Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Near Dark (1987)

Best known these days for Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow also directed Point Break and Strange Days, two films I don't personally rate very highly but which others seem to like. Before all that, however, she directed and co-wrote Near Dark, a contemporary (in 1987) vampire tale with some western sensibilities mixed in. And again, I don't rate it very highly, though others - I saw it with a group - did.

The film introduces us to Caleb, to whom I felt an instant dislike after he refused to take an obviously distressed woman home unless she gave him a kiss. Since meta-knowledge said the woman was a vampire, I was hopeful she'd rip out his throat for being an ass, but no such luck - she turns him into a vampire, instead. In this version of vampire lore, it seems that feeding on someone without killing them is all that is required to turn them. Given the appetite shown by the bloodsuckers through the rest of the film, it's something of a wonder the south-western US, where this is set, isn't entirely de-populated. Of course, one of the film's many failings is that it doesn't make much effort to have a cohesive vampire lore to it: we see one of them eat ice cream, but when a freshly-turned Caleb tries to eat a candy bar, he vomits it up. Sometimes being shot seems to inconvenience (though not actually harm) them and sometimes it doesn't.

Anyway, Caleb gets introduced to the vampire clan, who aren't thrilled he's been turned but agree he can stay as long as he makes his first kill within a week. Caleb can't do that, however. While he's up for harassing women, and morally bankrupt enough to not object when the others kill, he isn't willing to do any killing himself. What a hero. He only finds an ounce of moral courage when it's his own family on the feeding and/or turning block. He helps them escape, and the movie moves into its final act ... in which it just gets dumber and dumber every minute. Like 'They couldn't be about to do something that stupid ... oh, I guess they can' levels of dumb.

Those who liked the movie felt that it told the 'classic' vampire tale of virtue vs the temptation of evil, but this would require Caleb to have virtue. Screw him, and screw this film.

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