By Mark Arson, Contributing Writer
What would humans do if they could live forever if only they avoided one thing? They would likely brush as close against it as possible, over and over again, because it’s part of human nature. The vampires of NEAR DARK are constantly out late (which in this case might qualify as early, indeed, Near Dawn might have been a more appropriate title) and catching on fire in the early morning sun. Not to worry, these particular vampires can recover from their burn wounds if they find cover before exploding, and crosses and stakes don’t even figure into the equation.
This isn’t a typical vampire movie; it’s actually more of a western, punctuated by scruffy drifters, lawmen, shootouts, and an obligatory (let’s kill everyone in the) bar scene, which lasts a brutal 10 minutes (a LONG TIME in movie terms). Our protagonist, in the standard role of “the new guy” (in this case “new vampire”), is Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar), brought into the flock by Mae (a stunning Jenny Wright), whom he picked up at a gas station, young love quickly turning into something much less innocent. The other vampires don’t accept him right away, particularly the rabid Severen (Bill Paxton) and the head of the “family,” Jesse (the always great Lance Henriksen). In fact, Caleb never quite seems to fit in, since he’s a “good kid” at heart (i.e. not great vampire material), a unique twist on the outsider’s perspective that drives most vampire films; here the outsider is the one who isn’t a cold-blooded killer.
Before long, Caleb’s family is in pursuit, complications ensue, and it’s vampires afire all over again. Helmed by future Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER), NEAR DARK is not just an atypical vampire movie, it’s also an atypical ’80s movie. It is dark to be sure (of course), but neon is practically nonexistent, owing to it’s decaying suburban Midwestern setting, the same type of setting that became such a compelling backdrop for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN years later. In fact, the most ’80s thing about the film is the minimalist electronic score by Tangerine Dream, and one would be hard pressed to find a better sonic backdrop for the cold, bleak existence of a pack of vampires. When things are finally resolved at the end of the film, there is a simple solution, in line with the simple vampire mythology at play. Of course, the mythology is only simple because the real story is about how complicated it is to be human, no matter how cut-and-dried the circumstances are. That, and vampires on fire.
Click here to watch the trailer.