Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Near Dark Review

It's a really difficult thing to explain, how one film can succeed in this regard and another can completely fail, but part of what makes Near Dark so delicious is its setting, the landscapes these characters occupy. It can't be easy, trying to deliver a part horror, part western genre blend like Kathryn Bigelow does so effectively here and the reason it works is because the picture never feels like it's filmed on a calculated and constructed Hollywood set piece. Despite telling a story revolving around vampires, Near Dark always maintains at least a hint of realism thanks to the fact that I could practically feel the dust and dirt on my skin as I watched. 

The photography throughout is aces, a unique atmosphere captured by Adam Greenberg as he manages to make the typical western terrain feel cold and lifeless, which is appropriate given the subject and state of the characters in the film. While the score is perfect for 1987, the year in which Near Dark was released, the work of Tangerine Dream continues to suit the material perfectly and honestly I think my recent infatuation with the brand new horror beauty It Follows aided in my affection of the music here. Essentially now I want all of my horror to be carried forward with the nightmarish tones of a synthesizer. 

I won't lie, I have become weary of vampires as the central piece in both television and cinema over the past number of years but Near Dark transcends any issues I may have had going in. I love the way Bigelow humanizes the characters rather than present them as mere monsters. I actually found myself viewing Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and the rest of the traveling team of vampires as drug addicts rather than fictional creatures that literally suck the blood out of their victims, and I can't help but wonder if this really was a metaphor attempted in the film. Even the most ridiculous members of their group, like Severen (played memorably by Bill Paxton) manage to feel like actual people rather than the cartoonish concept of what a vampire is, lurking only in the shadows quietly looking to fulfill a craving. These characters are fun and interesting and in some cases continues to display an understanding of what it means to have a moral compass, and I was really able to connect with the movie because of this. 

A concern I always have for watching an 80's horror film for the first time is that the tone and material will feel dated, and in some ways this is an issue in Near Dark like some of the costume design that was clearly appealing to an audience then but seems completely silly now. I didn't let any of this bother me though because in every other way this is a genre film that continues to flourish decades later. 

Near Dark not only felt alive and memorable in 2015, I feel like I need to shower after watching despite being totally clean. Job well done, Kathryn Bigelow. Job well done.



  1. I remember watching this in a college film class on a section on female directors. I don't remember specific details, but I generally remember liking it. Of course, I always love me some vampires too.

    1. yeah I bet you would still like it now, perhaps even more. It's real good.

      I don't have a problem with vampires in general, but they just felt so played out. Which is why it is an even bigger compliment when I can watch something these days and still feel like it is fresh and interesting.

    2. My enjoyment of vampire stories started with the Anne Rice books. She changed vampires from old Hollywood villains to emotionally tortured individuals. Of course that has been taken to another level recently. I have never seen or read anything Twilight, but I think I have dodged a bullet with that one.

    3. I watched roughly 65 percent of the first Twilight movie. I got to a part in which the vampires were outside during the day (apparently this was okay because it was cloudy?) and they were playing vampire baseball. Just a bunch of teenage vamps playing baseball.

      I got up, left the room and looked for chores to do. Dishes were more entertaining.