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Near Dark, 1987 – Movie Review

Posted by LiveFor on March 22, 2010

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein

Score: 6/10

Reviewed by pjowens75

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS, BUT WILL BE CLEARLY MARKED.

I’m a sucker for vampire films. But I’m also a vampire purist and hold to the vampires of Bram Stoker and Nosferatu. I hold Anne Rice responsible for destroying the vampire genre by making them romantic figures. If she’d just left it alone after “Interview With The Vampire” (which I read and enjoyed), everything would have been fine. But somehow the notion caught on and now we have women of all ages (and some men too, I suppose) swooning over what should be an ugly, wicked, decaying, and thoroughly foul creature. But no matter what they’ve been made into today, one fact should always remain: they MUST kill to survive.

Kathryn Bigelow gets that right in her first film as a solo director, NEAR DARK. Using an imaginative script, some interesting camera angles, and recognizable actors, she put together one of my favorite modern vampire movies. It went nowhere at the box office, unfortunately, because it was up against LOST BOYS, an equally enjoyable movie that was more successful because it was aimed at a younger, hipper audience and had better marketing.

NEAR DARK starts out like a twisted classic love story: boy meets girl, girl bites boy, girl takes boy home to meet the family. In this case, the family that Mae (Jenny Wright) takes Caleb (Adrian Pashdar) home to meet is a family of vampires. And these are a far cry from the romantic figures we see today. These are cold blooded killers who rejoice in the mayhem they incite, especially Bill Paxton’s Severen (“Howdy. I’m going to separate your head from your shoulders. Hope you don’t mind.”). Bigelow shows us the dark, ugly side of vampirism, where the main focus is to survive. And for that to happen, the family must kill.

So before they will accept Caleb into the fold, he must make his first kill. Of course Caleb is reluctant, and wants nothing more than to return to his father and little sister who, unbeknownst to him, are hot on his trail. And this is where the movie shines, showing us the contrasting, but equally strong ties among the two completely different families. The relationship between Caleb and his sister is strong and totally different than the relationship between Mae and “brother” Homer, a 50 year old man trapped in a 10 year old’s body. And the devotion of both father figures, both Caleb’s own real father, and the vampire family’s father figure (brilliantly underplayed by Lance Henriksen, looking remarkably like Keith Richard), shows an unspoken affection and possessiveness for their respective clans.

NEAR DARK is a fun, bloody thrill ride from beginning to end, and is well worth watching for everyone. However, there is one thing that prevents me from giving this a higher score, and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen it, go get it and watch it now. If you like your vampires cold, blood thirsty, and wild, you’ll love this movie.

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE!

Why, oh why, oh why, did Kathryn Bigelow choose to shoot herself in the foot with the outcome in this movie? After all the tension, after all the reflection on the downside to being immortal and having to kill for survival, we find that all it takes to cure vampirism is a simple transfusion. WTF?!?! Then why all the angst? Why not just have Jesse and the family walk into the nearest doctor’s office and say “Look, I don’t want to be a vampire anymore, so could I get a blood transfusion please?” One of the things that makes being a vampire so terrible and, yes, sympathetic, is that THERE IS NO CURE. In that one seemingly simple script decision, to cure Caleb and Mae with just blood transfusions, Bigelow takes away all the dramatic tension she spent the first 90 minutes building so masterfully. And, indeed, takes away the crux of the entire movie.

So in the end, despite being taken for an exhilarating, fun-filled ride down the long dark road to vampirism, we find that, in truth, we really have been “taken for a ride”.

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