An Atmospheric Boy-Meets-Undead-Girl Tale

Film #16:  Near Dark (1987)
Director:  Kathryn Bigelow

near-dark3In 1987 a movie was released about a handsome young man who falls in with a “family” of vampires, drawn in by his attraction to a lovely young female vampire. I just watched that movie for the first time.

No, not that one. Not The Lost Boys. The other vampire movie of 1987:  Near Dark.

It’s hard not to compare those two movies, what with the similar premise and their oh-so-80s scores. But that’s where the similarities end. The Lost Boys is a teen movie, in a good way. It’s all attractive young stars and Cali settings. It’s scary, but not too scary. Violent, but not too violent.

Near Dark is actually, indisputably dark. Farm boy Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) has no idea what he’s in for when he approaches angelic looking Mae (Jenny Wright) at a local hangout. He learns a valuable lesson that all young men should take to heart, though.

No means no. When a young woman asks for a ride home, don’t hold her hostage in your truck demanding a kiss. That kiss, reluctantly given, turns into a bite – and nothing will ever be the same for Caleb.

It’s not long before Caleb is brought into the not-so-welcoming bosom of Mae’s family. The group is led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen, cadaverous as always), old enough to have fought on the losing side in the Civil War. His partner is Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), the matriarch of the group. Homer (Joshua Miller) is an old, corrupted soul trapped in a child’s body. The real villain in this group of bloodsuckers is Severen, played by Bill Paxton with the demented energy he brought to many of his early roles.

If Caleb is going to be accepted into this tribe, he will have to kill to survive. But does he have it in him to become a ruthless predator?

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) gives Near Dark a grim, spare atmosphere that is part Western, part film noir. There are gaps in the logic of the movie, but its characters are compelling, the bursts of violence are genuinely nightmarish, and – as in all great vampire movies – the darkness is seductive.


Bonus Pick: City of God (2003)
Director:  Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund

city of god posterMeirelles and Lund adapted Paul Lins’ novel about a boy growing up in a Brazilian favella into a vibrant, color-soaked, dynamic film.  Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) watches his friends drift into the gangs who rule Rio de Janeiro’s slums, but finds  his own passion in photography.  Although set in a world where is cheap, City of God and its characters are most definitely alive.