It seems lately that vampires are all the rage. Moonlight, Twilight, Trueblood, Vampire Diaries, Blood Ties, Underworld or Cirque Du Freak, and the list goes on and on. It may surprise you to learn that vampires were actually invented before 2006. In fact, we’ve found a case of a vampire movie as far back as the 1987. I feel like a cinematic Indiana Jones here, making such an obscure theatrical discovery as a 20+ year old vampire movie, but hold onto your socks folks… In some kind of Internal Bleeding first, we bring you Near Dark.
Near Dark tells the story of Caleb (played by Heroes star Adrian Pasdar), a small town guy from Oklahoma that seems to like cruising the small town streets in his old pick up truck wearing a cowboy hat, trolling for chicks. He thinks he’s hit the jackpot when he spots a hot young thang named Mae who’s looking for a ride to meet up with some friends at a nearby trailer park. He should know that something’s up when she asks him to suddenly stop his truck so they can get out and listen to the night, but being too distracted by his boner, he instead sticks with her only to be bitten by her before she runs away into the night.
As he makes his way back home, the sun begins to break on the horizon and he feels himself getting sicker and sicker. After shambling almost the whole way home with smoke billowing out from under his jacket, a huge RV with the windows blacked out drives by and the occupants abduct him right in front of his dad Loy (Tim Thomerson) and young sister. Inside the RV are Mae, and her vampire clan that consists of Severen (Bill Paxton), and the leader Jesse (Lance Henriksen), amongst others. They drive him out to an abandoned hanger without telling him anything about what’s going on. Meanwhile, his father sets out to try to find his son, without knowing anything about his abductors.
Over the next week, Caleb is on a trial run with the group, and has to learn how to kill and to sustain himself. Unfortunately for Caleb, he isn’t cut out for the vampire lifestyle – he forms a huge bond to Mae but the others don’t hold much respect for him. They never wanted him in the first place, and they don’t think that he can earn his keep. They see him as weak, and on a couple occasions are on the verge of killing him if not for the intervention of Mae. Caleb does eventually break away from the group, but he can’t stop thinking of Mae, and those vampires can’t stop thinking about him and soon will seek their revenge.
Near Dark is a good entry into the vampire genre, and it captures all of the romanticism and violence that you’d expect to see in a vampire movie. While it is a very violent movie, most of it isn’t actually shown on screen, which I found to be a little disappointing. I expect that if they’re going to imply that something bad is going to happen, they’re at least going to give you some kind of payoff. This is a case where the payoff never comes. The few instances where you do get to see the result of the violence are satisfying, but for a movie like this it’s too few and far between.
Once scene in particular that really illustrates this is where the brood go into a small isolated hillbilly bar and end up wreaking havoc on the entire place and all the patrons inside. You’d expect the whole scene to be brutal but the worst that happens is a waitress gets her throat slit which is shown for about 3 seconds, and the bartender gets his face slashed with Severen’s spurs and then quickly slides off camera.
This is also an unconventional vampire movie in the respect that they don’t explore many of the usual defenses against vampires and the traditional “myths” about them. These vampires don’t sleep in coffins, they never get splashed with holy water, or people aren’t holding crosses up to them to keep them away. No one ever tries to attack them with silver weapons or bullets either. All this could be attributed to the people never knowing that they’re actually vampires, but it also never comes up in passing. The one thing that really effects these vampires is sunlight. If they’re exposed to the sun their skin burns, and if they stay out too long, they eventually explode into a fireball. There is also a scene where they wear dark goggles to protect their eyes but I don’t know if that means that their eyes are especially vulnerable, or they get some extra protection on their skin if they protect their eyes – that aspect is never explored.
Near Dark wasn’t as much of a horror movie as I expected, it was more of a romantic thriller in a way. It’s really an exploration of the relationship between Caleb and Mae that happens to have some extra vampirey stuff thrown in there. Even though it didn’t exactly meet my expectations, I still was very entertained throughout the 93 minute run time, and for that reason, I give Near Dark 3.5 exploding vampires out of 5.