Night of the Comet, a 1984 “B movie” about two Valley Girls navigating a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, was a minor film even in its day. Now the 35-year-old film feels more relevant than ever.
The low-budget gem, which has attained cult status in the three-plus decades since its release, has lots to offer lovers of so-called “midnight movies.” But it also offers one element every LA denizen can relate to in this period of stay-at-home orders: Empty city streets, stretching from Santa Monica to San Dimas to Lancaster to Lakewood.
In Comet, the urban desolation springs from an entirely different type of cataclysm: The eponymous cosmic snowball, which, upon entering our atmosphere, instantaneously vaporizes nearly every human on Earth and renders almost all the rest into mutants and zombies. The few humans who remain untouched include Regina “Reggie” Belmont (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her younger sister Samantha (Kelli Maroney), two otherwise ordinary LA teenagers who know their way around a firearm thanks to a father on active duty with the Green Berets.
From Earthquake to Independence Day, Night of the Comet is far from the first or last movie to set the apocalypse in LA. But only a select few have shown us what our neighborhoods would look like in the hushed aftermath.
There’s the little-remembered 1954 sci-fi film Target Earth (set in Chicago but shot in LA), which opens with an eerie 10-minute sequence in which a woman wanders the inexplicably depopulated streets of Downtown, her terror growing as she realizes she might be the only human left alive. In 1971, The Omega Man (an adaptation of the classic Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend) had Charlton Heston battling a cult of albino mutants in various locations around the city following a world-ending plague.
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