Cowboys and Idioms
Near Dark - 1987
Written by Kathryn Bigelow & Eric Red
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Despite the title, Near Dark's most dramatic moments come not at sunset, but at sunrise. The creatures of the night might come out near dark, but they run for their lives near dawn. The ordinary vampire movie would frame nightfall as a time to fear, but Near Dark isn't the ordinary vampire movie -- not that it ever utters "the 'v' word."
The tale that follows really reminded me more of, say, The Devil's Rejects or Natural Born Killers than your typical vampire movie. Rather than being structured around a hunter/prey rivalry between vampires and humans (or vice versa), Near Dark is more like a serial killer/cult abduction. Before the sun has finished rising, Caleb is already meeting Mae's "family" and facing the prospect of proving himself "worthy" to a skeazy band of hillbilly blood-suckers. A blazing road story of dark seduction and seemingly futile resistance follows.
Near Dark is incredibly moody and stylish (small surprise with Kathryn Bigelow at the helm), creating a contained story that doesn't get caught up in its own mythology. They're only as vampiric as they need to be to tell the tale of the farm boy led away from home and seduced by the acceptance of a new kind of "family." Virtually the same story could be told with knives instead of teeth, or even just with the deep cuts of addiction. This way, at least, is a lot more action packed.
Near Dark got overshadowed by Lost Boys (and under-marketed by its failing studio) in 1987, so it may have slipped past a lot of moviegoers' radars, but it's definitely worth swinging back around to pick it up. It's not quite as stylish as Lost Boys but it more than makes up for that with a stronger story, generally better acting and a more unflinching look at its night creatures. There are still good vampire movies to discover.