Essays · Movies

31 Days of Horror: Near Dark

By  · Published on October 20th, 2009

Near Dark (1987)

Synopsis: A cowboy (Adrian Pasdar) meets a pretty, young gal at the local saloon and discovers too late that her kiss includes a double-pronged love bite of vampiric proportions. Mae (Jenny Wright) and her blood-sucking vampire family (half the cast of Aliens) take Caleb for a ride in their Winnebago and try to make him one of them. But as any good cowboy would, Caleb fights his transformation and sets about rescuing the pale-skinned love of his life. The family isn’t too keen on that idea of course and soon the small Texas town is awash in blood, burning flesh, and bar fights.

Killer Scene: Speaking of bar fights… Caleb’s introduction to the family’s unique hobby occurs in a sleazy bar almost halfway into the movie. After insulting the bartender and patrons (“shit-kicker heaven”), the blood-letting begins with a waitress getting her throat slit. More deaths follow including a broken neck, shotgun blast to the gut, throat slashing via boot spurs, gunshot to the back, and they’re all followed by a wee bit of blood slurping and chin wiping. All to the sounds of The Cramps’ cover of “Fever”…


Violence: The family splits up at one point to feed but most of their foul deeds take place off-screen. Mae killing a truck driver is the only exception. But then the bar scene ups the ante on as described above. There’s also a nice motel shootout with the vamps having to fight both the law and the sunlight. Blood flows and flesh smokes… More violence ensues when the fanged folks come after Caleb’s family resulting in explosions, a knife in the mouth, and little man immolation.

Sex: None, which is a shame as Wright is an attractive woman. Her and Pasdar kiss a lot, but that’s it. She does eat a sexy ice cream cone though.

Scares: Much like the sex factor, the scares run pretty dry here. Sure they’re vampires but they’re not interested in sneaking up on anybody.

Final Thoughts: Is Near Dark the only vampire film to never utter the word ‘vampire?’ I think so, and that’s just one of it’s many accomplishments. The cast is excellent (with the exception of my least favorite child actor ever, Joshua Miller) and includes a mini-reunion of actors from Aliens. Lance Henriksen plays the scarred Civil War veteran Jesse, Bill Paxton plays wild card Severen (and absolutely kills it in the bar scene), and Jenette Goldstein plays the wig-wearing Diamondback. Plus Tim Thomerson! Most of the effects are practical which is always preferable over CGI (although parts of the finale do include some less than impressive digital work). The flick is probably a little slow by today’s standards, but it’s still a damn fine film. And really, what other film in your DVD collection boasts a score by eighties synth band Tangerine Dream?

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.