Joshua John Miller
Trivia As Caleb staggers through town, just before the bus stop scene - the cinema behind him is showing Aliens.
In the scene where Severen and Jesse torch the motor home, Severen asks Jesse if he had remembered about a "fire that they had started in Chicago". It refers to the great fire in the Midwest/Chicago in 1871 that left more than 100,000 people homeless and destroyed businesses. The fire still remains a mystery to this day.
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Near Dark (1987)
11th Oct 05
When country boy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) claps eyes on elfin beauty Mae (Jenny Wright) outside an eerie filling station, he instantly falls under her mesmerising spell. The pair take off into the night together but it soon becomes apparent to Caleb that there is something quite peculiar about his passenger, especially when she attempts to sink her teeth into his neck.
As the sun begins to rise, Mae runs for cover leaving Caleb staggering through the desert with plumes of smoke bellowing from his every pore. Moments from incineration, a blacked out Winnebago sweeps by and the occupants drag Caleb’s smouldering carcass from the desert floor. Inside he comes face to face with Mae’s dysfunctional family (think The Simpson’s but with sharp teeth), a band of nomads with an aversion to sunlight and an unhealthy lust for blood. As the posse of the outsider’s journey across the mid-west of America leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, Caleb is inducted into a way of life where killing is the only means of survival.
Review (Part of Anchor Bay's Box of Blood)
Debutant director Kathryn Bigelow had always dreamt of beginning her foray into the film industry with a Western, but with the movie market of the late 1980’s firmly in the midst of a horror fixation, most studios were reluctant to take a chance on a marginal genre, especially with a novice at the helm. This left Miss Bigelow in somewhat of a quandary; should she stick to her guns, or sell out in order to get a foothold on the industry ladder?
A solution soon presented itself though, when Bigelow got together with a young and enthusiastic writer named Eric Red. Fresh from his success with The Hitcher, Eric was hot property and on the look out for a new and exciting project to get his teeth into. What developed from their collective endeavour was a hybrid of a movie combining elements of a Western, a road-movie, and a love story into what was essentially a vampire tale.
However, instead of embracing the gothic accoutrements which inevitably accompany a film of this sub-genre, Bigelow chose to do away with them completely (the V word is not mentioned at any point during the film's running time). Gone are the stakes through the heart and the giant bats, as Bigelow strips down the mythology to its bare bones, focussing on daylight as the sole adversary of her nocturnal predators and their lust for blood as an unquenchable, debilitating drug addiction.
Set against the eerie backdrop of perpetual twilight, the atmosphere of Near Dark is both moody and beautifully dream-like. This is due in no small part to the director of photography Adam Greenberg (The Terminator) who creates a shadowy, brooding underworld in which the family of vampires are doomed to reside for eternity. This menacing environment also manages to be extremely alluring, even seductive, drawing the viewer into the subversive underbelly of modern society analogous to the dark and seedy drug world.
Perhaps Kathryn Bigelow’s greatest achievement was assembling such an astonishing cast, most of which were lifted straight out of James Cameron’s Aliens (Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein). It is the chemistry between this ‘intact family’ as Bigelow refers to them, which forms the backbone of the gypsy-like cooperative at the story’s centre. Moreover, it is the relationship between Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, which gives the film its undeniable spark and provides many of the movie’s highlights.
Henriksen, who plays Jesse Hooker the age-old chief of the clan, is genuinely terrifying. Immersing himself in the role Henriksen created an entire back-story for his character dating back to the American civil war, and spent thousands of dollars on props to enhance his menacing appearance. Wild Bill Paxton is simply magnificent as the blood-guzzling cowboy Severen and more than lives up to his nickname. Despite his throat tearing tendencies, his southern lilt and wild boy antics endear him to the audience right from the get go, ensuring that he steals every scene he appears in. Throughout the film you get the impression that Paxton is constantly seeking the approval of his co-star Henriksen, both in and out of character, showing off like a desperate-to-impress teenager at every available opportunity as Lance/Jesse watches from the sidelines. Rumours abound of the pair’s wild off-set antics too, and their fondness for remaining in character long after the cameras stopped rolling, scaring the hell out of hitchhikers and police officers alike. It is this closeness which shines though on screen, adding an extra depth to the characters and making you as the viewer almost sympathetic to their situation.
Although primarily a horror film, Kathryn Bigelow’s love of the Western clearly shines through. The principle theme of the film – good honest country folk versus the dark, dangerous outsiders – is the crux of many a good western tale, as are shootouts with the law, shit-kickin’ bar brawls and gun-slingin’ showdowns, of which this film has an abundance.
Underpinning the entire movie however, is the romantic tale of Caleb and Mae, two souls drawn together from two very different worlds. The pair take it in turns to play the outsider, pushing and pulling each other between light and dark in a battle to stay together no matter what the cost. Jenny Wright as Mae encapsulates everything the film strives to portray; beautiful and enigmatic, yet with a definite seedy undercurrent, she provides a dark and provocative edge the film just wouldn’t have without her.
Adrian Pasdar however, is definitely a weak link and at times looks out of his depth next to some of the great talent on show. Though rather than detracting from the film this only accentuates the other performances, making the vampire family stand out as three-dimensional characters against a two-dimensional backdrop.
Near Dark is a fantastic debut picture which marked the pinnacle of Kathryn Bigelow’s career, a height she has failed to reach in all subsequent projects (the closest being the adrenaline rush of Point Break). The intricate melding of so many different genres is cleverly handled, especially for a first time director and has opened up a new road that horror films prior to Near Dark had seldom traversed. The stylised manner in which the film is shot has been imitated in countless vampire movies since (Blade, From Dusk till Dawn, Addiction etc) but thus far the hypnotically menacing atmosphere has never been recaptured.
Near Dark was a film ahead of its time and as such it never really got the credit it deserved, being overshadowed somewhat by Warner’s big-budget alternative Lost Boys. Over the years however, Near Dark has developed a large cult following and still looks amazing today, almost two decades after it first hit our cinema screens. So if you’ve been living in a hole for the last 17 years and have yet to see this movie then you’re in for a treat; go on get out there and buy it now before it gets dark.
Versions The original UK video release was missing a few seconds from two scenes;
1. Diamondback opening and closing a butterfly knife repeatedly before slitting the barmaid's throat
2. Jesse and Severen putting the barman's body on the bar and smashing bottles of spirits over and around him to fuel the fire while Severen quips "Hey, bartender salad".
These cuts were reinstated into the 2003 release.