. You hear about it on the news, with the President pleading to “tear down that wall”. Even your favorite tv show is bringing it up. The Cold War seems to be everywhere. You wish there was something you could do to end this conflict. But because you’re just a teenager, you feel powerless, like there’s not much you can do. As you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering, “What does The Cold War have to do with Night of the Comet”? Even though The Cold War isn’t brought up in the story, it was present around the time of the film’s release. And yes, the film is meant to be a form of escapism. However, through Regina and Samantha’s adventures, teenagers at that time could see there were things within their control they could do.
9. A lot has changed since the release of Night of the Comet. Have you come across any recent pieces of media that prominently feature a mall?
For this answer, I’m not going to bring up a piece of media. Instead, I’ll talk about an experience, as it makes more sense with Night of the Comet. In the U.K., there is a company called Zombie Experiences, providing customers with the opportunity to explore abandoned locations and defeat zombies. One of those locations was a mall. But according to Zombie Experiences’ website, this experience ended in February 2018. They did re-locate this particular experience to a shopping complex. However, on Zombie Infection’s website, it will end this December. There are two other shopping mall experiences offered, but they seem inactive at the time of this review’s publication.
10. After watching this movie, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?
Calling Night of the Comet a “mall movie” is, in my opinion, a bit of a stretch. This is because the mall only appears in a few scenes. If I had to call Night of the Comet anything, I’d call it an “alternative Christmas film”. The story takes place around Christmastime, but doesn’t rely on the tropes and clichés typically found in Christmas movies. Like I said in answer number seven, I was more confused than entertained by Night of the Comet. After watching this film, I was left with more questions than I planned to have. But one of the reasons why I kept watching was Catherine’s and Kelli’s performance. I also think the story itself contained interesting ideas. Overall, I think Night of the Comet is an ok film with some bright spots.
Have fun at the mall!