Near Dark (1987)


(director/writer: Kathryn Bigelow; screenwriter: Eric Red; cinematographer: Adam Greenberg; editor: Howard E. Smith; music: Tangerine Dream; cast: Adrian Pasdar (Caleb Colton), Jenny Wright (Mae), Lance Henriksen (Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton (Severen), Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback), Tim Thomerson (Loy Colton), Joshua Miller (Homer), Marcie Leeds (Sarah Colton); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Steven-Charles Jaffe/Eric Red; Anchor Bay; 1987)

“One of the better vampire films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Talented British woman action director Kathryn Bigelow (“K-19: The Widowmaker”/”Blue Steel”), cowriter with co-producer Eric Red, sets a new look modern-day vampire story in the rural American Southwest and makes it comical, scary, fresh and memorable as a horror film about lost youth. This is Bigelow’s solo debut as director, in 1982 she co-directed with Monty Montgomery a dull road movie called “The Loveless.”

Bored nice guy small-town Oklahoma farmboy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) comes to town in his pickup truck at night and gets the hots for a new sweetie in town, Mae (Jenny Wright), who is licking an ice cream cone under a streetlamp. Caleb says to her, “Sure ain’t met any girls like you,” to which Mae retorts: “No, you sure haven’t.” They go for a drive in the country in his pickup and she’s anxious to get home before dawn. But Caleb won’t take Mae home before she kisses him. Turns out Mae is one of those darn vampires (never called that in the film, however) and bites our boy in the neck. A sickened Caleb, starting to burn in the sunlight, stumbles home in the early morning across the wheat field, but before he reaches his dad (Tim Thomerson) and adolescent sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds) he’s snatched by Mae’s vagabond evil vampire gang into their car and driven to their rural Kansas hideout. Vampire leader Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), who has been around since fighting for the Rebs in the Civil War, gives Mae’s lover boy, who only seems to be half vampire, a week to make a kill and prove he’s one of them or else he’ll be eliminated. The other undead members include Jesse’s hot babe Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein); the very violent black leather motorcycle jacketed Severen (Bill Paxton), who gets his thrills by slitting the throats of rednecks with his spur; and an adolescent perverted boy named Homer (Joshua Miller).

Caleb is now forced to travel with these evil soulless nomads as they go every night on killing binges, and who are forced to seek darkness before daylight or risk getting fried. In the meantime, doomed lovers Caleb and Mae begin a real love affair amidst all this mayhem. The action intensifies when Caleb’s dad and sis track him down in a Kansas motel and Caleb has to choose between both blood families.

Bigelow frames the bloody horror story as a contemporary Western noir, and the vampires are never called out for being vampires but for being Old West outlaws or Depression-era bank robbers. It’s one of the better vampire films, as it comes loaded for bear with a torrid pace, some high-voltage action scenes, high style, a lyrical love story and a classy droll wit.