Thursday, October 25, 2012
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Bigelow and Eric Red, Near Dark is the story of a young farmhand who falls for a young woman only to learn she’s a vampire as he reluctantly becomes part of a vampire cult. The film explores the world of vampires from a newborn vampire’s perspective as he struggles with this new role. Starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, Joshua John Miller, and Tim Thomerson. Near Dark is a visually-entrancing yet chilling film from Kathryn Bigelow.
At a small town in Oklahoma, a farmhand named Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) meets a beautiful young woman named Mae (Jenny Wright) one night as he takes her on a night around the town but she insists on going home. Caleb takes her home but wants to kiss her as they do only for Caleb to be bitten in the neck as he struggles to walk home to his family where he was suddenly abducted by a group of people in a motor home. Caleb learns that Mae is a vampire as she’s part of a group of vampires led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen) as it also consists of Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), an old man in a boy’s body named Homer (Joshua John Miller), and wild man named Severen (Bill Paxton) as they wonder whether to take Caleb in as he’s about to turn into a vampire.
Caleb tries to leave in order to return home only to realize that he needs blood as Mae gives him some of her own blood to feed on while everyone else kills people for feeding. Caleb reluctantly joins the band of drifting vampires as they keep moving from city to city to quench their appetite as they all attack a bar and burn it while Caleb almost kills a young man (James LeGros) he was trying to feed on but lets him go. This would eventually lead to trouble when the vampires stay at a motel as they’re ambushed by the police only for Caleb to save them. Just as Caleb is about to accepted, Homer comes across a young girl named Sarah (Marcie Leeds) as he tries to capture her as Caleb realizes its her sister as their father Loy (Tim Thomerson) had been trying to find Caleb. After the vampires decide to target Caleb’s family, Caleb decides to do something that would save his family from Jesse and the vampires.
The film is essentially the story of a bored farmhand from a small Oklahoma town who comes across a band of drifting vampires as he reluctantly becomes part of their group only to realize what they need to do to survive as he eventually becomes more unsure once his family is targeted. It’s a story that explores a man trying to deal with being a newborn vampire and all of its consequences as well as his feelings for this beautiful woman who is also a vampire. Yet, this woman is also reluctant about her role as she’s more willing to accept but she becomes more unsure once it involves that man’s family while the rest of the vampires are just looking for people to feed on no matter who they are.
The screenplay is a different take on the myth of the vampires by setting them in a modern time where they’re moving from place to place in order to evade the law. A lot of the film is told from the perspective of Caleb who is just this very simple farmhand who knows nothing about the world of vampires as he is forced to give into survival mode as well as realizing that he’s no longer human. Still, he wants to return home to his family as they would see him be abducted as they would play a key part in the film’s plot in their search for Caleb. This would lead to a climatic third act in which Caleb has to fight off Jesse and this band of vampires who are really unmerciful with anything they come across to.
Kathryn Bigelow’s direction is very stylish in terms of the presentation that she creates as she often sets her scenes at night where the look has this very entrancing visual style that is somewhat reminiscent of film noir. Particularly in setting moods that marks the arrival of the vampires and Caleb’s struggle in this new world where the vampires rule and can do whatever they want. For the daytime scenes, a lot of it is set inside whether it’s in a car or wherever they stay in order to hide from the sun. Bigelow maintains a sense of intimacy in those scenes while also creating some broad yet intense shots for scenes outside whether it’s day or night as includes some very explosive action sequences that is mixed with some dark humor. Notably as the climax is this great mix of action and suspense with a bit of the western mixed around. Overall, Bigelow creates a very exciting and engaging thriller that plays around the myth of the vampires.
Cinematographer Adam Greenberg does amazing work with the film‘s stylish photography to play out the dark mood of the film with amazing lighting schemes for many of the film‘s nighttime exterior scenes as well as police raid sequence in the day with all of those wholes as it‘s a real highlight of the film. Editor Howard E. Smith does superb work with the film‘s editing by employing lots of stylish cuts for the film‘s action and suspense scenes as well as transition wipes to help the film move at a brisk pace. Production designer Stephen Altman and art director Dian Perryman do fantastic work with the set pieces from the motor home the vampires drive in early in the film to the motel room during the police raid with all of its holes and such.
Costume designer Joseph A. Porro does some nice work with costumes as it plays to the different personalities the characters wear from the more leather-cowboy look of Severin to the more ragged look of the other vampires. Sound designer David Lewis Yewdall and sound editor R.J. Palmer do terrific work with the sound to convey the sense of horror that occurs as well as some of the film‘s intense action scenes. The film’s music score by Tangerine Dream is phenomenal for its electronic score to play out the dark mood of the film as it also features some guitars for some of the more intense scenes. The soundtrack features a wide of music from acts like John Parr, Jools Holland, the Cramps, and George Strait as most of it features in the film’s bar scene.
The casting by Karen Rea is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some small appearances by Theresa Randle as a woman in a truck, Roger Aaron Brown as a Cajun truck driver, and James LeGros as a teenage cowboy who is almost killed at the bar scene. Marcie Leeds is pretty good as Caleb’s adolescent sister Sarah who is pursued by Homer while Tim Thomerson is great as Caleb’s father Loy who goes on a search to track down his son’s abductors. Jenette Goldstein is excellent as low-key vicious Diamondhead who will always attack when unexpected while Joshua John Miller is superb as the devious childlike vampire Homer. Lance Henrikson is wonderful as the very chilling leader Jesse who ensures everything that vampires are supposed to do as he also deals with the very naïve Caleb.
Bill Paxton is amazing as the very wild Severen as Paxton brings everything to this crazed character who has no qualms about killing anybody while displaying a dark charm and sense of humor as it’s character that is truly unforgettable to watch as it’s also one of Paxton’s great performances. Jenny Wright is terrific as Mae where she brings an innocence to a character who is very dark as she goes into conflict about whether to help Caleb or the rest of the vampires. Finally, there’s Adrian Pasdar in a brilliant performance as Caleb where he displays a sense of naivete` as a man dealing with his new powers while pondering about what to do as a vampire as it’s really an engaging performance from Pasdar.
Near Dark is an outstanding vampire thriller from Kathryn Bigelow that features top-notch performances from Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, Jenny Wright, and Bill Paxton. The film is quite different from Bigelow’s more action-driven work yet it does have a lot of intensity that will entertain audiences. It’s also a film that plays true to what vampires are as it doesn’t feature mopey pussies who won’t kill or any kind of gooey love story that involves constipated werewolves. The bottom line is that Near Dark is a vampire film that is fun and action-packed that is geared to give audiences a good time as it comes from the wondrous mind of Kathryn Bigelow.
Kathryn Bigelow Films: The Loveless - Blue Steel - Point Break - Strange Days - The Weight of Water - K-19: The Widowmaker - The Hurt Locker - Zero Dark Thirty - The Auteurs #29: Kathryn Bigelow
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