Friday, October 29, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 29: Near Dark

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

It's strange for us to think about it now, but there was a time not too long ago when all vampires were creepy European noblemen in spooky castles. Of course, many still are, but the vampire subgenre has gone though such transformations within the span of most of our lifetimes that they might be unrecognizable to old timers. At the forefront of this "revisionist vampire" movement was Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow's 1987 film Near Dark.

Transplanting vampirism from the dark forests of Transylvania to the Sooner State, Near Dark's bloodsuckers are a clan of outlaws on the run. Composed mostly of actors from Aliens (Bishop, Vasquez, Hudson) they roam across the American West bloodlettin' and gunfightin' to their cold dead hearts' content. However, things get complicated the groups's youngest member May turns small town teenager Caleb into a member of the undead and he has second thoughts on the whole "drinking the blood of the living" thing.

Along with films like Lost Boys, Near Dark serves as an example of filmmakers trying to make vampires into something vibrant and scary instead of corny again. Bigelow's vampires are more like rough-and-tumble cowboy hicks rather than goofy guys in capes and "Dracula medals". In fact, the vampires of Near Dark are never referred to as such, the "v-word" is never mentioned, and there are no fangs in sight. Couple this with the skills of a talented director and a great cast and you have a very satisfying cult hit. Bill Pullman in particular gives a great performance as Severen, the sadistic wild card of the bunch.

But was it scary? No, I don't remember being scared even once; just proving that vampires are more than fodder for matinee scares.

Final Verdict: 74 Congos