After The Fly and Little Shop of Horrors won the 1986 vote on Twitter I once again took to the polls to find two films from 1987 to watch and review. This is possibly my favourite year so far with Hellraiser winning and also Near Dark. Now Near Dark I had never seen before, I’m not sure why it was just a film that passed me by. After the death of Bill Paxton I was reminded of this film and all I knew was it was a vampire movie and he was very good in it. So when this came out as a winner I was very happy to get it watched.
Director – Kathryn Bigelow
Writers – Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red
Stars – Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright,
Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Tim Thomerson
Budget – $5 million estimated
Run Time – 94 minutes(uncut)
Tagline – Blood is our life, Darkness, our feeding ground and sunlight, our eternal damnation.
Trivia – While shooting in the desert, Lance Henriksen relieved the boredom between takes by hopping in his car and taking short drives through the desert, still in costume and often staying in character. According to Henriksen and Bill Paxton, the two were stopped by a policeman who became so unnerved questioning Jesse about his speeding that the officer became visibly uncomfortable, stepping back and placing his hand on his firearm. The obviously flustered officer decided to send them on their way rather than write them a ticket.
Trivia – Unusual for a vampire movie, the word “vampire” is never mentioned.
Trivia – During filming, the cast and crew had to deal with a train that would stop at the same intersection every night. One night, Bill Paxton (in full make-up with half of his face missing) saw one of the train workers leave the diesel engine, and went up to him saying, “Hey, man, there’s been an accident… and if you think I’m bad, wait ’til you see the other guy!”
Near Dark is not like other vampire films, there’s no 200 year old creepy weirdo trying to shag some “virgin” teenager, there’s no smooth talking handsome vampire constantly wooing the ladies. What it is is dark, gritty and it’s as realistic as a vampire film could get, now I know they most likely don’t exist but if somehow they did then the way they are portrayed in this film is how I imagine they’d really be like.
The premise is a simple one: farm boy Caleb thinks he’s pulled when he meets the mysterious and beautiful Mae. He agrees to give her a lift home it’s a strange journey and she starts to get worried she won’t make it home before the sun comes up. Mae is a bit odd but this doesn’t deter Caleb, he ask for a kiss but she leaves a small bite on his neck then does one and runs off.
Caleb starts to become sick as he walks home after his car broke down, just as he’s reaching home his little sister and Dad see an RV swing by and bundle him in the back, they worry he’s been kidnapped and throughout the film we see scenes of his Father and little sister trying to find him and visiting the police about Caleb’s disappearance.
The truth is far more worrying however, he’s been kidnapped by a group of vampires who roam the highways in stolen vehicles and enjoy killing people before moving on. There’s Mae the one that turned Caleb, there’s Homer a vampire in a young boy’s body, there’s Lance Henrikson’s Jesse Hooker who’s the leader and his maybe wife Diamondback.
Then there’s the star of the show Severen played by Bill Paxton, he’s cocky, brash, loves to fight and in a twisted way even enjoys being hurt. They give Caleb time to adjust but he just can’t do the things they do, mainly the killing to stay alive. He ends up relying on Mae’s blood to keep him going. This doesn’t go down well with the rest of the group and despite saving them all from certain death in a cracking scene they eventually turn on Caleb.
He now faces a choice of staying with Mae and committing terrible acts to the people he loves or he can try to fight his way out and escape. Obviously the film wouldn’t be that great if he just stayed there and didn’t attempt to leave I mean he’s the noble one after all. As you’d expect this leads to some great scenes as he battles the other vampires to save the people he loves and get his life back on track.
- Atmosphere, it’s gritty, dark and realistic. These vampires are filthy bastards surviving only to kill, they start fights so they can murder people and drink their blood, they are low-lifes and this appeals more than the type of vampires we frequently see in films nowadays.
- The make up and effects are spot on.
- The flow of the film is perfect, from Caleb’s turn to him being picked up and forced to live by their rules right to the end, I was never bored or felt the film was dragging in any place at all.
- There’s some great scenes and it’s hard to pick a favourite scene but if I had to then the bar fight would top my list, followed closely by the vampires escaping certain death in a police raid at their motel in daylight. Both are key parts of the film that I really enjoyed.
- The acting is also as spot on as the effects and everyone plays their part well.
- Bill Paxton, he really fits this role perfectly I think he was and still is an underappreciated actor. This role was made for him, his mannerisms are great and the character is such fun to watch every time he’s on screen.
- A cure is mentioned and tried and it’s a bit of nitpicking on my part but I thought it was a load of crap.
Other than that I can’t really think of anything that was bad or anything that was average this is a great movie that everyone should see. It has a unique feel to it and it embraces the darker side of vampire life, a likable good guy along with some villains you can hate is always a good combination and this film pulls it off perfectly, when you mix in some incredible make up, effects, fight scenes and a decent end battle you end up with in my opinion one of the best vampire films of all time. This is a must see!
Overall Rating – 9/10