Horror Review: Near Dark (1987)

A small-town farmer’s son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is turned by a beautiful drifter.

In 1987 two vampire films were released, both changed the landscape for the entire genre.

Writer and director Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red were intent on making a Western but realized that the interest in the genre at the time was non-existent. Since the horror genre was in vogue at the time, the two decided to make a Horror Western.
Luckily for us viewers it all worked out and we were given an extraordinary film that gave us some amazing characters, a very dark yet romantic story add all that with the amazing atmospheric feeling that it has and we’re given a real gem.
The film has an amazing cast with the likes of Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenny Wright and more. Paxton is the star of the film, he portrays his character ‘Severen’ so brilliantly that I’m shocked it didn’t become more iconic.
If this wasn’t released in the same year as “The Lost Boys” I feel that it would have had more fanfare, such a shame and really unfortunate timing. Alas because of this the two film are unfairly constantly compared.
“Near Dark” is a fantastic film that you have to give a chance, it could become your new favourite.
If you want to see the “Near Dark” trailer then just click on the video below:
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
During filming, the cast and crew had to deal with a train that would stop at the same intersection every night. One night, Bill Paxton (in full make-up with half of his face missing) saw one of the train workers leave the diesel engine, and went up to him saying, “Hey, man, there’s been an accident… and if you think I’m bad, wait ’til you see the other guy!”
Both Johnny Depp and D.B. Sweeney auditioned for the role of Caleb.
The vampire mythology in the film is left deliberately vague. It is never seen if they cast reflections in a mirror or if they are affected by holy objects, roses, garlic, running water etc It is seen that they are extremely strong, non-aging, surviving on human blood, cold to the touch, destroyed by sunlight and fire but cannot be killed by most conventional methods.
The word “vampire” is never uttered once during the entire film.
While shooting in the desert, Lance Henriksen relieved the boredom between takes by hopping in his car and taking short drives through the desert, still in costume and often staying in character. According to Henriksen and Bill Paxton, the two were stopped by a policeman who became so unnerved questioning Jesse about his speeding that the officer became visibly uncomfortable, stepping back and placing his hand on his firearm. The obviously flustered officer decided to send them on their way rather than write them a ticket.
Future husband James Cameron suggested to Bigelow that she use the ready-made ensemble cast from his recent hit Aliens (1986), and thus Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein all appear in Bigelow’s film. Michael Biehn had also appeared in Aliens and was considered, but declined to participate.
At the start of the bungalow gunfight scene, a cross can be seen in the handle of Jesse’s pistol alluding to the idea that these vampires do not follow the same “rules” of traditional vampire mythology.
This film marked Kathryn Bigelow’s first solo directorial effort and the film’s producer, Edward S. Feldman told her that if she couldn’t handle or didn’t know what she was doing while filming after five days, she would be replaced. She kept the job.
Was the last movie produced and released by DEG (DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group) as the studio went bankrupt. As a result, the film did not receive much publicity during its release in the fall of 1987 which lead, in turn, to its box office failure.
According to the Making of Near Dark that appears on the DVD, the fog under Adrian Pasdar’s shirt was caused by a complicated series of tubes leading to five lit cigars under his shirt.
At approximately 21:13 of the movie, when Caleb in stumbling through the town in Texas, in the background there is a Warner cinema playing Aliens (1986), a movie also starring several of the main characters from Near Dark – including Lance Henriksen (Jessie), Bill Paxton (Severen), and Jenette Goldstein. (Diamondback).
When Caleb lets the young cowboy from the bar get away, a billboard can be seen in the background spray paint with “Bill + Louise”. Bill Paxton, who plays Severen, is married to Louise Newbury.
Near Dark got a K18 rating in 1988 by the Finnish Board of Film Classification. That meant, in those days, ‘for theatrical release only’. However, some film critics received VHS copies (most probably from Transworld Video) with Finnish subtitles ca. 1990. There were also reports that videos were accidentally available a few days to the general public before they were drawn back from video stores.
Both of the two 1987 movies about a “family” of attractive vampires who lure a young man and make him into a half-vampire before he seeks a cure (Near Dark (1987) and The Lost Boys (1987)) feature a son of Jason Miller in their casts: Joshua John Miller is in Near Dark, and his half-brother Jason Patric is in The Lost Boys.
When Severen and Jesse torch the motor home, Severen asks Jesse if he had remembered about a “fire that they had started in Chicago”. It is assumed that they mean the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that left more than 100,000 people homeless and destroyed businesses. Though apocryphal legend attributes the fire to a cow who kicked a lantern, the cause still remains a mystery.
The patron in the bar (Robert Winley) who is killed by Severen also played the lead cigar smoking biker in the bar in the clothes stealing scene of Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Bill Paxton had a role as a punk in the clothes stealing scene in The Terminator (1984). Kathryn Bigelow was at the time married to James Cameron.
Before it became a cult favorite, the film had a showing at New York’s Museum of Modern Art with Kathryn Bigelow in attendance.
Michael Biehn was offered the role of Jesse Hooker but turned it down because he was not satisfied with the script.
According to Kathryn Bigelow one ending considered was for Caleb’s younger sister Sarah to follow him and Mae into the sunlight only for her hand to start burning, implying she was bitten by Homer during her abduction and is now infected. However this was eventually dropped as it would have had little impact given she could be easily cured via blood transfusions.

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