Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Screenplay: Eric Red and Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Janette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua Miller, Marcie Leeds
Running Time: 95 minutes
Genre: Horror, action, supernatural
Summary: Oklahoma: One night Caleb Cotton (Pasdar) meets Mae (Wright), an attractive young drifter. There is a real attraction between them and, after some flirting, he tries to kiss her, but instead she bites his neck and runs off. Caleb starts to feel severely sick, and the sun causes his flesh to smoke and burn. As he heads home to his vetinerian father, Loy (Thomerson) and young sister Sarah (Leeds), Caleb is abducted by Mae's "family" who turn out to be a nomadic band of vampires who travel around in stolen cars and mobile homes searching for blood and trying desperately to stay one step ahead of the law and the daylight. The group is led by the charismatic Jessie Hooker (Henriksen) and his "wife" Diamondback (Goldstein), and is also made up of the callous psychopath Severen (Paxton), and Homer (Miller), who is forver trapped in the body of a child, at odds with his adult mind and drives.
Caleb tries to fit in with the group, who give him a week to prove that he deserves to be among them, or they will kill him, while Loy and Sarah travel the South in a desperate bid to rescue him.
Opinions: This film is a very effective blend of action and vampire horror. The film was originally intended by Bigelow to be a revisionist Western, but she found it diffcult to get financing for a Western movie (at that time the genre, unlike vampires, was calmly resting in peace), however, mixing it with a more commerical genre made it a far more palatable prospect for investors.
The movie, however, was a commercial failure. It was released in summer 1987 at the same time as the more comedy oriented The Lost Boys, which was far more successful and has a very similar plot.
However, reviews were strong, and this has grown into quite a major cult film. The film is beautifully shot with some impressive panoramas of the desert landscapes and glittering night-time images that evoke the romance of the vampire lifestyle. The vampires themselves are well handled. Far from the glamorous, sexy vampires that have always been so popular, these ones are grimy, dirty and perpetual outsiders. Despite some of the horrible things that they do, the vampires become weirdly likeable and almost sympathetic. Their murderous ways are more or less enforced on them by their condition, and they also genuinely care about each other. Ultimately the film is about family, the conflict between the "bad" family (the vampires) and the "good" family (Caleb's sister and father) for Caleb's soul.
Kathryn Bigelow is a brilliant action movie director and she handles the action sequences here expertly, giving them a genuine sense of excitement. The film is also well-paced. It moves fast and is empty of all unessentials. Exciting, tense and, at times, genuinely scary, this is one of the best vampire movies of the 1980s.
In one scene Caleb walks past a cinema marquee advertising Aliens (1986). Lance Henriksen, Janette Goldstein and Bill Paxton all appeared in Aliens and Kathryn Bigelow was later married to the film's director James Cameron.
"Howdy. I'm gonna seperate your head from your shoulders. Hope you don't mind none."
- Severen (Bill Paxton) makes new friends in Near Dark
Bill Paxton and Adrian Pasdar stop for a drink in Near Dark