A Review by Jason L. King
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Hendricksen, Bill Paxton
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Rated: Rated R for horror violence
Movie Released: 1987
The summer months have been whisked away and we are now heading into autumn with leaves turning colors and people’s doorsteps sporting jack-o-lanterns and skeletons. October is Halloween, month of the monsters, hence why many of the reviews you are seeing are horror films or monster movies. Throughout the month of October 2009, I will be focusing at least a solid portion of my reviews on various movie monsters each week. Week #1’s movie monster is Vampires.
For as long as people have been afraid of things that go bump in the night, people have been afraid of vampires. But that fear also sparks intrigue. The idea of a night stalking, blood sucking, creature of the undead feasting upon the living both terrifies us and peaks our interest. Hollywood tapped into this folklore and has spent years and years and even a few more years bringing vampire movies to life. One of these movies is Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark.
Near Dark has flown under the radar over the years, yet deserves more credit than it deserves. The film follows a young man from a small Texas town who is bitten by a beautiful vampire. Now turned, he must live amongst a group of drifter vampires and learn how to cope with the creature he is becoming.
One of the big reasons this film doesn’t stand out on any one’s horror list is because people forget that it exists. Even I did not know of it’s existence until fellow Box Office Boredom.com writer The Mike brought it to my doorstep. The film came out right about the same time as the film, The Lost Boys, a vampire film with a similar plot and much bigger stars (Kiefer Sutherland, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman and “Grandpa from the Gilmore Girls”). The Lost Boys came out within a month of release of Near Dark, and went on to be the theatrical success. Reasons for this can be attributed to the star power of the two Coreys but could also be because Near Dark was put out by DEG Entertainment, a distributor that went belly up shortly after their strong marketing push for Near Dark.
What I really liked about Near Dark was the arcing plot line. The story of a young man who never truly accepts that he has become a vampire made the film interesting. So many times you watch the vampire already coming to terms with his fate, or he or she has been a vampire for years. In Near Dark, the main character’s inner struggle is almost more interesting than the horror portions of the film. As he becomes this creature, he realizes he must leave his past life behind, his father and younger sister and even consider doing something he has never done before: take a human life to survive.
Bill Paxton really steals the show in this film as the crazed, out of control vampire who unofficially leads the pack with his outlandish ways. There is a somewhat violent and brutal scene in a small town bar where Paxton really shows off how crazy he can make his character become. While Paxton brings his character to life, the others play it down a bit. They are still convincing characters, but are just put to shame by Paxton’s over the top horrific charm.
What I did find was that Near Dark felt a bit slow moving and felt much longer than the 94 minute run time than it had. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film it just felt longer than 94 minutes. There are scenes that are a bit drug out that could have been trimmed. I would have also liked to have heard a bit more back story on the drifter vampires. We get hints throughout. Obviously one was turned as a boy, another a civil war veteran and his wife but we never hear much more than that. Maybe that was written that way to add more mystery and intrigue but I thought it would have added to the story and the characters had we known more.
Should you plan your next movie night with a copy of Near Dark? Well if you love modern day vampire movies put this on your list. It’s missing the seductive, caped, fanged creature aspect but it brings to life a hipper, scarier vampire. It’s got a bit of 80’s cheese (not much though) some blood, and a great storyline. As far as a film goes, it’s not a film for everyone. Horror and thriller fans I think will truly enjoy this twisted tale, others will care less.