[Movie] Near Dark (1987) | Timeless Vampire Angst
I first saw Near Dark in my early teens, at the start of an epic vampire obsession that lasted almost a decade. Back then, we had The Lost Boys (1987), The Hunger (1983), Salem's Lot (1979) and Fright Night (1985) - all incredible in their own right - but none of them felt quite like Near Dark, and I'd bet that if you watched it today you would understand why.
It's not your common hack-n-stake vampire adventure or sexy-goth vampire romp, for one thing. This movie builds slowly, with love at first sight and blossoming romance, the horrors of of giving into your lustful instincts, and then... in-laws. And violence. And blood.
It has a stellar cast, and I mean STELLAR: Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Adrian Pasdar and Jenette Goldstein. Amazing.
While this movie has its 1980s aesthetics...
... I fully believe that it stands the test of time and you can watch it today while still appreciating its themes.
But wait! Before I go on, can I just take a moment to appreciate and go totally gooey over the marvel that is Bill-freaking-Paxton as Severen, the volatile and menacing young vampire in the family who does dark humour in a way that only an actor like Bill Paxton could:
So you have to understand, back in the 80s we didn't have as many and varied vampire movies as we do today, and Near Dark offered a unique take on the vampire-romance genre. Rather than simply romanticising the nature of vampires and the violence that came with them, it subverted expectations by spinning us into a conflict between One True Love and that deep and personal connection to the humans around us.
Caleb's story is particularly well-written, as he struggles between his sudden and intense feelings for this mysterious girl, and his own family who are now in mortal danger by dint of him knowing the vampires.
I still love this movie today because a lot of the themes the movie focuses on are themes that are relevant for a modern audience:
Love and Sacrifice: At its core, Near Dark is a love story that transcends conventional boundaries. Caleb's love for Mae draws him away from everything he knows and loves, and this conflict is central to his character. The film also explores the notion of love enduring beyond physical limitations and societal norms.
Outcasts and Family: The vampire family is a tight-knit group of outcasts, united by their shared need for blood. They form their own unconventional family, providing a sense of belonging and protection in a world that rejects them. This theme of finding acceptance and kinship within marginalised communities resonates deeply in society - and in a lot of our media - today.
Redemption and Moral Dilemmas: As Caleb embarks on a journey of self-discovery, he is confronted with the consequences of his actions and the moral implications of his choices. The film raises questions about personal responsibility, redemption, and the human capacity for change.
Atmospheric Grit: Near Dark held me with its atmospheric and gritty portrayal of the American Southwest, something that I am in no way personally familiar with. The film beautifully juxtaposes the desolate landscapes with the visceral horror of the vampire world.
Timelessness and Relevance: Despite being released over three decades ago, the film's exploration of timeless themes such as love, identity, and the human condition transcends the boundaries of its genre. It delves into the complex and often contradictory aspects of humanity while challenging our notions of good and evil.
It also paved the way for the reinvention of vampire lore in popular culture. By blending elements of horror, romance and Western genres, the film introduced a fresh and unconventional take on vampires. Its influence can be seen in subsequent works, inspiring filmmakers to explore the moral and emotional complexities of these creatures of the night.
So, like, can I watch it somewhere?
Here's the really annoying thing. It would appear that Near Dark has been pulled from most streaming platforms (that I could find, anyway), and never had a wide distribution or release in the first place. You might think this is crazy for a movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow, but Bigelow had yet to direct Point Break (1991) or The Hurt Locker (2008) when Near Dark came out, and it still feels pretty niche (crazy!).
Apparently Amazon has it, but it's not available in the UK as of June 2023.
Sky Store has it to buy or rent, though this is a UK service so I'm not sure it'll be available to anyone outside of the UK.
My best advice is to just keep an eye out on your streaming platform of choice for this movie. It's well worth the wait.