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A Virgin’s View on Near Dark (1987)

1980s vampires at their best: Near Dark movie poster (1987). Picture: F/M Entertainment; Stu Loves Films.

Welcome to the ninth instalment of “Virgin’s View,” where I review a classic vampire film without being exposed to any background information or reviews, hence the term “virgin.” Beware spoilers ahead!

Bill Paxton passed away on February 25, 2017. I didn’t know Paxton had played a vampire and was inspired by a friend’s Facebook post to watch Near Dark.

I wracked my brain, trying to think of other projects I had seen Paxton in over the years and only came up with the film Twister (1996) and TV series Big Love that ran from 2006–2011. Chasing storms, being polygamous and now a vampire.

Near Dark, a F/M Entertainment picture, was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starred Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton.

Plot

Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and Severen (Bill Paxton) in a publicity shot for Near Dark (1987). Picture: ; Bloody Good Horror.

We are introduced to Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar), a young cowboy sporting an old truck, Southern accent and strong sexual drive. He is shooting the shit outside a bar with his buddies, when they spot a lone pretty girl Mae (Jenny Wright), eating an ice-cream cone up the street.

Caleb makes the first move, before his friends cockblock him and uses the one liner, “dying for a bite of that…cone.” She falls for the cheesy pick-up line and asks for a lift home.

He helps Mae out and on the way she requests a pit-stop to “listen to the night.” She talks about how many years it takes for a star’s light to reach earth and says she will be there years from now.

Pay attention, as this is our first hint Mae is a vampire. Of course, Caleb is oblivious. To get more time with the pretty lady, Caleb takes Mae to see his horse. It freaks out and runs when it sees Mae; however, she exhibits extraordinary strength when dealing with the situation. Vampire hint number two.

Preoccupied with Caleb, Mae realizes it’s almost dawn and loses her shit. She yells at Caleb she has to get home before the sun comes up. He assumes she has strict parents and they jump back in his truck. Vampire hint number three.

After a minute, Caleb stops the truck again, despite Mae’s frantic objections. He thinks with his dick, tosses the truck keys down his shirt and tells Mae if she wants to get home, she has to kiss him. Mae doesn’t object. They make out and she nips him on the neck and bolts. Vampire hint number four.

Caleb’s truck won’t start and walks home. By the time he reaches the farm, he can barely stand. His sister, Sarah (Marcie Leeds), and dad, Loy (Tim Tomerson), spot Caleb in the field just before a blacked out RV drives up and kidnaps him. If you are still counting, the vehicle is vampire hint number five.

The RV is full of miscreants including Mae, which at this point, I can only assume are all vampires.Mae protects her new boy-toy and explains he is turning. They call her sloppy and Severen (Bill Paxton) gets in Caleb’s face, just itching to kill him for kicks.

They pull the RV into a dark barn out of the burning sun to take a nap while Caleb’s dad goes to the cops about his missing kid.

The vampires decide to give Caleb a week trial to prove his worth. The rest of the gang introduces themselves: Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), Jesse (Lance Henriksen), and Homer (Joshua John Miller), a little kid.

The vampires torch the RV and steal a car. Caleb bails and tries to get a bus home, but is three dollars short. At this point, he is sweaty and sick. He doesn’t really know what’s wrong and tries to eat some candy. That is a fail and he pukes everywhere. Assuming Caleb is an addict, a sympathetic cop gives him the extra cash he needs for the bus. He never makes it home and reluctantly heads back to Mae.

Mae feeds Caleb some of her blood and he instantly feels better. She explains he needs to feed and has to learn to kill. The crew decides either Caleb kills tonight or he is gone.

The vampires crash a local bar for some take-out. They off a waitress, a few patrons and Severen creatively slices open a bartender’s neck with this boot spurs. Caleb’s meal jumps out the window before they burn the bar to the ground.

As usual, they lose track of time and panic at dawn. I guess vampires don’t believe in wearing watches.

They crash at a hotel, only to be woken up by cops pounding on the door. We keep to the cowboy theme and get a shoot out. It seems like the vampire’s last stand, but they are saved when Caleb fries himself in the sun as he grabs a get-away car.

Caleb is finally accepted into the boys club when Severen awards him with one of his boot spurs. They crash at another hotel and instead of running a muck, they play poker all night.

Outside Homer runs into Caleb’s sister Sarah and grabs her. She’s staying at the hotel with her dad while they search for Caleb since he went missing.

Homer explains he wants to keep Sarah. He is jealous that Mae got a new toy and he didn’t. Caleb is pissed and asks Jesse’s permission to go home. He says no and Caleb’s dad comes to the rescue. Sarah opens the front door. Sunlight pours in, giving the three of them enough time to escape while the vampire’s flesh gets barbecued.

Caleb and his family gets home. His dad gives him a blood transfusion in the barn and poof! Caleb is human again. Who would have thought, a farmer could cure vampirism. Mae shows up and discovers he isn’t a vampire anymore.

Sarah vanishes and like a true cowboy, Caleb takes his horse, not the truck. Unfortunately, Caleb finds Severen, not his sister.

Severen wants his boy-club trophy back and payment for Caleb’s abandonment. Caleb highjacks a truck and barrels over Severin. He survives with some severe road rash on his face.

Severin jumps onto the semi-truck and with his bare hands rips open the truck like a tin can. He pulls out essential parts, causing the oil tanker to jackknife and explode. After the explosion, we just see a single spur hit the ground and know Severin has met his match.

The rest of the vamps show up. Jesse and Caleb have a stand off. His sister escapes from Homer’s clutches in the car. Diamondback throws a knife at Caleb and misses. It plunges into Jesse’s face and considering effects back then, it was kind of cool.

Caleb runs home with Sarah in his arms. The remaining vampires pursue in a car, unaware of the approaching sunrise. They grab Sarah again, but this time Mae has her back. She grabs Sarah and launches them out the back window, fully exposed to the sun.

Homer dives from the car, desperate for Sarah and turns into a giant ball of flames. Diamondback and Jesse commit suicide together and burn up in the car before it explodes.

Mae survives and gets a blood transfusion. Her and Caleb live happily ever after.

Verdict

We’re here for a good time: Severen (Bill Paxton) and several other vampires share the same philosophy as the Lost Boys: sleep all day, party all night. Picture: F/M Entertainment; Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

A few minutes into the movie, my first thought was “cowboys and vampires, really?” That’s almost as messed up as Cowboys and Aliens (2011) where Daniel Craig trades in his James Bond tuxedo for boots with spurs and a horse. That movie ended up being alright so I kept an open mind.

I liked how during the intro credits they showed a mosquito drinking blood and then getting squished, exaggerating the splat and making it bloodier than normal. Rather fitting symbolism for a vampire film.

1987 was the year Lost Boys came out and I found Near Dark had similar elements.

Cult classic. I grew up with these vampires and have lost count how many times I have seen this film over the years. Picture: Warner Bros.; TV Guide.

Just like Near Dark, Lost Boys had a gang of vampires that included a child and a female that isn’t too sure about the vampire lifestyle and having second thoughts. Funny both films came out the same year and I had never heard of Near Dark before.

Paxton’s unhinged character, Severen, reminded me of two roles that Ian Somerhalder has played over the years. The first was my favourite bad-boy vampire, Damon Salvatore from The Vampire Diaries (2009–2017).

Vampire with attitude. I found that Damon and Severen shared common characteristics like being impulsive, having a suave fashion sense, spouting off smart-ass one liners and constantly succeeding with the ladies. Picture: Warner Bros.; The Vampire Diaries + The Originals Wiki.

The second was Miles Slade in The Tournament (2009). Somerhalder played a ruthless, violent sociopath partaking in a contest where a select number of assassins compete for a hefty payoff.

Assassin before vampire. One of Ian Somerhalder’s less popular films, The Tournament, came out the year The Vampire Diaries started in 2009 and he donned some facial hair for this role. Picture: AV Pictures; IMDb.

Paxton was the king of one-liners in this film and he cracked me up. Phrases like: “Check out time,” before he kills a cop at the hotel, “hate it when they ain’t shaved,” when he feeds on a hairy guy and “finger lickin’ good” when having a bloody snack.

I realized while writing this, that I have seen Paxton in another film, Weird Science (1985). He played an annoying dick, Chet, that bullied his younger brother and extorted money from him until he got turned into Jabba the Hut look alike.

Considering the year this film was made, I think the special effects were pretty good. My favourite scene was when Paxton’s face was torn half off and turned into a nasty bloody pile of goo after he was run over by a semi-truck.

The bloodiest part of the movie was the epic bar scene where all the vampires went to town and gorged on all the patrons. The gore factor was definitely there.

The final scene where the vampires burned up was a little exaggerated. I much prefer how in other vampire flicks they slowly melt the flesh before becoming fully engulfed in flames. In this film it was a more instant process and a fire extinguisher would have been helpful.

One common trait of 1980s movies is cheesy music and this movie was no exception. The baselines made me think back to the 1990s TV show, Seinfeld. When Mae gives Caleb blood for the first time they opted for a heart beating, as opposed to music.

As far as vampire flicks go, this movie was alright, but not one I would recommend to other people. The plot was predictable and the only character I found amusing was Paxton’s. I can at least say I have seen the film now.

Funny, who would have thought such an adventure could be had from thinking with your dick. Near Dark gets a virgin rating of three stars ★★★

Notes:

  1. Facebook post: Holly June Graves, post on The Crypt of the Un-Dead Facebook group, February 26, 2017, accessed Feb. 26, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1668311286764643/permalink/1846764405585996/.

Written by Erin Chapman

Erin is Vamped’s Co-administrator. She has 2 turtles; has 15 piercings and 5 tattoos; loves turtles and walking around in bare feet. She has a degree in marketing and sales and has been in the industry for over 11 years. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.

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