Has the glittery shine of vampires lost its luster for you? Check out “Near Dark”, where vampire do just about everything but sparkle.
A young Adrian Pasdar (“Heroes”) stars in this 1987 horror-movie-must as young ranch hand Caleb Colton. One night, Caleb gives a ride to the hitchhiking beauty Mae (Jenny Wright). The two make small talk, but Mae is anxious – she has to get home by sunrise. So when Caleb playfully tries to block her exit, she bites him – on the neck. Hours later, Caleb’s veterinarian father (Tim Thomerson) and young sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds) witness a sickly Caleb walking home and starting to burn in the sunlight. Moments later, he is apparently abducted by a sinister-looking van.
Most guys dread meeting their girlfriend’s family, but now Caleb has to meet Mae’s family, a group of nomadic vampires lead by the grizzled Civil War veteran Jesse (Lance Henriksen), and including Jesse’s wife Diamondback (Jentte Goldstein), the psychotic Severen (Bill Paxton) and surly young vampire-child Homer (Joshua John Miller). The group inducts a reluctant Caleb into their number, despite their newest recruit’s refusal to kill. But while Caleb’s family search for him, Caleb slowly begins bonding with the vampires, who prey on the underbelly of society. The situation takes a twisted turn, however, when Caleb’s family close in, and Homer develops a crush on Caleb’s kid sister.
The film is directed and written by Kathryn Bigelow, who went on to direct “The Hurt Locker” and “Point Break”. At the time, Bigelow was married to James Cameron hot off “Aliens”, leading Bigelow to cast several “Aliens” alums – including Henriksen, Paxton and Goldstein. If that weren’t enough, there’s a legend Paxton and Henriksen drove around Oklahoma in character during the movie, playing two centuries-old vampires and generally freaking people out.
While the film’s pacing lulls at time, it really succeeds in terms of both action and characterization. Though the pack is literally blood-thirsty, they are, in fact, quite loyal to one another. Caleb’s earns their trust during a particularly rousing afternoon shootout, where bullet holes threaten the vampire’s sun-blocked getaway car. Bigelow’s expert action scenes combine with the Western-esque script to create a rather compelling drama, as Caleb – and ultimately Mae – must choose what world they belong in, human or vampire.
Proving the old adage “what is old is new again”, “Near Dark” was released at the height of a similar vampire film frenzy in the mid-80’s following hits like “The Lost Boys” and the soon-to-be-remade “Fright Night”. But after the production company went bankrupt, the flick proved a box office failure without any marketing. It’s been relegated to the B-List Bargain Bin even since, though thankfully, it’s also found enough of substantial cult following to rise from the grave.
With its unique characters, gruesome gore and high-octane action, “Near Dark” right on the mark for any horror fan feeling burnt out by the current vampire craze.
Own “Near Dark” on DVD for $5.97 shipped.