Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Month of Terror: Near Dark (1987)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen

"You see those stars up there? They'll burn out in about a billion years. And you know what the sad thing is? I'll still be here when they do. In a billion years."

Artful and atmospheric, this is a great flick that I am sad I hadn't seen already. Near Dark is one of those old 80s classics that just gets everything right, with a hearty blend of horror, romance and vampire mysticism coming together for something sorrowful and bleak, but also quite beautiful.

Most vampire movies just go for gore and cheap smut, but this one actually takes the time to have some awesome directing that unfolds into an incredibly captivating story. I love how it just jumps right into the action from the start, without really any build up at all, and just keeps you hooked with every turn. Finally we have a movie that doesn’t feel the need to oversaturate us with pointless drawn-out crap introducing everything. Sometimes just jumping in is the best way to go – same as swimming. He’s on the road, he picks up the girl, and the movie gets going. Nothing else is necessary here.

At first it's a rather sad romance that turns twisted when the girl impulsive Caleb picks up bites him, but as the film goes on it cycles through several other emotions and movements from scary to action packed, all while flowing so well that it feels like half its actual runtime. The trials Caleb has to take to prove himself to the vampire cult can be taken as some kind of coming-of-age message, but it's not forced and is actually relatively in the background, so you can enjoy this just as a great vampire story or as a meaningful, implicating tale.

Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton kick up a storm as the two main antagonists, and by contrast, Jenny Wright is captivatingly beautiful and heartachingly tragic. The characters are all really well done in general. You don’t ever learn about any of their backstories, but you really get a sense of them through their expressions, actions, etc., and it’s all very powerful. You can see a ton of pain and longing in Jenny Wright’s eyes – you get the sense she’s a character who’s had a lot of terrible things happen to her, lost a lot of people, doesn’t want it to happen again, despite her natural urges. Very human, very intricate.

I don't know how this will hold up on future viewings, but as it stands, Near Dark is a great film, running the gamut of emotions and crafting a unique and thought provoking movie out of a subject that was already rather trite even back then. The characters are interesting even though you know almost nothing about them, the directing is incredible, the setting is awesome with the whole dirty, run-down Western feel (wish more movies would do this in modern settings), the action is cool…it’s just an all around winner of a movie. This is up there with Let the Right One In as one of the best vampire movies ever. Go see it if you haven't. This is probably the most poignant and meaningful movie I’m going to review this month. A horror movie for the ages.