Welcome back to 80s Bits, the weekly column in which we explore the best and worst of the Decade of Shame. With guest writers, hidden gems and more, it’s truly, truly, truly outrageous.
Near Dark (1987) directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Point Break, Strange Days) is an eerie 80s cult horror classic which follows the journey of a blood sucking family who attempt to include an outsider into their coven. The tone of the movie is perfectly set during the opening, with a close-up of a bloody mosquito being squished by Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar, Top Gun, TV’s Heroes) who ironically throughout the movie cannot make the one human kill that will grant him acceptance into the clan.
Caleb is a simple cowboy from Oklahoma living with his younger sister Sarah and Pop. One night while cruising around the town in his Ute and hanging with mates, an out of town pale blonde beauty Mae (Jenny Wright, The Lawnmower Man) appears. Having never met a girl like her before he gallantly offers her a ride home. Adamant for a kiss, Caleb refuses to continue on the journey, not realising that it would be love at first bite. The newly bitten vampire stumbles home over a dirt field being burnt by the sun, only to be kidnapped by his new bloodline. His struggle for acceptance into the group and his newly found love comes to a head when he’s faced with choosing between families. As with most other vampire flicks, conflict emerges through the love affair between the living and immortal. This ends with a twist uncommon to more recent storylines of today.
The cast of fugitive vampires comprise of some great actors. Bill Paxton (Apollo 13, Twister) plays Severen, the darker bad boy vampire. This character holds some of the greater moments in the film including ripping the engine of a moving semi truck to pieces and great blood thirsty one lines like “finger licking good”. Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Terminator) and Jenette Goldstein (Aliens, Terminator 2) are Jesse Hooker and Diamondback, convincing leader and mistress of the pack. Joshua John Miller (Teen Witch) is Homer, the boy with a big body on the inside, small body on outside. His obsession for Sarah Colton (Marcie Leeds, Beaches) leads to the downfall of the clan.
Bigelow being the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, displays her artistry throughout the film with her subtleties and imagery. The atmosphere is simple and effectively created with little use of special effects and makeup as seen in other horror flicks of the time. Interestingly, throughout the whole movie the word vampire was never used and a fang was never seen adding to the realism of the story. Spectacular moments are created with the ghouls being burn by sunlight during the police stakeout and the climatic end battle where daytime is used to our heroes’ advantage.
The stand out scene takes place in a bar where we see the debauched nature of these fugitives lifestyle, as each vampire has their turn at feasting on the smorgasbord of humans one by one.