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Near Dark (1987)

Cult Movies movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow

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Blood is Their Life...Darkness Their Home...Sunlight Their BANE!

  • Oct 22, 2009

Released in 1987 with a dismal performance in the box-office after the release of “The Lost Boys”, Kathryn Bigelow’s “Near Dark” made its reputation through word of mouth and its release in HBO. The film had gained a cult following because of the way it re-invents the vampire genre and offers something fresh for horror fans. It found an ever-growing “cult” of fans that has swelled through the past few years. “Near Dark” is a simple B-horror movie that presents your usual romantic angle with the backdrop of gothic blood and violence; and of course sex…with all guns firing.
Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is a young small-town cowboy who spots a beautiful young woman in the outskirts of town. Mae (Jenny Wright) is just hanging out licking her ice cream (quite provocatively I may add). Caleb becomes taken by the charms and mystery of lovely Mae as he offers to give her a ride. But just before dawn, Caleb finds himself bitten by our sexy blond and being left behind. Remarkably, Caleb finds himself beginning to suffer burns under the morning sun and soon, Mae’s “family” (or “coven” if you will) snatches the young man to their own hideout. Caleb is introduced to Mae’s mysterious family (yep, familiar faces from “Aliens”) as Jesse (Lance Henriksen), Severen (Bill Paxton), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and a young boy named Homer (Joshua Miller) intend to give Caleb his “rite of passage” by making a kill. These are not your ordinary folks as they go from town to town with guns blazing and making mayhem. Things are about to become complicated as the police and Caleb’s family are in hot pursuit…
The thing with “Near Dark” is the fact that the film plays its aces very differently. Our group of misfits (who behave like yahoos from the Old West) are given the very distinct characteristics of vampirism; and yet they never acknowledge that they are or there is no mention of the word “vampire”. They refer to their “condition” as what it is, “a condition”; one that requires adaptation to this way of life. They seem very used to their state of affairs and besides Caleb, they don’t marvel at their extra-normal abilities such as superhuman strength, immortality and being extremely difficult to kill. For them, it appears to have become as a regular way of life; they do what they must to survive, namely killing and staying away from sunlight. There are slight snippets as to how old Jesse and Severen are such as the time when they said “remember the fire we started in Chicago?” (refers to the huge 1871 fire of Chicago that has no solid explanation to this day) and that Jesse fought for the South and that they lost.
The film also abandons the usual vulnerability of the vampires to religious objects which are subtly hinted at with the cross at the handle of a revolver and when they stayed at a “Godspeed motel”. The only real vulnerability they have is exposure to sunlight, although Severen gave hints at cutting off Caleb’s head to kill him. The characters may adhere to the traditional rules of vampire lore but they do not fall victim to it. Sure, the film follows the trappings of vampire mythos but “Near Dark” does not bring these themes into exposition by spoon-feeding them to its audience; it challenges its viewer to fill in the blanks and to pay attention to the screenplay. Much of the film’s standard details and characterization come through bits and pieces of dialogue and touches of visual effects. This is what makes ‘Near Dark” very fresh for its time. These are obvious insufferable characters but you just can’t help liking them for their raw individualism that has reached its end point with no more need to grow or adapt. As Homer states: “…a big man in the inside and a small body in the outside…” Homer may have also turned Mae perhaps to take care of him which somewhat gives more credibility to his obsession with Caleb’s younger sister.
The film can also prove to be a good date movie (boy, I love a woman who loves a solid vampire flick) as we become privy to the romance between Caleb and Mae. I somewhat thought that the film uses it “love conquers all” angle quite well since there was never a moment that I rolled my eyes. You see the sacrifice Mae is willing to go through to insure Caleb’s acceptance into the family and Caleb’s dependence upon his ’maker’ that slowly and utterly turns into passion. I’ve mentioned the “love conquers all” angle which brings us to the film’s very improbable vehicle to cure this ‘condition’. Most genre fans may view the blood transfusion thing to be highly improbable and too convenient; and how exactly did Caleb think about making a transfusion from his father? It seems to be a minor vehicle to set up its resolution and keep in mind that this movie has very little 'set in stone' rules. The film does make up its own rulebook (well, at least the vampires don’t sparkle) that there is no solid answer as to why something like blood transfusion can work or not. Myself, I saw it as a metaphor as I said; “love conquers all”…even this condition. In my book, this falls as the film’s weakness but it does provoke some thought. Much as the subtle characterizations go, the film also offers no explanation to the absence of Caleb’s mother but there is a small indication that Caleb is a little bit of a rebel.
“NEAR DARK” doesn’t abandon all the tested elements of vampirism; the idea of immortality, biting of the neck and the vulnerability to sunlight builds much of the film’s groundwork, as well as the fantastic healing powers inherent to such circumstances. As a point of fact, “Near Dark” is very respectful of its genre; and this may have been the reason why people have become taken by its B-movie sensibilities. Kathryn Bigelow and company paid homage to the vampire genre in their own way by re-inventing and defining their own set of vampire lore with respect.
Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]

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October 26, 2010
I love this one WP, classic. This is an excellent review man, great job.
November 24, 2011
thanks, Alex!
October 23, 2009
I've been hearing a lot about this film, but I can't find it anywhere around here. Looks like an underrated gem. Great review.
October 23, 2009
Thanks, this movie was even rumored to have been lost which is why the 2-disc release is very rare. There is a new 1-disc release however that should be easy to find.
February 02, 2010
I'm finally going to be seeing this tonight. Wahoo!
October 23, 2009
I loved your review on this but never really liked the film all that much. I might just re-visit it one day as everyone loves it I think but me. I dunno-that blood tranfusion seemed to be more of a cop-out than anything else but maybe I'm judging it too harshly. Excelente review nonetheless bro!!
October 23, 2009
I disliked the transfusion thing too and that made me take a star off my rating. I appreciated the way the direction made its aces work and the fact that it managed to throw in very subtle character details in the dialogue. Yep, do try to see it again, I bet that you'll like it the 2nd time around.
October 23, 2009
I'll give it another spin. I love me some vampires so why the hell not. Plus, it's affordable so I've all the more reason to check it out. So far, I think my favorite vampire film of all time has to be "The Hunger". To this day, I still love it & have played it to death. Great Halloween film too. Very stylish & erotic. Woo, you'd eat it up if you haven't already seen it.
November 23, 2009
Just pretend the ending isn't there. That's what I do. I just make believe he dies at the end.
October 22, 2009
Yes! I agree about the ending too, it seemed almost tacked on. I think probably the father got the idea for the transfusion after he found out what Caleb had become--he was a veterinarian after all. But as bad as the ending was it couldn't destroy all the goodness that came before. I liked the fact that Caleb wasn't all excited about being a vampire and did his best to avoid making his first kill even though it made him sick as a dog. And Lance Henriksen was pure evil. He says on the special features that the part of The Terminator was created for him but when it was scheduled to go into production he couldn't do it because he was doing this flick. Odd how careers are decided, isn' it? I also liked the way they showed each member of the family's dfferent ways of making akill. How DOES a little boy bring down his full grown prey? Just a really great flick.
October 23, 2009
Agreed. The weak last act didn't ruin the experience for me but I have to admit that transfusion angle isn't one of the most brilliant ideas to come into vampire lore. Caleb was a good fleshed out character and Henrikson usually owns the screen for his portrayal of despicable characters. The part when they showed the different methods to hunt was indeed cool, although Diamondback and Jesse accidentally stumbled on their victims than on purpose. I know the boy was supposed to be annoying but it didn't have that effect on me, I thought his character was very interesting. I was shocked to see him smoke onscreen too. Did it say anything on the special features? I haven't checked out my 2nd disc since I got it some years ago.
October 23, 2009
I didn't find him annoying at all. I always thought that guy was very disturbing, like the guy who played Malachai in CHILDREN OF THE CORN, waaay older than he was physically. Perfect for the part.
October 23, 2009
Heck yes!
October 23, 2009
October 22, 2009
I always thought that Quentin Tarrentino stole his idea for From Dusk to Dawn from this film. One of my favorite vampire flicks! Thanks for the review.
October 22, 2009
QT only steals from the best.
October 23, 2009
you're welcome, Michael. This is among my favorite vampire movies as well.
More Near Dark (1987) reviews
review by . November 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
      NEAR DARK      Do you remember when this classic was in theaters when it first came out, I bet most of you really do not. If you do remember you are one of the very few who do because this was in theaters around the same time as the mega popular "The Lost Boys". This like that film is all about a young man who is brought into something he didn't really want, and like that film has to protect his family from the family of vampires that are …
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The cast is really well put together and they work together marvelously, take the bar scene for instance. This scene in particular is one of the most fascinating scenes I have ever witnessed, me and my brother watched this again the other night and once again we were hooked. I think any body that has the chance should see this movie, especially if you have never seen it before. This set in particular is amazing as it comes with a great booklet, a wonderful audio commentary and a jam packed second …
review by . September 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The mid 90's were kind of a weird time for me.  I was still sort of obsessing over vampires (after getting into the Vampire: The Masquerade role playing game, reading Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite for the first time, and getting into flicks like Blade and Dracula), I was just graduating high school, and I found myself with a job and actual cash to spend on stuff like comics and videos.  I had just stared putting together my first movie collection when I began to realize that a lot …
Quick Tip by . March 24, 2010
Forget Anne Rice! THIS movie shows what modern day vampires would REALLY be like! Henriksen & Paxton are terrific!
Quick Tip by . February 03, 2010
An interesting take on the vampire genre about a group of nomadic vampires in the southwest. Sadly it loses momentum about 1/2 way through.
review by . December 30, 2004
In 1987, two vampire movies were released. The teen audience went to see "The Lost Boys"; the older audience went to see "Near Dark". Perhaps unfortunately, more people went to see "Lost Boys" than "Near Dark", forcing the latter to drop off the face of the earth for years. Until 2002, actually. DVD wonder company Anchor Bay released a 2-disc special edition of the film, prompting a new generation of horror fans to investigate the film. One of them was me.    The biggest problem …
review by . July 07, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
"Near Dark" is one of those obscure cult movies that was overshadowed by a bigger budget, better looking cast, & special effects - the likes of the blockbuster film "Lost Boys". However, this is one of the few vampire movies, save for Romero's "Martin" not to use the word "vampire" nor have any fangs, mirrors, crosses, garlic and the ordinary lot.Young Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets Mae ( a young, Jenny Wright from "St. Elmos Fire" and "Garp"). Passion ensues and Mae "nips" Caleb. Uh oh! As Caleb starts …
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The word "vampire" is never mentioned inNear Dark, but that doesn't stop this 1987 cult favorite from being one of the best modern-era vampire films. It put then-unknown director Kathryn Bigelow on Hollywood's radar and gave choice roles toAlienscostars favored by Bigelow's ex-husband James Cameron: Lance Henriksen is the leader of a makeshift family of renegade bloodsuckers, nocturnally seeking victims in rural Oklahoma; his immortal gal pal isAliensandTerminator 2alumnus Jenette Goldstein; and Bill Paxton is the group's deadliest leather-clad ass kicker. Fellow traveler Jenny Wright lures Okie farm boy Adrian Pasdar into the group with a love bite, and he's soon turning toward vampirism with a combination of frightened revulsion and relentless desire. With Joshua Miller (River's Edge) as the youngest vampire,Near Darkis Bigelow's masterpiece of low-budget ingenuity--a truck-stop thriller that begins well, gets better and better (aided by a fine Tangerine Dream score), and goes out in a blaze of glory.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Genre: Horror
Screen Writer: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red
DVD Release Date: September 10, 2002
Runtime: 94 minutes
Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
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