Today I watched Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987)
Vampire films have had their ups and downs over the years, though the Eighties was a real peak time for them. Near Dark takes the vampire concept and transplants it to a small American farming town. The story follows Caleb, played by Adrian Pasdar, the son of a veterinarian who meets a young woman while out at night. Unfortunately for him, she is a vampire, but she takes a liking to him and turns him into one of her kind. Caleb is then introduced to her ‘family,’ a group of vampires who hunt together, but they don’t trust Caleb and don’t think he will become one of them. Will he give up on his humanity and become a hunter of the night like them? Or can he overcome this tragic existence?
The eighties style of vampire film really focused on the characters who were vampires. They are painted as tragic victims of some kind of disease, but as their unlife goes on they become more and more comfortable in their murderous nature. This film follows that basic premise but the unique setting sets it apart favourably from its peers. I spent many formative years in small town communities like the ones present in this film and I felt the way Bigelow infuses it with horror is creative and fun. This is also one of those films that inflicts Stockholm Syndrome upon the audience, the vampire characters are terrible people who toy with their human prey in a most sadistic way, yet they are well fleshed out and because they are on screen so often I found it difficult not to feel for them in the end.
This is a gruesome film, both in the bloodiness of it, but also in much implied emotional brutality. One of the vampire family was turned as a child and his behaviour in the climax is pretty sick and disturbing if you think about it. The power of the work is really in a few key performances, Bill Paxton plays the most kill happy of the vampires with terrifying glee and Lance Henriksen portrays the pariarch of their band, a quietly terrifying and intense performance as is normal for Henriksen. If you like character driven tragedy horror, as vampire films of this era tended to be, or vampire films in general, this is most certainly one that impressed me. 5/5