Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Horror Fest #16: NEAR DARK

It's about time to counter all the Twilight bullshit. Vampires that sparkle and don't suck blood? Are you kidding me?? Do me a favor: if you're over the age of 13 and read these books or go to see these movies, find a knife and run into it. Repeatedly.

Here's a real vampire movie, one of the new that don't mince around. Near Dark is bleak, visceral and unrelenting. No prancing Euro-trash fems here; despite the word "vampire" never being spoken, these bloodsuckers are the real deal. All thirst and no remorse. When a small-town Texas teen runs into a pretty girl one night, their makeout session doesn't exactly turn out all too well. Soon he's looking more pale than usual and has a real problem with sunlight. The girl's traveling dysfunctional brood reluctantly takes him into their fold, and the blood flows.

The theme of vampirism as a metaphor for addiction has been explored before and after this film, but Near Dark is by far the best example of it. Falling in with bad people, the cop at the bus station cornering Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) to see "what he's on", abandoning of the family - it all fits. The desolate rural Texas setting amplifies the atmosphere; overbearing sunlight during the day keeps the "family" in dark corners and limits most travel to cold, lonely nights.

Bill Paxton is at his best when he's playing either an asshole or a psychopath; as the maniacal wild-card Severin, he's both. It's a wonder that a vampire so off his rocker is still going after 100+ years. Lance Henriksen doesn't usually play the bad guy, but as the leader of the brood here he does it perfectly. Charming and humorous, but remorseless and ultimately a dead end for anyone that crosses his path.

Like all great horror films, this one is driven by the strength of its characters. It even has some morals to it - Caleb's love for his family leads to his salvation. Director Kathryn Bigelow has had a limited but excellent career; after this she went on the direct Point Break, K:19 - The Widowmaker and this year's The Hurt Locker, by far the best film made yet about the Iraq War. Apparently a Near Dark remake is in the works, but until then enjoy this one. The best vampire movie of the last thirty years.

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