Forgotten Films: Near Dark (1987)
This is the 94th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
It is the end of the year and time for another Forgotten Film. One of the fun things I got for Christmas was a new TV to replace the old big tube 25 inch more than 10 year old monstrosity that I keep in the guest bedroom which is generally where I watch these films to refresh my memory. So far, the TV has resisted all my efforts to attach the DVD/VHS player to it so I had to resort to the DVR.
What to my wandering eyes should appear? Why it is an early Kathryn Bigelow film from 1987. Is this really 25 years old now? I remember it in the theaters. But then, I remember lots of films going through the theaters in the last 50 years. And it is hard to remember that Bigelow is an Academy Award winning director now with a big blockbuster film out for Christmas in Zero Dark Thirty.
This was Kathryn Bigelow’s second feature length film (following The Loveless from 1982). It has a pretty adept cast with Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker, Bill Paxton as Severen, Adrian Pasdar as Caleb, Jenny Wright as Mae, Jenette Goldstein fresh off her debut in Aliens as Pvt. Vasquez now playing Diamondback, and the ever wonderful Tim Thomerson as Loy, Caleb’s father. These were not common names on the screen in 1987 but they sure have been in the intervening time.
This is a film of white trash vampires cruising, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Caleb (Pasdar) finds Mae in a small town in Oklahoma and picks her up. Worst mistake of his life. He is looking for a wild night and she gives him one, turning him into a vampire she can call her very own. This does not endear her to her “family” of Jesse, Diamondback, Severen, and Homer (Joshua Miller), an old vampire trapped in a child’s body ala Claudia in Interview With the Vampire.
Caleb sort of likes being with the group, except he is not too keen on the killing part. For a while, they let Mae feed him from herself but to stay with the group, he is going to have to kill someone. This leads to a good old fashioned bar fight where everyone gets to kill someone except Caleb. He lets his fish get away. The police track the group down and more fireworks and bloodshed.
Meanwhile Loy and his daughter Sarah are trying to find Caleb and bring him back home. He’s not quite dead yet so he may be savable. Our vampires travel in large vehicles like a Winnebago and tend to leave a very messy fiery trail.
There are some really fun bits in the film. I really liked it a lot when I first saw it. And, as I watched it again today, I still liked it. There are some flaws. No one seems to have a sense of time. Homer and Sarah sit down to watch TV and they see the station signoff. Suddenly there is a confrontation with her dad and the time of 5 AM is mentioned and just a minute later there is bright sunlight everywhere. Another time, there is the same sort of rapid time shift. The vampires really despise the daylight and, if I were them, I would have my plans such that I do not get caught outside.
There are a couple of wild coincidences too. All in all, I still like the film. It is not perfect but it works well enough. Any film with Lance Henriksen in it playing a vampire has a lot going for it. And Bill Paxton plays it over the top. Not too far, but just about right.
There seem to be plenty of cheap copies out there on the web at the usual places. Bring your garlic, stakes, and portable sun.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.