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).