Wednesday, October 31, 2012
In 1987 Joel Schumacher's seminal teenage vampire classic grew fangs and wings,"said hello to the night" landing at major box office success proving that the public "still believed" in vampires. That same year Katheryn Bigelow (Point Break, Hurt Locker) had unleashed a similar gang of rebel vamps onto the silver screen in Near Dark. Where The Lost Boys use flashy Hollywood cinematography and teenage sex appeal to tell the tale of the American nuclear family who also happen to be bloodsuckers from beyond the grave, Near Dark spins a similar yarn but with a gritty, raw, western flare, pitch black humor, and devil-may-care attitude that set it leagues apart from the usual fangfare.
Meet Caleb, a farmhand from Oklahoma who by day helps with the family farm. By night, he's like any other young red-blooded American male, just out lookin' for a good time. Along comes Mae, a mysterious and attractive young lady who has just caught the eye of young Caleb. After a flirty introduction, they decide to go for a ride in Caleb's farm truck. The couple lose track of time and Caleb mentions that it's almost dawn. She panics and pleads with Caleb to take her home before the sun rises. In a last ditch effort to finally steal a kiss from Mae, Caleb leans forward and gets more than he bargained for when Mae sinks her teeth into his neck and disappears. The next day Caleb wakes up to find a strong aversion to sunlight, so strong in fact, that it causes his skin to blister and burst into flames. He drives himself back to the family farm and just before he reaches his destination, he is abducted by a speeding RV full of hell-bent outlaws with Mae among their ranks who all have a similar disposition that requires them to keep out of direct sunlight and drink human blood to survive. The gang then explain that he has been turned and like them, in order to stay alive, he must now rove the countryside at night in search of victims whose blood he needs to sustain his own life. Caleb's reluctance to kill and his relationship with Mae cause rifts and tension within the gang, meanwhile, Caleb's father and little sister are hot on their trail in hopes of saving him. Will Caleb become one of the bloodthirsty marauders or will his father make it in time before Caleb pays the ultimate price of living fast, like a predator in the night?
Although Near Dark wasn't given the proper promotion and wide theatrical release that it deserved, it fast became a KVLT hit thanks to home video and frequent appearances on cable throughout the late 80's and early 90's. The film breathes an air of dead seriousness that most horror films of the late 80's and even today can't hold a candle to. To further illustrate this, Caleb, Mae, and the gang of outlaws are technically vampires, they drink blood, ignite in sunlight, and have superhuman strength, but, the use of long sharp fangs, and the word vampire are never used in the film. The soundtrack by Tangerine Dream and various artists, wholly embraces the isolation and of the Midwest with ironic shit-kicker blues and pop rock songs, ingeniously juxtaposed with Tangerine Dream's pulsing synth-driven dirges that help define the Faustian price of killing to live in a nocturnal world without end. The casting for Near Dark couldn't have been any better, with newcomers like Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, and Joshua John Miller matching the level of gravitas that genre vets like Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, and Tim Thomerson are well known for.
In the realm of vamp flicks, Near Dark is a true diamond in the rough. Outshined by the glitz and glamour of The Lost Boys in it's initial theatrical release, Near Dark has clawed it's way through the grave dirt of the cinematic cemetery and resurrected itself as a true KVLT force for those who haven't already offered their free arteries to the Twilight set. Near Dark is in fact the real deal. It's dark, horrific, hypnotic, two-fisted, ugly, irreverent, comes with strong dose of gallows humor, and best of all it makes no excuses. All killer, no filler and definitely no sparkles.
Fun Facts About Near Dark:
The Cramps cover of, "Fever", can be heard when the gang enters the roadhouse near the middle of the film.
Lance Henriksen actually designed his own costume for the character of Jesse Hooker.
For the role of Caleb, Johnny Depp, and D.W. Sweeney auditioned but Adrian Pasdar got the role.
Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein, had just finished shooting Aliens with James Cameron who at the time, was dating Near Dark Director Katheryn Bigelow. Near Dark, being a lower to mid level budget studio picture, the pay margin was substantially lower than it was on Aliens, but Henriksen, Paxton, and Goldstein agreed to do the film because they loved the script and characters so much.
On a theater marquee in the background, James Cameron's sci-fi action hit, Aliens, can be seen.
THE NIGHT HAS IT'S PRICE