Y’ain’t Seen!?… is a semi-regular column about movies you potentially have not seen, or ain’t seen lately.
words :: the incredible amoeba
First things first: thanks to Feet and the Pie Quarterly gang for hauling my sorry ass onboard—I’m a wannabe film reviewer and this gig rules.
The Lost Boys and Near Dark were released back in late summer and fall of 1987, respectively.
I was released from Mom’s womb some 13 years prior to that, and therefore was at the perfect age to have my pubescent horror movie-obsessed mind melted twice.
Compare if you will, the publicity shots of each crew below— Which looks like they’re selling hair product? Which looks like they smell of stale blood?
Both are bloodsucker flicks, of course. Both feature a romance between an attractive female vampire and an infatuated not-quite-turned vampire-to-be (who has yet to make his first kill).
That’s about where the similarities end. (Okay, both have a “kid” in their entourage. More about that later).
The Lost Boys romanticizes vampirism as a hard partying, sleep all day, never grow old, yada yada rock ’n’ roll teenage lifestyle option, while Near Dark views the seductive pull of vampirism as more akin to an unfortunate STD or drug addiction. Near Dark is, by design, the less glamorous of the two, but the better film. It’s the one that sticks in my mind as an indelible filmgoing experience.
In that spirit let’s concentrate on Near Dark, shall we? The film has aged remarkably well. I say this having rewatched it twice in the past month. Ably directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days (huzzah!), Zero Dark Thirty) Near Dark features three actors fresh from their stint with James Cameron in Aliens: the late, great Bill Paxton, a solid Jenette Goldstein, and the always impressive Lance Henriksen.
The strong cast creates a tangible sense of camaraderie evident amongst the band of vampires, which sells them as a family unit of wandering killers who’ve spent plenty of time together (Perhaps centuries?). The ample crud and scuzz of nomadic living… (errr, would that be UNliving?) in stolen RVs whose windows the “family” spray-paint to ward off the sun’s rays (a really nice detail) is evident throughout the film, and it lends credence to the idea that this is a desperate existence for these downtrodden (likely smelly!) folks. Serial killers yes, but out of necessity.
Near Dark avoids any sort of showy vampire transformation or behavior— no turning into bats and flying about, no fancy contact lenses, no prosthetic fingers and toes and foreheads, no retractable sharp teeth. In fact, this lack of prominent incisors leads to one of the film’s funniest lines: “I hate ‘em when they ain’t been shaved.”
The family DO burn up in sunlight though, a fact which leads to a great shootout in a hotel room where bullets blast through walls casting beams of light which char our intrepid vamps as they attempt escape.
Main man Caleb (played by Adrian Pasdar) is a bit of a dud, but I think that’s the point— he’s just some schmuck who fell for the wrong girl. Mae is her name, and she keeps insisting that Caleb’s never met a girl like her before. And boy, is she right. Jenny Wright is perfect in the role. She exudes a mix of innocence, hunger, and menace.
Speaking of menace, perhaps the best, most menacing scene of all is virtually owned by Paxton. His take on the character Severin is a marvel of “aww shucks” cowboy-charm-meets-cold-blooded-predator venom. The scene in question (the massacre of a saloon full of patrons and staff alike) isn’t graphically violent per se, but seeing Severin slash up the face and neck of a bartender with forward and backward kicks of the razor sharp jingle-jangling spurs on his cowboy boots is unnerving to say the least. Mainly because he just seems to relish playing with his food so much. (Huge bonus points for adding The Cramp’s version of “Fever” to ice the cake in this spectacular scene.)
There is some poignancy in the form of a “child” bloodsucker played by Joshua John Miller. He’s an old, bitter soul trapped in a kid’s body and yet he appears genuine in his desire to connect with Caleb’s little sister. Vampirism is a long, lonely business, it seems.
Throw in a mildly cheesy score by none other than Tangerine Dream and there you have it—Near Dark, one of the best vampire flicks ever made.
(The ending is a bit of a yawn, but whatevs.)
Y’ain’t Seen!?… reviewer the incredible amoeba is an artist/filmmaker/mastermind whose tastes run slightly more obscure than most audiences which means his voice and perspective is wholeheartedly welcomed here in Pie Quarterly universe. the incredible ameoba is also the founder and key member of a surf-punk band called The Giant Leeches. They suck.
To read more Y’ain’t Seen!? columns go here.