Wednesday, April 6, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 06 - Your favorite vampire movie

Normally, when one thinks of a vampire film, they think of the classic gothic tale of Dracula, with its foreboding castles, flowing capes, European accents, and symbolically erotic bloodletting. Near Dark, however, presents a new vampire. Gone are the days of garlic, holy water, coffins, and stakes. In fact, the script doesn’t contain the word vampire once. It’s a very eclectic movie. Is it a western? Is it a Romeo and Juliet romance? Is it a family drama? Is it a bloodsucking horror flick? The answer is yes.

The vampires in Near Dark aren’t pretty or aristocratic, and they sure as hell don’t sparkle. They are a roving band of outlaws. They are violent, gritty, and brutal. They aren’t pining for lost loves or planning to take anything over, they’re just surviving and enjoying the kill. A small town boy named Caleb meets a girl named Mae one night. One thing leads to another, and she ends up biting him during a make out session. As he slowly becomes a vampire, he is taken by Mae’s “family” a merry band of night stalkers. Traveling with them, he must kill to prove himself, while his real family searches for him. Torn between the two worlds, Caleb must decide if his love for Mae is worth embracing a murderous live on the run.

The acting in this flick is absolutely superb. We have an Aliens reunion, as Lance Henriksen (Jesse), Bill Paxton (Severen), and Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback) reunite and are joined by Joshua Miller, who you might remember from Halloween 3 and Class of 1999, to form Mae’s family. The chemistry between the 3 James Cameron alumni makes the family dynamic utterly believable. Lance Henriksen is one of my favorite actors of all time. I’ve watched a lot of crappy movies just because he was in them. Personally, I think this is tied with Pumpkinhead as his greatest performance. He and the rest of the family, including the underrated Miller, exude the smirking malice you would imagine a gang of blood guzzling gunslingers would. Jenny Wright brings her usual quirky charm to the role of Mae, but manages to underlay it with predatory menace. As the young man struggling with being turned into a monster and having his life torn apart by his love for a girl (isn’t that the way it always happens?), Adrian Pasdar hits all the right beats.

Anyone who has seen this film cannot be at all surprised that Kathryn Bigelow went on to win a best director Oscar later in her career. Her attention to detail and knack for unique visuals was apparent at this early stage. Bigelow and Eric Red also crafted a taut, suspenseful script. The fact that so much of the film takes place at either dawn or twilight lends the film the hazy, semi-dreamlike quality of that brief nowhere land between day and night. The backdrop of the dusty American southwest is great, conveying the desolate nature and wild west sensibilities of the action. The action scenes themselves are masterfully shot. Keeping sunlight as the one traditional vampire killer was a great idea, enabling the classic police shootout scene. The infamous bar scene is worth the price of admission alone. For the benefit of those of you who haven’t seen it (what the hell is wrong with you?), the less I say about that scene the better. Suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen it, prepare to watch what can happen when a horror action sequence is done to perfection.

Near Dark was a film ahead of its time. When it was released in 1987, audiences really didn’t know what to make of it and it didn’t do well at the box office. It came out shortly after The Lost Boys, which was a big hit, so apparently the MTV crowd wanted their updated vampires slick and pretty, as opposed to dark and realistic. Had this movie come out 5 or even 10 years later, I think the audience would have embraced it. Despite its box office troubles, it has become a revered cult classic and home video staple for good reason. Two severed thu…WAIT A MINUTE! One more thing before I’m done. I gotta rant for a sec. This really pissed me off. About 2 years ago I was walking through Walmart, browsing the DVD’s, and I saw Near Dark on the shelf. Cool. The cover, however, wasn’t the classic one I’d seen a million times. It had a new one, and something about it bothered me. Here’s the old and new covers.

Then it dawned on me. THEY GAVE IT A TWILIGHT COVER!!!

You see what I’m talking about? The best vampire film since Christopher Lee hung up his cape is being repackaged to appeal to preteen girls? This film is too intelligent for the Twihards. It’s too violent and uncompromising. The depth of character development and excellent acting would be completely lost on the fang-bangers. I know making a buck is important, and I know there’s a love story in this vampire flick, but come on! There have been a million goth-romance vampire flicks you can rebrand for the Twatlight crowd, don’t sully the reputation and legacy of a masterpiece. They don’t want authentic emotion, they just want their actors to look bored and constipated. These bloodsuckers aren’t pretty, and they aren't supposed to be. Let the little girls have their sanitized vampires, and leave the great vampire classics alone. Screw Team Edward and Team whatever the other guy’s name is. TEAM SEVEREN BABY!

Ok, sorry ‘bout that. As I was saying, two severed (Severen?) thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.


Anonymous said...

As a vampire-lover, I can't believe this film went under my radar. I love almost all vampire films -- yes, even the Twilight series -- and will definitely be adding this one to my list of must-sees :)

Patricia said...

most definitely will check it out!

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