Near Dark

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Near Dark

(pop culture)

Near Dark (1987) is a contemporary vampire story set against a Western landscape.

The Kathryn Bigelow-directed film about a marauding band of psychopathic vampires alternates sadistic humor with a vampire girl-meets-boy romance against a background of truck stops, oil rigs, run-down motels, and dry empty towns. Bigelow co-wrote Near Dark with Eric Red (writer of the 1986 violent fable The Hitcher), and the German electronic music group Tangerine Dreams provided the movie’s original score. Other vampire Westerns—namely, Curse of the Undead (1959) and Billy the Kid versus Dracula (1966)—had preceded Near Dark, but Bigelow’s film was set in the modern-day West.

The movie opens in Heartland, USA, where Mae (Jenny Wright) needs a lift home one night and Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is happy to oblige. But Mae is a vampire; Caleb asks for a kiss, and she bites his neck. As the sun rises, Caleb grows sick and he stumbles through a cornfield and is picked up by an RV with Mae in it. Caleb spends the day sleeping in the RV with Mae and her “family” of vampire outlaws: Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), Severen (Bill Paxton), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), and Homer (Joshua John Miller). Mae tries to teach Caleb to kill for blood, but he won’t do it. Mae’s vampire family determines to get Caleb to kill humans so they go on a grotesque killing spree in a bar. But Caleb still won’t kill. The vampires seek shelter in a motel, and they’re awakened when the police knock on the door and a bloody Bonnie and Clyde-type shootout follows.

Later, Caleb’s father transfuses some of his own blood into Caleb so his son becomes human again. But when Caleb’s sister Sara is missing, Caleb mounts a horse and is confronted by the vampire family. The sun comes up, burning all the other vampires. In a surprise twist, Caleb transfuses some of his blood into Mae, and she becomes human again.

According to Bigelow (who recently won an Oscar for directing the acclaimed The Hurt Locker), Near Dark invents its own vampire mythology. The traditional religious symbols used to battle vampires—crosses, holy water, and the Bible—are not apparent although the movie makes sly references to them. The film also omits the standard clichés like garlic, stakes, silver bullets, and even fangs, but sunlight definitely burns and destroys the vampires. Near Dark‘s vampires are immortal and possess rapid healing powers as well. But the notion that a blood transfusion can “cure” the vampire condition appears, by some, to be too improbable and not in line with Bram Stoker‘s ideas. Bigelow explained that the transfusion is a way to reclaim Caleb and Mae and allow the two young characters to love each other.

Near Dark was released in theaters in October 1987 by the now defunct DeLaurentis Entertainment Group (DEG). The movie’s debut closely followed the release of The Lost Boys (1987), a similar tale of a young man’s adventures among a clan of vampire outlaws. But DEG was teetering on bankruptcy, and Near Dark lasted only two weeks in theaters. HBO Home Video subsequently released the movie in video format, and over the years, Near Dark has enjoyed a sizeable underground cult following. Lionsgate Home Entertainment released the Blu-ray version of Near Dark in November 2009, which includes the documentary, Living in Darkness. Platinum Dunes, a production company that specializes in horror films, recently planned a Near Dark remake but called it off because the story was “too similar” to Twilight.


“The 80’s Movie Gateway: Near Dark.” (March 2000). Posted at Accessed on April 10, 2010.
“Exclusive: Near Dark Remake Is Off.” (December 12, 2008). Posted at Accessed on April 10, 2010.
Felsher, Michael. Near Dark: Pray for Daylight. Troy, MI: Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc., 2002. 10 pp.
Wilmington, Michael. “Sexy Horror Arrives Near Dark.” Los Angeles Times, p. 10. (October 9, 1987).
The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
All the balance of that long day Carthoris crawled erratically through the still air, the bow of the flier sinking lower and lower, and the list to port becoming more and more alarming, until at last, near dark, he was floating almost bowdown, his harness buckled to a heavy deck ring to keep him from being precipitated to the ground below.
Such self-conscious playing with gender conventions and sexuality has long been a hallmark of Bigelow's work, present in the glossy 1980s stylisation of Near Dark (1987), the homoeroticism of Point Break (1991) and the libertine dystopia of Strange Days (1995).
I asked if he'd ever seen Near Dark and he gave me a look of How dare you Sir and I knew we'd get along.
I asked if he'd ever seen 'Near Dark' and he gave me a look of HOW DARE YOU SIR and I knew we'd get along.
Besides starring in the "Alien" film series, Henriksen's other notable acting credits include "The Terminator," "Millennium" and "Near Dark," among many others.
Normally, you will catch the herd near dark as they slow from the day's march.
The findings should help steer conservation efforts to make a priority of protecting lighter-coloured sandy beaches or planting more vegetation near dark ones to ameliorate the warming, Professor Hays said.
Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987) celebrates the complete triumph of science over the supernatural through the use of blood transfusions that cure vampirism.
Strange Days (which was produced by her ex-husband, James Cameron) is a police drama with a science fiction twist, Point Break combines a surfer movie (all those wave-riding montages) with a heist thriller, and Near Dark from 1987 is at once a vampire horror film and a Western.
I didn't see very many, but the long, three-toed tracks in the roads, scratchings I in the woods and the occasional distant gobble or the whop-whop-whop of big birds flying up near dark, close, but not visible, had me thinking evil thoughts about the coming spring.
It was near dark on a chill overcast November day, and the streetlamps had come on, casting a bluish light on pavement and storefronts.