Oct. 20: Near Dark (1987):
There are lots of films that aim to demystify the vampire genre '97 at times, there seems to be more of these movies than ones that romanticize vampires. Yet, when one of these unglamorous movies, like director Kathryn Bigelow'92s Near Dark, gets it right, the results can be amazing.
Adrian Pasdar, from Heroes, plays Caleb, a young man who works on his father'92s ranch in rural Texas. One night, he meets Mae (Jenny Wright), a pretty blonde who gives oddly dreamy speeches about how the stars talk to her. The two like each other, and Caleb goes in for a kiss. Mae reciprocates a little too enthusiastically, and as Caleb stumbles home in the rising sunlight he starts to sizzle.
Before Caleb becomes a crispy critter, a Winnebago speeds by and swoops him up. Inside is Mae and her '93family,'94 the group of vampires she travels with. This family reunites three of the actors from the previous year'92s Aliens. Lance Henriksen is Jesse, a former Confederate soldier and the leader of the group. Jenette Goldstein is Diamondback, the den mother and Jesse'92s old lady. Bill Paxton is Severen, a leather jacket-wearing psycho. And Joshua Miller is Homer, a vampire stuck in the body of a 12-year-old. The group has to decide whether to kill Caleb or see if he fits in with their family.
Meanwhile, Caleb is torn between his human and inhuman sides. He needs blood to survive, of course, but he can never quite force himself to kill. He either has to live off animal blood or what Mae can give him. Meanwhile, Caleb'92s family is trying to track him down, and he must choose between his new family and his old one.
The movie is an interesting variation on the vampire genre that removes any notion of glamour from vampirism. It even removes the word '93vampire,'94 which is never uttered during the film. These characters drive around the southwest in a dirty RV with tinfoil on the windows and stay in fleabag motels. And they don'92t often bathe.
Even when the characters kill it is brutal and repulsive. They don'92t have fangs, so they have to slit throats and drink what comes out. There is a set piece in a roadhouse, in which the '93family'94 brutally attacks and kills the bar'92s patrons, and director Kathryn Bigelow (Blue Steel, Strange Days) removes any doubt in our minds whether we'92re supposed to think these characters are sexy.
In fact, the characters in Near Dark often seem more like junkies. Writer Eric Red, who was also behind a few other cool '9280s genre pictures like The Hitcher and Body Parts, gives us a script that shows us vampirism as a sort of metaphor for the day-to-day, sustenance lifestyle of a drug addict without putting too fine a point on it.
There is a pretty lame plot development late in the movie, but otherwise the film is pretty relentlessly terrific. Near Dark is an interesting and exciting variation on the vampire film.
If you liked this, then check out:
'97 The Hitcher (1986): What'92s scarier that Rutger Hauer? Not much. For proof, look to this chiller, written by Near Dark'92s Eric Red, in which C. Thomas Howell plays a man driving through the West who picks up a psychopathic hitchhiker (Hauer). After he escapes the hitchhiker, Howell is stalked by Hauer and framed for his crimes. And Hauer is such an evil genius here that at times he almost seems supernatural (check out the scene in the police station). Vampires are nice, but for real chills, stick to Rutger Hauer.
'97 Body Parts (1991): Eric Red also wrote this fun little flick, which is a goofy, pulpy tale about a psychologist (Jeff Fahey) who gets an experimental arm transplant after losing one in a car wreck. When he starts getting violent impulses, Fahey finds out that the limb originally came from'85a serial killer!
'97 The Addiction (1995): If you want a vampire tale that puts its vampirism-as-addiction metaphor in neon lights (just look at the title), then check out Abel Ferrara'92s weird, moody film that stars Lili Taylor and features a nifty cameo by Christopher Walken in full weirdo mode.