After rising through the horror scene as a producer and then a director on anthologies like the V/H/S trio, Southbound and XX, Roxanne Benjamin has made her feature writing/directing debut with the survival thriller Body at Brighton Rock, which opens next Friday. And it’s not her only venture into full-length scripting in the past year; she recently turned in her screenplay for a remake of Night of the Comet to Orion Pictures.
A sleeper hit in 1984, Night of the Comet stars Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney as LA sisters who survive the almost complete extermination of humanity and tangle with zombies, killer punks and scheming scientists. An early celebration of girl power on the genre scene, it resonated with Benjamin, who recalls that when she was offered the reboot, “I was like, ‘Oh, I know these people! I know these characters!’ I was a huge fan of the original; that’s the kind of story I really respond to. Night of the Comet and Ginger Snaps are two of my favorite movies. They could not be more different, but they’re both about relationships between sisters that are very clearly drawn, even though they’re not really considered ‘serious movies.’ ”
Comet is indeed an unusually lighthearted and offbeat postapocalyptic horror-thriller, and Benjamin says that, contrary to online speculation, she has carried that over into her version. “I saw a lot of coverage when the announcement first came out saying, ‘The take seems to be much more straight horror,’ ” she recalls, “and I was like, where are they getting this from? If you just look at any of my stuff, that’s not what I do. Everything I write has some sort of weird, quirky element to it. I don’t know how to not do that.”
Some of the ’84 Comet’s humor derives from the Valley Girl characterization of Maroney’s Sam—an approach that plants the film firmly in the ’80s, though Benjamin says she was able to adapt it to her modern take. “I think that trope still exists; it just has a different name now, you know? We still look at a certain kind of person in that way. A Valley Girl is someone who is thought of as airheaded and never taking anything seriously, and caring more about their outfit and their makeup and who they’re dating than other ‘real’ kinds of things. That’s very easy to see today, in the same way you could take any of the Breakfast Club characters and put them into different stereotypes we have right now. It still fits, in that way older people look at teenagers as having a lack of responsibility, which I don’t think is the case. It never is, so playing with that stereotype was really fun.”
Benjamin can’t share further details about the project, though she says, “Fans of the original will be very pleased with it.” She adds, “I’m not attached to direct it, which is something I think a lot of people believe, though I hope I’m on the list. They’re probably looking at getting producers on board first, and then we’ll work on the script. I’m sure we’ll do one or two more drafts, and then it’ll come to the directing conversation. It’s still very early days.”