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Near Dark
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Near Dark (1987)

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Plot Summary:
"A mid-western farm boy reluctantly becomes a member of the undead when a girl he meets turns out to be part of a band of southern vampires who roam the highways in stolen cars. Part of his initiation includes a bloody assault on a hick bar."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 03 November 2007 My Rating: out of 5


Nice young cowboy Adrian Pasdar hooks up with beguiling, pixie-like Jenny Wright, and the two fall in love. But she turns out to be a creature of the night, biting Pasdar, who is then introduced to Wright’s rowdy ‘family’ of blood-suckers; patriarch Lance Henriksen (a relic of the Civil War, apparently), tough-as-nails mom Jenette Goldstein, and their sons (animalistic punk Bill Paxton and malicious adolescent Joshua Miller). Tim Thomerson is Pasdar’s concerned pappy.

Unusual 1987 Kathy Bigelow vampire-western (really more of a werewolf-western but with vampires instead of werewolves. You’ll see what I mean) has become a cult classic, thanks mostly to Bigelow’s eye for striking visuals (superb use of lighting, in particular), effective stunt casting (three co-stars of “Aliens” turn up, and adolescent Miller is an adult vampire in a child’s body), and overall ‘coolness’.

The acting isn’t always effective- Wright (looking curiously like a vampiric, early-80s Madonna, she’s all-but disappeared since the 90s, partly due to ill health apparently) is an acquired taste but just offbeat enough to work, Pasdar never was much chop, and Goldstein isn’t as effectively utilised here as she was in “Aliens”- but Bill Paxton (one of my favourite actors) is riotous in every scene, creepy Miller (forget Linda Blair, ain’t no kid creepier than Josh Miller!) is memorable, and well-cast Henriksen (who arguably gets his best moment on film where he’s shot by Thomerson, spits the bullet back out and puts it in his pocket. Damn right, Lance!) is always a welcome presence. It’s also probably the classiest film Tim Thomerson (a regular in the films of Charles Band and other C-grade schlock) has ever appeared in, unless you count “Uncommon Valour”. The bar scene is an absolute cracker (Paxton is just incredible and it’s pretty gruesome stuff), and if for nothing else, makes the film worth seeing.

Screenplay by Bigelow and Eric Red (“The Hitcher”, another classic B-movie) is full of humorously violent dialogue, and gives Paxton some of his best-ever lines like ‘I’m gonna separate your head from your shoulders…hope you don’t mind none!’. It also gives us an interesting take on the sun’s effect on vampires, with the director apparently keen to make the film as ‘realistic’ as possible (hence the term ‘vampire’ is never used, and notice the lack of Gothic trappings. I’m a big fan of Gothic horror, and not-so keen on ‘modernised’ horror films, but never mind, this one works). Actually, I’d argue that instead of a vampire western, this film is more of a blood-sucking 80s update of the juvenile delinquency film, a sort of “The Wild One” with Dracula instead of Marlon Brando. Just a thought.

It’s a little moody and slow at times, but there’s a lot to admire here, and it is certainly among the more memorable and original vampire films out there (though it has been imitated since).

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 01 September 2003 My Rating: out of 5

Kathryn Bigelow's vampiric western hybrid gets the special edition DVD release courtesy of the great Anchor Bay UK, but is the film deserving of the special treatment?

Young farm boy Caleb goes out for a drive one night and meets a mysterious young woman called Mae. The two spend the night together but Mae appears to be reluctant to get too close to Caleb. Caleb eventually coaxes Mae into kissing him but she bites him just as the sun is about to rise. Mae flees the scene leaving Caleb to his own devices. As Caleb nears home however, the sun is almost up and his skin begins to burn. Almost home, Caleb is grabbed and bundled into a camper van by unknown persons, much to the horror of his dad and sister. What ensues is a road trip from hell across America.

The film is essentially a Western and it shows. Brilliantly written by Eric Red and Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, we are treated to many beautiful scenic shots of the desert at sunset and sunrise and such other conventions as a duel to the death between two characters in a deserted street although the horses and pistols are exchanged for a pair of fangs and a truck.

The film oddly enough never uses the word vampire and it seems that the characters do not know what they are. The film does not add anything to the vampire genre but has obviously influenced the style of such films as 'The Lost Boys', 'From Dusk 'till Dawn', 'The Forsaken' and 'Vampires'.

The cast are all very good with Bill Paxton's Severen standing out from the pack, Lance Henriksen giving a good show as Jesse and the undeniably creepy Joshua John Miller freaked me out as Homer.

There are many highlights in this film such as a bar brawl and the aforementioned duel between Severen and Caleb to keep viewers entertained, but the story and other elements such as the romance between Caleb and Mae, and Caleb's father and sister's search to find him all keep the viewer intrigued.

This film is sadly overlooked by the masses but is so influential of the vampire sub-genre in subsequent years that it would be a crime not to see it at least once, just to prove that women can make good horror movies aswell.

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