I first heard about Near Dark when I was watching an interview of Quentin Tarantino where he talked about his first meeting with Kathryn Bigelow and how he couldn’t stop asking her about it. And I can see why. This is the first vampire movie I’ve seen where the word ‘vampire’ is never uttered, not even once. There are moments where you think somebody is on the verge of saying that word but they don’t. They save that for later but we never get to see that “later”. At one point the protagonist Caleb (Adrian Pasdar from Heroes) senses that his kid sister is eager to know what really happened to him and he tells her that he’ll explain everything to her one day when the time is right. He doesn’t want to tell her a story about how a blonde girl called May (Jenny Wright), who happens to be a vampire, bit him a couple of nights ago and turned him into one as well. All this happened because he was thinking with his dick instead of his brain.
Caleb ended up in this situation because he was too desperate to find a girlfriend. The minute he sees her standing on the sidewalk all by herself licking on an ice cream cone, he couldn’t control himself and every pickup line that comes out of his mouth belong in a B-movie. But she falls for him anyway. She takes advantage of a make out session to turn him into one of “them”. Here, “them” refers to a group of vampires led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen), Severen (Bill Paxton), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and Homer (Joshua John Miller). Although initially apprehensive of his inclusion in the group, they take him on and make him aware of his newfound powers. The most standout sequence belongs to Paxton, who completely overshadows everyone else. Paxton is a terrific actor but this is one movie where he really got to shine, more than the others. He was totally on fire here. Watch out for the bar scene where he goes into full on psycho mode and it’s so much fun to see him terrify the shit out of the bar owner and the few patrons who picked that particular night to go out and have a drink.
Do not go into Near Dark expecting a vampire movie with some depth because this is not that sort of movie. If you want depth, I might point you to Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre or F.W Murnau’s original Nosferatu. Bigelow’s film is nothing but pure, unadulterated fun. It has so much style and attitude and all this comes as a result of Bigelow’s unique vision and kinetic direction, a talented cast, stupendous cinematography and an atmospheric background score by Tangerine Dream. Most of the film takes place at night (duh) and this looks like a vampire movie made by Michael Mann. As with any other Bigelow film, you can see her fascination with macho characters on display here too. Not to mention a couple of well-shot action sequences. Paxton, Henriksen, and Goldstein appeared in James Cameron’s Aliens the previous year and in one scene, you can see Aliens being shown in a movie theatre. There is a scene where Henriksen gets shot and he spits out the bullet and shoves it into the pocket of the man who just shot him. Near Dark is part Western, part noir, part road movie, part romance movie and part chase thriller.