Day 9 of 31
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton. Janette Goldstein, Joshua John Miller. USA. 1h 34m.
Famed for being one of the few vampire flicks never to mention vampires, Near Dark is more than just your average vampire flick, it’s a dusty road trip from hell with some ancient and amusing characters who just happen to drink blood. Strangely his romantic horror is never really all that scary but is serious enough to unleash some tough alternative ideas into the vampire genre, but between the hard luck story, the power struggles and the endless road there’s a hint of comedy albeit it dark and some iconic vamps emerge forever etched in our memories.
There is no doubt that this film comes from the south, everything about it drips gravy and biscuits. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is a young farmer’s son, who meets a beautiful drifter Mae (Jenny Wright) who changes his life after she bites him and he’s forced to join a nomadic group of vampires who are quite happy slaying their way across America.
Killing you would be easy; they’d rather terrify you… forever.
Caleb is young and naive and thinking he’s met the love of his life he doesn’t question the shit storm he’s walking into until it’s too late. After the initial bite, Mae; introduces him to her “family” the older hard-hitting lovers Jesse (Henriksen) and Diamondback (Goldstein) the wayward sadistic cowboy Severen (Paxton) and the childlike Homer (Miller), together they have been travelling together slashing and dashing out of the way bars and hitchhikers etc and dodging the sunlight in their vamp wagon. Caleb isn’t best pleased to be the fresh recruit and fights against his destiny, but the eureka moment is a long way off and until then Caleb has to run with the pack.
There are one or two moments where the film where it really does kick off and the blood is dripping but the storytelling is constantly switching between vampire horror and star crossed lovers romance and love is a big factor, the tender beginnings with Caleb and Mae soon give way to the deeper harder love of Jesse/Diamondback who possibly see their humble beginnings in the youthful couple, which in turn is enough to set off Homer who does what he can to nab a lover at any costs near the end of the film, and Paxton is a constant source of one liners and amusement throughout (a character similar to Hicks from Aliens but with bigger balls).
Predominantly filmed at night isn’t surprising as the film is most certainly about vampires, even if it doesn’t name them, but some of the elements are new and refreshing; instead of the flouncy gentile vampires from Transylvania, Near Dark grabs you with some hardened soldiers who “Fought for the south” which in one sentence gives some freedom to the imagination about where these guys came from and just how long they have been living life on the edge of darkness. And these guys aren’t strangers to being soldiers are most of them were acting together only months previously in Aliens (1986), but now they find themselves involved in this horror western, and Western is another word which is rarely mentioned with Near Dark, it’s like Macbeth, everyone is afraid of calling it a Vampire Western but that’s exactly what it is, just the vamps are wearing leather jackets and driving cars instead to a backdrop (partially) from The Cramps works so well.
Goldstein comes across a little softer than her previous character Vasquez (Aliens) but she’s still is pretty tough, Henrikson seemed to be character acting and getting his role as Rafe in Johnny Handsome perfected, but the most intriguing character in the entire film is Homer, nothing is explained in great detail, nothing AT ALL is explained in great detail, Bigelow really wanted the audience to think for themselves, but Homer is a basically a couple hundred years old but trapped in the body of a child, more frustrating than Claudia from Interview with a Vampire this little lusty blood sucker wants a woman and is eventually driven to do strange things to get one. Ultimately everyone is driven by love and blood, its raw intensity is almost as intoxicating as blood is for the main characters. The film does raise many questions and that’s fine as life is full of unsolved mysteries. Set against some of the most stunning sunsets on film, the eerie characters and the foreboding nights go hand in hand conjuring up a new modern vampire story with as much lust and intensity as the original but like a carnivorous plant it simply snaps up anything that comes by, and it’s this rawness that attracts and enchants horror and vampire fans alike.
In-between the wide landscapes and silhouettes it’s hard not to see some likeness to early Michael Mann, and the quiet elements akin to the gentle silent approach of Nicolas Winding Refn. It combines a romantic beauty with bittersweet denial and grisly horror, long after the film has ended you are left with vivid moments like waking up from a dream.
R – The Lost Boys (1987)
L – Modern Vampire Flicks, Vampire A-Z,
A – What I love about Vampire Cinema
5s – Lance Henriksen, Kathryn Bigelow
Vs – Near Dark Vs Lost Boys.