Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
Country boy Caleb doesn’t have much choice but to ride along with a group of murderous nomads after a sweet young lass turns him into a vampire.
Is it good movie?
NEAR DARK has always been a fresh and interesting entry into the vampire genre. It’s clearly more of a western than a vampire flick, and does away with most of the typical trappings of a bloodsucker movie. These are vampires stripped of any preconceptions we have about vampires, save for the fact they want to drink your blood and they really can’t stand sunlight. Writer/director Kathryn Bigelow and co-writer Eric Red focus on the most central themes of vampirism, like immortality, which pays off because the relationship between Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and sweet young Mae (Jenny Wright) provides a real emotional core for the film.
NEAR DARK, of course, reunites three actors from ALIENS. Lance Henriksen makes a strong impression as Jesse, the tough-as-snakeskin ringleader (or patriarchal figure) of the gang of drug-fueled anarchists. It’s unclear just how old Jesse is, but one can guess at least two or three hundred years when he says “I fought for the South.” Jenette Goldstein plays Diamondback, or “mom”. Joshua John Miller is little Homer, who is pissed that he has to be a child for eternity. Bill Paxton plays Severen, the most sociopathic member of Jesse’s little family. He doesn’t suffer through immortality, he embraces it, and he likes to toy with you a little bit before slitting your throat with his spurs. Jenny Wright plays Mae as a beautiful but tortured soul, and when she sinks her teeth into his neck, Caleb is forced to choose between his old family and his new one.
Bigelow creates a lot of striking images, many with the sun setting (or rising) against the open desert. She gets a strong assist from cinematographer Adam Greenberg, who (as Bigelow points out herself on the commentary) casts everything in a seductive light. Another major factor in the film’s success is the dreamy score from Tangerine Dream. As long as you don’t mind something that sounds “really 80s” (and whatever, this is awesomely 80s if you ask me), it adds a lot of texture to the film.
NEAR DARK has its violent highlights (there’s a fun, bloody showdown in a bar), but the fact that it resonates beyond the end credits is a credit to the fact that it’s more than the usual horror film. It has its share of contrivances, namely toward the end. But for the most part, it has not gained its reputation as cult classic undeservedly. It’s stylish, character-driven and surprising.
Video / Audio
Video Widescreen 1.85:1. If you’re a fan of NEAR DARK I would definitely pick up this release from Anchor Bay. Adam Greenberg’s photography looks stunning and the overall picture quality is terrific.
Dolby Surround 5.1
+ THX Optimizer
Audio Commentary with Director Kathryn Bigelow An informative track, and highly recommended if you’re a fan (and you somehow haven’t already listened to this). Bigelow speaks extremely well and dissects many themes and characters from her film. There are some long breaks where she remains silent, but her thoughtful analysis of the film more than makes up for it.
There’s one Deleted Scene with optional commentary from Bigelow, showing Caleb getting atuned to becoming a creature of the night.
NEAR DARK remains unique over 20 years after its original release, and if you have any kind of love for the film, there’s no reason you shouldn't have it in your collection now with this excellent commentary from Bigelow.