Sunday, February 08, 2009

Near Dark

Title: Near Dark (1987)
Dir: Kathryn Bigelow
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

Good vampire films are hard to come by, which is all the more reason that I'm an idiot for not having seen Near Dark sooner. Here we have a classically 80s, badass horror/action movie with three, yes, THREE alumni of Aliens. Including Bill Paxton in one of his greatest performances.

One night at the bar, Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) picks up a mysterious woman, who subsequently bites him and turns him into a vampire. After hours of suffering the effects of vampirism, he is found by the woman's family of crazy vampires. They try to initiate him into their wicked ways, but he resists. Without blood, he becomes weak and painful, but cannot bring himself to kill. When the vampire gang threatens his human family, Caleb must take on the superhuman, homicidal maniacs himself.

Despite my hatred for Rob Zombie movies, I actually am a fan of crazy film families. The vampires in this are a great example of the type I love. For one thing, they are treated as villains, as they rightfully should be. They are not glorified - they are monsters. Fun to watch, sure, but beasts all the same. Secondly, all the actors are great. Lance Hendrickson plays the sadistic patriarch, and Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez!) is his wife. They have this fascinating mad-love quality where you just know they take romantic baths in blood.

And of course, we have Paxton as the loose cannon of the group. He wears spurs to slit throats. Which rules. He especially shines during the infamous bar scene, where he torments a whole room of pub patrons to the tune of The Cramps' "Fever" cover. It's hard to imagine anything better than "Game over, man!" or "Take her! Take her!" but Paxton truly owns this movie.

I was not sold on Near Dark's ending at first, but it has grown on me. It feels a bit like a cop-out, but I understand there really was no other way it could have ended, without being a total downer. So I'll let it slide.

I could have used a little more bloodshed in the film, I'm not gonna lie, but it was pretty good. The CGI is a little weak, but considering it was 1987, I definitely forgive it. The movie works pretty good as an off-beat romance, too. And it's an effective (yet subtle) allegory for 80s cultural crises such as AIDS and drug addiction. Well played, Bigelow!