Monday, April 21, 2008

NEAR DARK (1987)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is my submission to a film club being hosted by Final Girl . Please click-on-over to her site and enjoy her own take on this classic... as well as many others! You now have no reason to be bored while you're at work. ENJOY!
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Kathryn Bigelow has always held a studied grip on the ins-and-outs of film genre. It's born from her love of movies, but also a desire to create new stories within already established boundaries. Unlike Robert Altman, who liked subverting genres, Bigelow's intention is to leave behind her own flag posts for when the history books are re-written. THRILLER : Blue Steel (1990) ... ACTION : Point Break (1991) ... SCI-FI : Strange Days (1995). But her masterpiece, Near Dark, was a labor of love mash-up of genres: the western, the horror, and the classic Hollywood drama.

Bigelow's ability to seamlessly blend all three styles into one, within a 90 minute time frame, is an accomplishment in itself, but Near Dark also showcases, perhaps, the finest film performances in 1980's horror.

Adrian Pasdar's Tony Curtis jawline, and overall good looks, work like crossed-stars alongside Jenny Wright's pixie farmgirl. Their scene together in a horse stable is so rich with teenage lust and longing that John Hughes would be proud. Mae (Wright) tells Caleb (Pasdar), as she looks up at the stars, "when their light reaches earth, I'll still be here". The scene is echoed in Near Dark's final shot when Caleb comforts Mae from a glare and whispers, "It's just sunlight".

As for the rest of the actors, they are all flawless: The androgynous Josh Miller as a 40 year old vampire stuck inside the body of a 10 year old. Lance Henrikson as a vagabond vamp - since the days of the Civil War! - that's found some stability as the father figure of the gang. The bad ass Jenette Goldstein as a sort of crazed, off-the-farm ranch mother that does her best to keep the peace...

...And, most famously, Bill Paxton as Severin, the fearless Pomaded cow-punk hedonist from hell. He's the sort of on screen rebel that young vampires must idolize the way our fathers did Brando in The Wild One or Streetcar, and the way we did with Harrison Ford in The Empire Strikes Back or Raiders.


The now classic bar scene from Near Dark, became classic because of him:
(wearing shades, about to chomp on a neck)

(pauses)

"I hate it when they ain't been shaved"

(back to neck... CHOMP!)

(coming up for air...)

"BELCH!"
What resonates the most when re-watching Near Dark, is a sense of the romantic pouring out from the screen. The care and attention Bigelow and crew shared in wanting to produce a horror movie that was more than the sum of it's dismembered parts. Sure, it's fun to take pleasure in well done special effects wizardry and over-the-top gore, but what's lacking in today's current pack of horror-boy directors is an appreciation of things past.

I'm not wanting a regurgitation of old ideas, no, but simply for directors to have touchstones that they can jump off of and refer back to. (And no, Rob Zombie and Alexander Aja, watching your own films over and over again is not that...) Sometimes it seems like Idiocracy's take on the law of diminishing returns is playing itself out live in the world of modern Western horror.