Sunday, October 30, 2005

DVD: Near Dark

Genre: Vampires
Released: 1987
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Verdict: &&&1/2

Of the vampire movies that eschew capes, coffins and crosses, the nearly forgotten Near Dark is one of the more admirable efforts. In a last-minute shuffling of our pre-Halloween gathering movie choice, this 1987 gem supplanted The Ring Two (which I've been looking forward to seeing again for months, but whatever. Got to keep the peace.). I had thought this movie was from the '90s, and you'd be hard pressed to date it by the costuming and general look. The atmospheric Tangerine Dream music, however, does have a synthy '80s sensibility. Director/screenwriter Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Point Break, Wild Palms) does nothing especially revolutionary with her modern bloodsuckers tale, but it is a gripping and, at times, quite funny take on the postmodern vampire. It was an inspired move to set the action in the rural American Southwest, allowing beautiful landscapes to complement the tale of young Caleb (Adrian Pasdar, star of the 1996 TV series Profit), who picks up the wrong girl – turns out she has an affinity for intense neck kisses. He is unwittingly drawn into the fold of a roving band of vampires portrayed by notable names such as Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton. It's both humorous and sort of Mad Max to see them cruising about the dry landscape in a motor home. A quick vignette of scenes shows us the vampires on the prowl: One, a child (a nod to Anne Rice?), pretends to have a bike crash on a dark street so he can attack his rescuer. A great scene in a bar mixes the vampires with the colorful locals with humorous and gruesome results. Plot developments center on Caleb's family tracking him down, his attraction to the vampire who turned him and his struggle to overcome his resistance to kill, which he must do in order to survive. A blood transfusion figures into the resolution, which is a little too easy, but the movie never descends into silliness or gratuitous gore. For anyone interested in portrayals of vampires in the modern world, Near Dark has a surprising and mostly satisfying bite. // DVD notes // The special edition boasts a dts soundtrack and a second disc of extras.

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