Night of the Comet: Collector's Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Sep 06, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Night of the Comet: Collector's Edition (4K UHD Review)


Thom Eberhardt

Release Date(s)

1984 (September 5, 2023)


Atlantic Releasing Corporation (Scream Factory/Shout! Studios)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B+

Night of the Comet (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


Night of the Comet may have been writer/director Thom Eberhardt’s sophomore effort, but it was the first time that he really hit his stride. His debut feature Sole Survivor had been a relatively straightforward horror movie in the vein of Carnival of Souls and the season two Twilight Zone episode Room for One More. It was well-crafted, but it lacked the key element that turned Night of the Comet into a cult classic: namely, a sense of humor. Eberhardt has a real gift with comic timing, even when he mixes it with horror like in Night of the Comet or with drama as in the underrated Gross Anatomy. Sole Survivor was effectively creepy, but Night of the Comet proved conclusively that girls just want to have fun, and Eberhardt was the perfect director to give them the opportunity to do so.

Eberhardt did more than just mix genres with Night of the Comet; he also mixed inspirations (and probably a metaphor or two at the same time). The year before, Martha Coolidge’s sleeper hit Valley Girl had introduced moviegoing audiences to the distinctive patois of Valspeak, following on the heels of Frank Zappa’s 1982 song of the same name. Eberhardt’s stroke of genius was to take that and place it into a post-apocalyptic milieu. How would two young ladies from the Valley deal with the end of mankind? In their own unique way, of course.

When the Earth passes through the tail of a comet that hasn’t been seen for 65 million years, anyone exposed to its rays disintegrates instantly—and those who are only partially exposed slowly turn into mutant zombies before they finally fade away. Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Samantha (Kelli Maroney) are two sisters who manage to avoid the immediate danger, only to find themselves having to fight for survival during the aftermath. Once they team up with another survivor named Hector (Robert Beltran), the three of them end up having to deal with zombies on the one side, and a poorly thought out think tank of scientists on the other. Of course, the end of the world isn’t all doom and gloom, so there’s plenty of opportunity for a little shopping along the way. Night of the Comet also stars Mary Woronov, Geoffrey Lewis, Micheal Bowen, and the late Sharon Ferrell. (Watch out for Marc Poppel in a cameo as Danny Mason Keener, although the reasons why are best discovered on your own.)

Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney may not look like sisters, but they had extraordinary chemistry together, and they both had more than enough native charisma to carry the entire film on their own shoulders. Fortunately, Eberhardt was able to surround them with a capable supporting cast, so the sparks flew from all directions. The scene where they mollify themselves by hitting a shopping mall is genuinely joyous, and it’s the justifiable centerpiece of the whole film (marred only by the fact that the production couldn’t afford Cyndi Lauper). Even when things inevitably do go sour, the young ladies can handle themselves against hordes of zombie stockboys and degenerating scientists, since Eberhardt provided a backstory where they had been given military training by their Special Forces father. Stewart and Maroney dove into everything that Eberhardt threw at them with obvious relish, from the action scenes to the Valspeak.

There are plenty of memorable lines in Night of the Comet, although it’s arguable that the dialogue itself wouldn’t have worked half as well if not for perfect delivery from the actors, and also because of the way that Eberhardt filmed everything. He wasn’t afraid to have throwaway lines come from offscreen, and he also didn’t feel the need to shoot unnecessary coverage. When Regina and Samantha are standing on opposite sides of the street and Reg says, “You may as well face the facts, Samantha. The whole burden of civilization has fallen upon us,” Eberhardt allows a beat to pass before Samantha responds, “What’s that supposed to mean?” He resisted the temptation to shoot a closeup of Maroney, and kept the camera firmly planted on Stewart’s side of the street. The pause combined with the lack of a closeup makes that line far funnier than it had any right to be.

Now, to be fair, much of Eberhardt’s filmmaking on Night of the Comet was by virtue of necessity. He was working with a budget of about $700,000, and while that was double what he had available for Sole Survivor, it was peanuts even in 1984. They were shooting on open streets during off hours, and simply didn’t have the time or the resources to go for full coverage. Yet Eberhardt’s innate sense comic timing held sway regardless of any limitations. (While editor Fred Stafford does deserve his fair share of credit, he never worked with the director again, and Eberhardt has used perfectly timed pauses like that all throughout his career.) Night of the Comet is proof that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a cult classic; just some clever filmmaking and an enthusiastic cast. The whole burden of post-apocalyptic civilization may have fallen upon them, but they still delivered a bitchin’ film in the process.

Cinematographer Arthur Albert shot Night of the Comet on 35 mm film using Arriflex 35 BL III cameras with spherical lenses, framed at 1.85:1 for its theatrical release. Shout! Factory advertises this version as coming from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, graded for High Dynamic Range in both Dolby Vision and HDR10, but there’s no other information available about the work that was done. Things start out unpromisingly, with the Atlantic Releasing Corporation logos looking pretty rough, and the dupe elements used for the optically printed opening titles are particularly soft. For some reason, that softness extends well past the final director’s credit to encompass the entire opening scene in the theatre lobby. Once that’s over, everything improves significantly, although the lenses and film stocks that were used do limit the maximum level of fine detail on display. Outside of a few process shots throughout the rest of the film, facial textures and costuming like Maroney’s fuzzy Rebels sweater are nicely resolved. There’s just a hint of remaining softness at times that’s probably due to Albert using some gentle diffusion filters. The light sheen of grain is managed well by a healthy encoding. The HDR grade is suitably restrained, gently enhancing the original look without ever straying too far from it. The black levels aren’t always the deepest, but they never have been, and there’s maybe just a bit more oomph to highlights such as the street lamps and the neon signs. The deep reds and oranges of the comet-burned sky and the interior of the radio station are both handled perfectly, and the rest of the colors look well-balanced. Night of the Comet isn’t necessarily dazzling in 4K, but it’s still a fine presentation of the film, and the best that it’s ever looked on home video.

Audio is offered in English 2.0 mono and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. The 5.1 version isn’t really a remix, since it just processes the mono track to add a little synthesized channel separation. Unfortunately, it also throws off the balance between the dialogue and the music & effects. That’s a problem during quiet scenes like the conversation between Stewart and Beltran at 40:43, where the background source music threatens to overwhelm what they’re saying. Worse, Beltran’s off-screen “Lucky for you I like kids” after his return home is barely audible. The 2.0 mono track doesn’t have those issues, so it’s definitely the original mix and not just a fold-down of the 5.1. The dialogue remains clear and balanced throughout, making it the only good option on the disc. Just remember to engage your decoder so that it’s properly steered to the center channel.

Shout! Factory’s 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition release of Night of the Comet is a two-disc set that includes a Blu-ray with a remastered 1080p copy of the film. The insert uses the original poster artwork, and it isn’t reversible. While that’s all for the basic version, Shout! is still offering an edition that includes two different slipcovers and two matching 18”x24” posters, one with the theatrical artwork and the other featuring new artwork. Note that the latter is different than the custom artwork that they included with their 2013 Blu-ray release, so if you’re really obsessive about your slipcovers, you’ll have to hang onto that one for the artwork alone. Otherwise, the extras are identical, with all of them included in HD:


  • Audio Commentary with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
  • Audio Commentary with Thom Eberhardt
  • Audio Commentary with John Muto


  • Audio Commentary with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
  • Audio Commentary with Thom Eberhardt
  • Audio Commentary with John Muto
  • Valley Girls at the End of the World (15:00)
  • The Last Man on Earth? (12:33)
  • Curse of the Comet (6:32)
  • Film Photo Gallery (3:23, 40 in all)
  • Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (4:58, 59 in all)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:14)

The first commentary with Maroney and Stewart was moderated by Edwin Samuelson of The CineFiles. They both give a little bit of personal background and describe how they got their roles despite the fact that they really don’t look like sisters at all. They relate their experiences shooting the film, talk about how great it would be to have a reunion with all of the original cast, and plug their websites. (Stewart does point out the often-overlooked technical error in the film: she couldn’t actually have replaced DMK’s 6th place score on the Tempest cabinet, but would have bumped it to 7th instead.) Maroney and Stewart were both as appealing as ever when they recorded this track, but Samuelson did struggle a bit to keep them focused.

The second commentary with Eberhardt was moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Eberhardt explains how he came up with the concept by mixing the influence of the previous year’s Valley Girl with apocalyptic empty city milieu of Target Earth and the original pilot episode for The Twilight Zone, Where is Everybody? He points out that Night of the Comet really isn’t a zombie movie, since the zombies were a last-minute addition to provide a consistent threat for the young ladies to face in the otherwise empty environments. He describes how the production came together and insist that contrary to what some sources may claim, his actual budget was indeed $700,000. He also offers plenty of stories about the production itself, including why he changed the fate of one of the characters, and the practical reasons for the Christmas motif throughout the film. Eberhardt does have a tendency to get sidetracked by his own film while he’s in the middle of a thought, but he still offers plenty of interesting tidbits.

The third commentary with production designer John Muto was also moderated by Felsher, and surprisingly enough, it’s the most energetic and informative track of the three. He gives his own background, including his convoluted path to becoming a production designer—anyone who name-drops Jim Cameron and Eugène Lourié in the same bio is definitely worth your time. Working on a low-budget production like this, he ended up wearing many different hats, like helping to pick out some of the costumes. His background in visual effects also came in handy, so he’s able to give some details about the effects shots in the film. Muto has nothing but praise for Eberhardt and Albert (even though he admits that he didn’t get along with the DP), but it’s pretty clear that he was an active voice during the production. He says that he’s unbelievably lucky that he got to make such a good movie for his first job as designer. He always warns his students not to expect to be so lucky.

Aside from the trailer and two photo galleries, the rest of the extras are all interviews produced by Felsher. Valley Girls at the End of the World features Maroney and Stewart, who cover some similar material to what they did in their commentary track, but more Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart is never a bad thing. The Last Man on Earth? gives voice to Robert Beltran, who offers some different perspectives on the production. He kept turning the role down because it was written too similarly to the character that he played in Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul, but after meeting with Eberhardt, the part was rewritten as more of an everyman. (He also wants Eberhardt to write a sequel with Hector being the President of the new world order.) Finally, Curse of the Comet is an interview with makeup effects supervisor David B. Miller, who brought his experiences creating zombies with Rick Baker on Michael Jackson’s Thriller video to bear for Night of the Comet.

That’s all of the extras from Shout! Factory’s 2013 Blu-ray, but it still doesn’t include the End of the World Blues interview with Mary Woronov that Arrow added for their 2014 Region B Blu-ray. Slipcover fanatics and extras completionists will want to hang onto their previous Shout! Factory and/or Arrow editions, but for everyone else, the whole burden of civilization can fall safely on this new 4K release. Night of the Comet will never look better than it does here.

- Stephen Bjork

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