Saturday, November 13, 2004

Near Dark

There are not too many women making testosterone loaded genre pictures. Katherine Bigalow has a spotty resume at best. Near Dark is definitely Katherine Bigelow's best film. Quick plot summary: When a good ole country-boy tries to pick up a strange and exotic woman at the local bar, he gets pulled into a weird surrogate family of vampires. They drive around in stolen vehicles with the windows spray-painted dark and prey on out-of-the-way places in Oklahoma and the neighboring States. The new country-boy vampire has trouble with killing, and things are complicated when his real family, his dad and his little sister, set off to track him down.
What sets this take on the vampire mythos apart is the following. The dusty-dry states of the American South-West with it's anonymous and mundane urban landscapes (think trucker depots and old neon) is very different from the aging velvet look to most of the classic vampire films out there. The run-down look of the vampire clan is more of that of junkies than the cliched suave aristocrat. Exposure to sunlight for these vampires causes their skin to smoke before catching fire in a way that is both organic and odourous. You can nearly smell the charred flesh coming off the screen. Then there is the famous scene where the clan takes down an isolated bar in a orgy of menace, violence and gore. Bill Paxton takes his "Hicks" character from Aliens to a whole new level. This is probably his most showy, but also his best role on film.
Curiously, it is the love of the Father for the lost son that glues the film together. Themes of family run thoughout the picture if you look past the carnage and the set-pieces.
Because my few words don't even scratch the subtext of the film, I'm going to link over to the best film-critic currently writing, Walter Chaw. His take on Near Dark, which I cannot hope to compete with, is worth a read too.


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