Coming six years after George Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD but one year before its sequel, DAY OF THE DEAD, as well as the bastard cousin of Romero’s films, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, 1984s NIGHT OF THE COMET can be said to synthesize, to amalgamate, all those films. The humor in the latter is more subtle than the cartoonish-ness of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD but it isn’t grim and realistic like Romero’s movies, either. Additionally, it puts a new spin on the zombie trope that makes it stand out from the pack, namely the means by which the zombies become zombies. It’s all because of a comet that passes near the Earth, cropdusting the planet with radioactive material that, if it doesn’t disintegrate them immediately, slowly transforms them into zombies.
Thom Eberhardt, the writer/director of the film, interviewed teenage girls while working on the script, asking them what they would do in such a scenario. This resulted in the “Valley Girls meet the Zombies” spin that saw the protagonists going shopping and complaining about the lack of potential boyfriends. The two heroines of NIGHT OF THE COMET also inspired Joss Whedon to create Buffy the Vampire Slayer.