Near Dark: The Night Is So Bright It’ll Blind You

Published on September 29th, 2010 in: Halloween, Horror, Movie Reviews, Movies |

By Jemiah Jefferson

Near Dark was released in 1987, the same year that The Lost Boys came out and stole all its thunder. Unfortunately for Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire film, it was the last one produced under the DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, which went bankrupt almost immediately after Near Dark had finished production, and thus was robbed of a proper publicity process.

I certainly had never heard of it by the time it came on cable (Cinemax, probably) when I was 16, whereas I’d seen The Lost Boys in the theater. I avidly watched The Lost Boys, another cable staple, crushing very hard on the beauty of Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric, and seriously digging the slash-worthy homoerotic tension between their characters, and yet even then I got the sense that Near Dark was the superior film, much darker, more complex, bloodier, and Corey-free.

Adrian Pasdar as Caleb

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who finally won a Best Director Academy Award for The Hurt Locker, managed to crib half the cast of then-husband James Cameron’s Aliens, and I’ll get some flak for saying this, but they are at least as good here as they were in Cameron’s film. There’s a certain sense of freedom to their performances in Near Dark. The stakes don’t seem to be as high; the atmosphere isn’t as hysterical. In Aliens, their characters are prey; in Near Dark, they are the predators. (And in both, Bill Paxton gets the best lines in the movie.)

The first shot is a macro close-up of a mosquito on skin; almost immediately the skeeter gets slapped and smashed, creating a corona of blood. The second shot provides us with the countenance of Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), all cowboyed out with boots, hat, cigarette, and attitude. It’s sundown, and Caleb is in his truck, seemingly prepared to discover new territories. Still, he’s na├»ve, cocky, and terribly young; he has no idea of the nightmare that awaits him, packaged up in the tight little body of a teenage girl.

Near Dark was also well-known among a lot of my gothy, horror-movie-loving teenage pals, and all of them held Caleb in contempt because of his seeming stupidity and soft-heartedness. For a long time, playing along, I too thought he was a dumb hick, but I couldn’t help but be compelled by his extraordinary beauty, almost out of place in the dusty, white-trash Southwestern setting.

He is too beautiful for this scene, as is Mae (Jenny Wright), who looks more like an Andy Warhol muse than a down-home country gal. The two are extraordinary, sticking out like the proverbial “sunflowers against a tarred fence.” Caleb mutters under his breath that he wishes he was a “million miles away from here.” He’s ready. He wants to get out. And when Mae shows up with a delectable-looking cone of soft-serve, he swoops in with his own predatory intensity. He’s not so stupid, not so dull. He’s just in over his head, that’s all.

mae and caleb
Mae (Jenny Wright) and Caleb (Adrian Pasdar)

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4 Responses to “Near Dark: The Night Is So Bright It’ll Blind You”

  1. Jo:
    September 30th, 2010 at 8:40 am

    A really great piece on a very underrated film – thank you. I must buy this on DVD.

  2. Popshifter:
    September 30th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I was a TOTAL “Lost Boys” fan when it was out. It was actually the first R-rated movie I saw in the theater since my parents were pretty strict about that sort of thing.

    I heard about “Near Dark” around the same time, but I don’t know why I never managed to see it until just last year. It is such an excellent film!


  3. Popshifter » A Nocturnal Nomad: Near Dark With Lance Henriksen:
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    September 29th, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    […] else. I was also heavily influenced by movies, particularly the sexual menace of The Lost Boys and Near Dark, and later by my favorite vampire film, […]

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