As Halloween approaches, we horror fans often feel compelled to embrace the scary movies we loved so much as children. One of mine was (and is) Near Dark, the vampire cult classic that was released three decades ago on October 2, 1987. The film directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker 2008, Point Break 1991) who also wrote the movie alongside Eric Red (Body Parts 1991, Bad Moon 1996).
This twisted film takes us on a dark ride through the days and nights of a group of nasty vampires on a wild, Winnebago ride to Hell and back.
Near Dark stars the late Bill Paxton as the unforgettable and eternally evil Severen, Lance Henriksen as Jesse, the leader, and Jesse’s wife, the tough as nails, fearless and sexy Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein). Homer (Joshua Miller) is a bitter, old man trapped in a young boy’s body, and Mae (Jenny Wright) is an ancient vampire in the guise of a beautiful, innocent looking teenage girl.
Out one evening on the hunt for her next kill, Mae meets Caleb (Adrian Pasder), a young cowboy in a desert/farming community bar that exists in the middle of nowhere. The pair are immediately smitten, and their fate is sealed with a bite to Caleb’s neck. Unaware of exactly what Mae really is and what he’s becoming, Caleb becomes desperately ill while trying to get back to his father and young sister. He nearly makes it but is snatched up by the vampire family before he can. Now, he must either commit to being with Mae and her group as a desperate, blood-thirsty killer, or save his own humanity and return to his family, if he even can.
Near Dark is not your typical vampire movie. The bloodsucking family are basically homeless, living for each night and whatever blood they can find, as they exist in a nihilistic, violent and destructive world of their own creation. They know they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and they enjoy it. Their evil ways are displayed many times throughout the film, most notably in a scene that takes place in a biker bar which is almost too intense to watch… I love that scene!
The film is shot rather simplistically, which I believe leads to a more raw viewing experience. There isn’t much fluff, and not much if anything is known about the history of the characters or why they are involved. Near Dark is just not the type of film to give a damn, and it gives you what you want, no holds barred.
Despite being reviewed well by critics, Near Dark didn’t fare well at the box office. But as is often the case, numbers don’t seem to matter and the movie has become a cult classic sensation.
Some notable quotes from the film, at least to me because I laugh every time, mainly come from Severon. His first line in the film is directed toward Caleb after he is pulled into the family’s clutches. “Now I’m gonna separate your head from your shoulders… hope ya don’t mind none,” he sneers as he overpowers Caleb’s trembling body. “What’s going on? What’s coming off your face?!?” So simple, so horrid, and so amazing, as is the film.
Near Dark has a very basic 1980s vibe to it and was released at a time when the resurgence of the vampire genre was in effect. The Lost Boys premiered that same year and was a massive critical success. In the same vain as Near Dark, that movie was about a group of rowdy young punk vampires living in a nihilistic world they ruled, but unlike The Lost Boys, Near Dark does not have the cute boy appeal of Keifer Sutherland or Jason Patric, or the beautiful damsel in distress attraction of Jami Gertz, or the good time feel that the Coreys may have brought. Needless to say, Near Dark did not have the production value of The Lost Boys. Near Dark is The Lost Boys’ angrier, less refined, more psychopathic younger sibling, while still containing a love story at its core, albeit a very twisted love story.
This Halloween, the more popular movies we know and love such as Halloween or Friday the 13th may be glowing from your television sets, but if you want something a little grittier, settle in with this fan favorite and, above all else, have a wonderful and terrifying holiday from us to you.