Near Dark (1987)
By: Markus Zussner on November 16, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Universal (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0 Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish, Swedish Subtitles. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Joshua Miller, Tim Thomerson
Screenplay: Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red
Music: Tangerine Dream
Tagline: ...pray for daylight.
Country: USA
I am not a great fan of Vampire movies, but I will watch them when they come along and some I have really enjoyed, like the Blade trilogy and both Underworld ventures.

I remember going to the movies to watch Lost Boys when it did its theatrical debut back in 1987 and expected it to be half decent with all the hype that came with it, but I ended up walking out thinking "what a piece of shit". I tried to see if it faired any better on Video and then DVD, but I still felt the same way. I just hate Lost Boys with a vengeance. At the same time that Lost Boys was released, was a little known vampire flick that bypassed the Theatres and went straight to video called Near Dark. Sadly it lost any hope of getting a theatrical release due to overshadow of heavy marketing that Lost Boys received. When I saw the cover and read the story synopsis I thought "Gee this sounds and looks cool". Well that was an understatement because Near Dark simply blew me away, literally blew me right out of the water. Almost 20 years later I was pleased to see it released again and quickly coughed up some bucks so I could have my very own copy. I wondered how time had fared on this gem and wondered if my memory on this film was failing on me. Well I could rest easy because Near Dark did it again, yep blew me right off the couch and had my adrenalin pumping once more. This movie has not dated one single second. It looks like Near Dark could have been made just yesterday. The look of Near Dark and the tight script has the fountain of youth just oozing out of it from all corners. Like Alien this movie is absolutely timeless and believe me I can't say it enough.

As a Vampire movie Near Dark is right outside the box. Writer Director Kathryn Bigelow created a true Vampire movie but discarded practically all of the standard Vampire film conventions with the exception of the need to feed on fresh human blood, and sunlight being their number one enemy. Sunlight has never been as deadly on Vampires as it is in this film. Bigelow gave new meaning to being blown away by the suns deadly rays. Forget garlic; they'd just take a bite and say that their breath smells better. Forget a stake to the heart; they'd pull it out as if it were a splinter under a fingernail. Forget the crucifix; they'd probably steal it off you, hang it around their own necks and say that it looks good on them and forget the fangs because they just get in the way of a good meal. You won't find any of these usual Vampire traits in this film. Bigelow doesn't even let the story entertain any of these notions whatsoever, with the exception of one quick shot where one of the vampires elegantly fingers the handle of his American Civil War pistol with a silver crucifix embedded into it. I think that one particular shot really lets you know that this is not your normal run of the mill Vampire movie, but you're going to know that well before this shot comes in. Blink and you'll miss it. Bigelow has also dispensed with the gothic element that these types of films are so famous for. Near Dark has no gothic elements at all which is what Kathryn intended and lent so well to the overall atmosphere of this film. Cinematographer Adam Greenberg, famous for his work on countless excellent films such as The Terminator just to mention one, has created a truly unique and creepy atmosphere which gives you that feeling of isolation that you can get when staggering home drunk in the wee hours of the morning, streets devoid of traffic and people, with only the acute buzzing of street lights and generators picked up by unsober senses.

The story is straightforward and simple (my less is more theory). Adrian Pasdar in his debut role plays Caleb, a country boy out on the town ready to have a hootin' good time with his buddies when he sees a beautiful stranger named Meg (played by the beautiful Jenny Wright) and is instantly attracted to her. The opening dialogue that the two have is just precious and sets the tone right from the start. Well their interlude is sure a strange one and Meg leaves Caleb with a nice bite mark on his neck to remember her by. Meg makes the mistake of letting him go, because Caleb was actually meant to be dinner. Now when Meg gets back to her "Family", they are not too chuffed about this as they do not like to leave loose ends so they go back for Caleb to finish him off. Caleb stumbles home across a field, leaving his broken down Pickup by the side of the road as the morning sun begins to rise. He's not feeling to good and is probably wondering why he is beginning to smoulder as smoke starts streaming off him. Before you can say "Hi pop I'm home" a Van with windows totally covered up with tin foil rolls by and collects him. The van quickly races off. Caleb, now lying on the floor of the van is greeted with a menacing grin from family member Severin, played by Bill Paxton in one of his most memorable and over the top performances, all dressed up in leathers living out his Jim Morrison fantasy. Caleb nervously questions what is going on and along comes one of many classic lines in the film from Severin "It's not what's goin' on son, it's what's comin' off!" I'm not going to mention any more classic lines because I don't want to spoil it for those who have not had the opportunity to see the film yet but let me tell you there are some real classic lines in this film. Well the family realise that Caleb has already turned and decide not to kill him. Instead they give him a chance to join their family. In order to prove himself he has to make a kill which is what Caleb will have to do in order to survive. If these guys don't get their dose of nightly fresh blood they go into withdrawal like junkies hanging out for their next fix and would ultimately die. Caleb tries hard not to make a kill and attempts to get back home on his own only to go crawling back before sunup begging for a fix. Meg bites her wrist and lets Caleb feed off her, much to the anger of the head of the family Jesse, played superbly by Lance Henriksen in his meanest and nastiest role ever. Jesse gives Caleb a few days to get his act together or he's going to let Severin waste him. Jesse's partner is Razorback played by Jenette Goldstein who is the maternal figure of the family and keeps everyone cool in heated moments in particular the last member of our little gang, Homer (Joshua Miller from Class of 1999) who is just a young kid but essentially he's a man trapped in a child's body. Homer, who is probably older than my dearly departed grandfather, is treated as a kid and at times he finds this extremely frustrating. Homer gives new meaning to foul mouthed kids with guns. These guys are mean, cool and nasty but you can't help but really like them in a repelling sort of way. They travel by night from one dusty back road town to another to feed, hell raise and cause utter bloody chaos. Caleb finally proves himself and is accepted by the family, not because he makes a kill, but because he gets them out of a sticky daylight shootout with the local police. The local law enforcement surround the motel room where the gang are hiding out from the sun and getting some well deserved zzz's. The shotgun blasts and high velocity rifle rounds come ploughing through the motel room from all angles like Swiss cheese but are harmless to our family of Vampires. It is the stream of sunlight which follows the penetrating bullets that provide the lethal kick and is a refreshingly clever and memorable visual effect.

Meanwhile, Caleb's Father played by veteran 80's horror actor Tim Thomerson, is on the road and hot on the trail in search of his son. It is only a matter of time before the story comes to its inevitable climatic finale; an infernal white-hot knuckle showdown between Caleb and the rest of the Vampire family that will have you biting your lip until it bleeds.
Just stunning. The Cinematography is done by Adam Greenberg and he does a top notch job that really comes to life on DVD. An excellent transfer with clean, clear atmospheric night scenes and vivid day shots to contrast. A lot of that visual magic never really came through on the Video Cassette format.
Dolby Digital 2.0 with English subtitles. Although only in 2.0 Digital, the sound is still great. Audio Commentary by Director Kathryn Bigelow is very interesting and informative. It would have been great to have had some of the cast doing a commentary but hey, you can't always have your cake and eat it too. The main soundtrack has been composed by the ever reliable Tangerine Dream. A truly eerie and dreamy soundtrack.
Extra Features
Lots of goodies here. We have two different Theatrical Trailers. A deleted scene which is quite intriguing but doesn't really fit in with the rest the film which is why it's a deleted scene I suppose. There is a good Photo Gallery and also a Filmography of Kathryn Bigelow work, but the golden egg here is the Featurette, Living in Darkness at a good running time of 45 minutes. This is one of the best Featurettes I have watched in quite a while. Interviews with Director Kathryn Bigelow, Eric Red, Adam Greenberg and Cast Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein amongst others. As some of you would know the latter three cast members came fresh off the Set of Aliens, which was never a marketing ploy but rather a clever creative move which is given insight in the Featurette. Some of the vivid stories told by the Cast are an absolute hoot and clearly shows the fond memories that they had making this film and the respect they have for Director Kathryn Bigelow.
The Verdict
Nicely packaged with a great slick and worth every penny. One of the most wildly entertaining and original vampire flicks ever to grace your entertainment system. Near Dark stands alone in a class of its own and likely there never will be another bloodsucker movie like it. If you only ever see one Vampire film in your life, then Near Dark absolutely has to be the one. If Sergio Leone ever made a modern day western horror classic, Near Dark would've been it. Kathryn Bigelow take a bow because without Near Dark there would be a gaping wound in the jugular vein of the Vampire film genre. One of the true Horror greats of all time.
Movie Score
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