Near Dark (1987)
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Charming cowboy Caleb (Pasdar) meets the wrong girl on a dark night and receives a life-changing hickey which launches vampirism into his blood. Under the guidance of Mae (Wright) and her extended bloodsucking family, he’s about to learn about the hardcore night life the hard way. The West once again sees red…lots of it.
"Listen to the night...it's deafening." -- May
Aaaaaahhh, Near Dark; by far my favorite vampire flick of all-time. Basically ignored when it was first released in 1987 and drowned out by the the bigger budgeted, heavily marketed and inferior "The Lost Boys", Near Dark is finally getting the respect which it deserves today. Anchor Bay's strong DVD release of the film will most likely give it a second undead wind. Thank you Anchor Bay for finally putting this one out and giving it such a "finger licking good" treatment!
"Near Dark" always managed, and will always manage, to touch my wretched horror heart every time that I watch it. Not only does it never fail to affect me on a narrative level, but it also always hits me on an aesthetic one. The picture is incredibly poetic via its visual panache, while at the same time being layered through its themes of family, love and immortality. The screenplay by Eric Red and director Kathryn Bigelow is a work of pure genius; minimalist in its dialogue, yet able to communicate through gripping situations all we need to know about the vampire outlaws and the tragic lovers bound by blood. Also, in a unique move (especially for its time) the script sticks to the strict vampire basics, stripping away all of the Gothic undertones that we're used to. Which means no crucifixes, no garlic, no fangs...just the fear of the sun and the need for plasma. That approach to the now-worn-out legend and the Western setting in which this film takes place, gives it a horror "Bonnie and Clyde" meets John Wayne type of feel that I will never cease to relish.
The polished visuals and the substance-filled storyline are also taken to the next level by Bigelow's knack at injecting poignant symbolism throughout the picture, giving the whole an added aura. Who can forget the sight of Caleb sucking on Mae's wrists while the oil pumps are working in the background, and the scene itself tinted in blue lighting? I could never shake that sight. I'll even go as far as to say that Near Dark is most probably one of my main influences in terms of my own visual style and it definitely helped me tap into my own sense of composition from a very young age. Although I haven't directed a feature yet (I emphasize the word "yet"), when I do, I know that my take on it will owe a lot to Near Dark and the artistry that Miss Bigelow inserted into her visuals.
And then there's the humor and the red puree. WOW! Not only is this slick ride wickedly funny, often bathing in bleak, morbid, unapologetic humor (Paxton is responsible for lots of that through his delicious no-holds barred performance) but it's also gory as hell with red slush flowing like a free for all Kool-Aid fountain. The perfect example of both elements being juggled masterfully would have to be during the now "classic" bar scene where the badass blood fiends try to teach Caleb how to kill. That scene alone is enough to slap the flick into the "best vampire movie" folder and its firm balance of each varied element which makes up that sequence, has never been equaled today by any other genre film. Bold statement I know, but what can I tell you...that's how I feel.
And last but not least, I have to address the chemistry between the actors. There's such a feeling of unity among the players, hence the characters, that I'm sure that taking some of the cast members from "Aliens" (Paxton-Henriksen-Goldstein) and dropping them into this vampire gang helped amplify that vibe since they had already worked together before. Both Pasdar and Wright also emanate a captivating chemistry together and are responsible for bringing in the more tender moments of the film home, balancing out the insanity taking place. On another personal note: I remember falling in love with Mae when I first saw the film at a young age, watching it again, I fell in love with her all over again. I even picked up on a pattern in my own social life in respect to Mae: most of the girls I date or dated tend to look like her. Same style, same body type, same eyes. I think I've been looking for my own Mae through my many girlfriends; how fucked is that? Back to the nuthouse I go.
All in all, "Near Dark" has got it all, right down to its mesmerizing Tangerine Dream soundtrack, "out there" dialogue, enthralling shootouts, way kool sun/vamp scenes (the best I've ever seen) and its simple yet moving ending. No horror stone is left unturned in this fiasco of love, gore and pain and I for one will always savor this movie upon repeat viewing. Enter the night...
Like lots of Ketchup on your french fries??? You got it. When these vampires kill, it gets very messy. The bar scene alone has more gore than the last 4 Friday The 13th put together. We get bloody vampire bits, nasty gunshot wounds, ugly sunburns, slit throats, a messy Mack Truck victim and slaughter galore. This one more than cuts it in this department.
What a cast! Pretty boy Adrian Pasdar (Caleb) delivers the goods with his blend of charm, cockiness and vulnerability. Jenny Wright (Mae) is perfect casting as the mysterious Mae. She gives a tender and sexy performance. Her sultry puppy dog eyes alone should earn her an Oscar. Lance Henriksen (Jesse), what else do you need to hear, the man is awesome as always and gives the word intensity a new meaning. Bill Paxton (Severen) chews it up as the insane vamp with the deadly aw-shucks charm. He brings most of the humor to the film and is a blast to watch. Jeanette Goldstein (Diamondback) has very little text but lets her body language do most of the acting. Her character comes across fully with hardly any dialogue…impressive. Joshua John Miller (Homer) does good but I will admit that he annoyed me a bit and stuffing his loudmouth with a sock crossed my mind.
T & A
No time for tits, we got sunlight to avoid but the ladies get Pasdar’s cut chest and the boys get a nice Jeanette Goldstein cleavage shot. Dig in.
What do you get when you have lots of blue lighting, a functioning smoke machine, some slow motion, great camera angles and a bit of symbolism here and there? One gorgeous movie. Bigelow directs with a strong hand and the result is high horror art.
Two words: Tangerine Dream. What an amazing score. It brings the movie to a higher level and complements it like whipped cream on a "fill in the blank". Yum!
Distributor: Anchor Bay
IMAGE: The THX 1.85 anamorphic image is impeccable. The colors are solid and the many night sequences are surprisingly devoid of grain or specs. This is one sharp image.
SOUND: The 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS sound is on the money, with clear Surround sound that emphasizes the sound effects to a T.
Kathryn Bigelow Commentary: This feature length commentary does sport its fair share of dead time, but Bigelow still comes through by delivering interesting information and trivia about the technical aspects of the film, the narrative, the casting, the location problems and her kool two cents on genre conventions.
Living in Darkness (~ 47 minutes): Wow! Any Near Dark junkie will get a high kick out of this. Kathryn Bigelow, Jeanette Goldstein, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen come in to reminisce about the production. We get lots of trivia, special effects info and a pinch of the feel of how much of a blast it was to shoot this flick. Pasdar actually brings up something that I've been wondering about for a while now: "Where is Jenny Wright?" Last I saw her was in "I Madman". His message to her actually warmed my heart. All in all, this feature is very satisfying on every level and I for one had a blast watching these people providing info about one of my all-time favorite movies. Stay tuned after the end credits where some of the cast share their "sequel" thoughts with us.
Deleted Scene with commentary by Kathryn Bigelow (~ 1 minute): Here we get a deleted scene in black and white of Caleb and Mae together in a field where Caleb finally takes in his newfound vampire powers of sight. Kathryn explains the nature of the scene to us while it unrolls before our eyes, but never tells us why it was cut out of the film. Still very kool though.
We also get 2 gnarly Trailers, Original Storyboards, Still Galleries, and a DVD-ROM Feature (where you can get the script and a screensaver). Tag to that, a well-done animated menu and an informative 16-page pictured booklet that comes with the DVD and you get a MUST BUY NOW!
When I say that "Near Dark" is a personal favorite of mine...I freakin' mean it! When I'll be on my death bed, I'll still manage to utter: "Near Dark is the shite, fuck you Doctor for letting me die on a respirator"! Many films have tried to follow in this classic's novel path ("Vampires" and "The Forsaken" come to mind) but none have ever come close to matching its overall high quality. There's just a powerful horror magic about this picture that never fails to put me in a trance-like state every time I see it. Seek out "Near Dark" and discover an obscure classic.
The boom mike makes a cameo appearance when Mae and Caleb first meet.
Henriksen, Paxton and Goldstein all played in "Aliens".
Kathryn Bigelow won the Silver Raven award at the Brussels International Festival Of Fantasy Films.