Thursday, October 25, 2007


There are not too many women making testosterone loaded genre pictures, but one out there is James Cameron's ex-wife and former producer Katherine Bigelow. She has a spotty resume at best. There was that failed Harrison Ford submarine movie, K-19: The Widowmaker or the almost but not quite good Strange Days, a drug addiction murder mystery that was driven on pre-millenium tension. The boys behind Hot Fuzz certainly brought out the love for the glorious dunderheaded Point Break earlier this year. Near Dark, Bigelow's debut film from 1987 is definitely Katherine Bigelow's and one of my personal favorite vampire flicks. It is gritty and shocking and gloriously organic.

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 blinkering 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. The playful eroticism of the many european takes is replaced by raw, shamless need. Exposure to sunlight for these vampires causes their skin to smoke before catching fire in a way that is both organic and odorous. 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.

Cameron favorite Bill Paxton takes his jock Marine character from Aliens to a whole new level. This is probably his most showy, but also his best role on film and he gets to act along side his old co-stars here the husband wife team of Lance Henrikson (superb as ever) and Jenette Goldstein.

Curiously, it is the love of the Father (Beloved B-character actor Tim Thomerson in a straight and well acted role) 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. All in all it's a film that has aged very, very well in the now 20 years since its original release, and certainly worth visiting in the days leading up to All Hallows Eve.


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