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A Halloween Double Feature! Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!

By Bert Ehrmann
October 17, 2008

Night of the CometOver the last several Halloweens I’ve profiled some of my favorite horror movies. This year I’ve decided to profile two of my favorite, and quite different, zombie movies.

The first of our double feature is the film Night of the Comet (1984). I can’t remember when I first saw Night of the Comet, but whenever it was the movie left a major impression on my adolescent mind.

Playing on the public’s general unease about the return of Halley’s Comet in 1985/86, in Night of the Comet people around world are celebrating the return of a comet that hasn’t passed the Earth since the time the dinosaurs went extinct. Unfortunately, all those outside watching the comet pass overhead, which is essentially everyone on the planet, are cremated into dust by this unique comet. Those that catch a glancing blow are transformed into light-phobic zombie creatures, out for murder before they too turn to dust.  

Luckily, our heroes Reg (Catherine Mary Stewart) and her cheerleader sister Sam (Kelli Maroney) just happened to have spent the night away from the comet sleeping inside steel structures, which turns out to be the only shield against the destructive nature of the comet. 

Night of the CometThese valley girls promptly get over the introspective nature of being one of the few people left alive on the planet and quickly get on with lives post-apocalypse. Be it battling the comet-zombies, arguing over Hector, the last man in L.A. (future Star Trek: Voyager alumni Robert Beltran), fighting zombie mall stock boys and trying to outwit scientists that are literally out for blood looking for a cure to keep from turning to dust.

Night of the Comet is a fun movie – if that can be said about a film that depicts the end of the world. The movie takes all sorts of 1980s pop culture elements be it fashion, music and even lingo, stirs them together and adds zombies to create something unique and enjoyable. 

Completely different in tone from Night of the Comet yet sharing many of the same elements is the film 28 Days Later (2002).

28 Days LaterIn 28 Days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from coma in a hospital bed to find the entire UK overrun by zombified people infected with the “Rage Virus.” This virulent disease causes anyone infected to turn insane with rage and run down to infect and/or kill those unaffected. (Zombies/infected always seem to know their own!)

Jim finds another survivor Selena (Naomie Harris) amidst a destroyed London, and they together find Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and daughter. They collectively decide that the best course of action is to get away from the city and head towards an area protected by the military that proclaims it has “the answer to infection” some distance away.

Along they way they discover a wrecked and burning countryside and a military more interested in holing up, allowing the infection to burn itself out through attrition and to start repopulating the planet by any means necessary.

What I remember most about my first viewing of 28 Days Later were all the images that burned themselves into the back of my retinas. Be it a church full of corpses that aren’t all dead, a goldfish tank drained nearly to the bottom with fish still inside, London with the lights out – except for one or the entire city of Manchester alight and burning to the ground. The movie is as visually arresting as well as having a story with a gritty and realistic flavor.

28 Days LaterUpon release, 28 Days Later essentially rebooted the entire zombie genera. Before 28 Days Later, major zombie movies were essentially (pardon the pun) dead. After 28 Days Later came all sorts of zombie movies like the Dawn of the Dead remake, Undead, Doom and the “RomZomCom” Shaun of the Dead.

A sequel to 28 Days Later entitled 28 Weeks Later was released in 2007 and failed to recapture much of what made 28 Days Later so special. Supposedly, a third movie entitled 28 Months Later is also in the works. Oh well, there’s nothing like driving a great concept into the ground.

Both Night of the Comet and 28 Days Later are available on DVD.