Release Date: October 2nd, 1987
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Written by: Eric Red, Kathryn Bigelow
Music by: Tangerine Dream
Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller, Marcie Leeds, James Le Gros
Dino De Laurentiis Group, 95 Minutes
With the passing of Bill Paxton, I wanted to revisit one of my favorite roles that he played. In fact, this is my favorite Paxton character after Hudson from Aliens.
The problem with Near Dark is that other than Paxton’s great performance as the vampire Severen, there isn’t much else to really get behind.
This film is beloved by many and some have even called it one of the greatest vampire movies ever made. I disagree with that.
Near Dark is dreary and for the most part, not exciting to look at. It is a marriage between the horror and western genre and its setting makes it a dirty, dusty and desolate looking film. It is marred by pretty lackluster cinematography that doesn’t really add any life to it. Sure, it is a contemporary western with vampires, so being dark and dirty makes sense. But it doesn’t need to be nor should it be. The result is a movie that is aesthetically dull.
It also doesn’t help that the story isn’t very interesting and that things happen in it that don’t make a lot of logical sense. There are multiple times where the vampires are outside, then a minute or two later, sunlight is all of a sudden beaming in and burning them. The passage of time is nonsensical and it just exposes the film as being poorly written.
The music by Tangerine Dream is pretty awful. But even that isn’t as bad as the performance by Jenny Wright. Her acting was amateurish and it didn’t help that she had some horrible dialogue.
I do have to point out that the special effects were pretty good though. The scene where the vampire kid is burning while running down the street was well executed, especially for the time. The makeup was also well done, as well as the knife slashing and gunshot effects.
The interesting thing about this movie is that it has three actors from Aliens, which was released just a year prior. The vampire gang is led by Lance Henriksen’s Jesse, his girlfriend is played by Jenette Goldstein and of course you have Bill Paxton.
Near Dark is directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who would have a lot of success later on with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. She was also, for a brief time, married to Aliens director James Cameron. Near Dark was the first feature film she directed on her own.
The film also has another James Cameron connection through the Terminator franchise, as Paxton had a small role in the first film and one of his victims in this movie had a small role in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Goldstein also appears in the second Terminator as John Connor’s foster mother.
Regardless of all the negatives, Near Dark certainly isn’t unwatchable. Most people seem to enjoy it. But again, I only really like it because of Bill Paxton’s presence.
Honestly, with as strong as Paxton was, I felt like he should have done more in the film. His character was the only thing fun about the picture.