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Film / Near Dark

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"I ain't a person anymore. I don't know what I am."
Caleb Colton

Near Dark is a 1987 horror movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and written by Bigelow and Eric Red. It stars Adrian Pasdar, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Jenny Wright. Along with The Lost Boys, it is credited for pretty much reinventing the vampire genre.

Bigelow had originally wanted to make a Western, but realized that interest in the genre at the time was almost non-existent. When then-future-husband James Cameron suggested that she "mix it up with something else", she decided to make a Horror Western.

It tells the story of Caleb Colton, a young Oklahoman, who joins and is subsequently rescued from a family of vampires. It mixes both a certain amount of gory action - Kathryn Bigelow doesn't do slow paced - with a character study of Caleb becoming a vampire and the choices he is required to make. These are not nice vampires as found in Twilight, nor the demons of Buffy, but each is distinctive. Severen is truly scary, Homer is unhappy, while Mae beautifully describes the attraction of living forever. Should be required viewing for anyone playing Vampire: The Masquerade.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Warehouse: Their second "garage".
  • Adult Fear: Loy sees his teenage son abducted, and after a long period of searching for him, finds out that he's a vampire and is conflicted about going home. Additionally, he nearly loses his pre-teen daughter to another one of the vampires.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: With the exception of Severen's, the vampires' deaths are almost tragic.
  • Ax-Crazy: Severen thoroughly revels in the carnage that he leaves behind.
  • Bad Samaritan: The way they hunt is no picnic, and seems to work mostly on this and The Farmer and the Viper.
    • Jesse and Diamondback pick up hitchhikers to eat. It turns into Bullying a Dragon when they turn out to be carjackers.
    • Severen gets picked up by a pair of women and invites them "out for a drink."
    • Homer pretends to be a kid on a bike whose been run over by the side of the road, only to attack anyone who helps him.
    • Mae and Caleb hitch a ride with a trucker. After Caleb fails to attack him, Mae hits him from behind.
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  • Been There, Shaped History: The Vampire Gang.
    Severen: Hey, Jesse, remember that fire we started in Chicago?
    Jesse: Let me put it this way... I fought for the South. We lost.
  • Big Bad: Jesse Hooker, leader of the vampire gang.
  • Body Horror: Severen gets burned to a crisp in his confrontation with Caleb, which leads to his look on the film's promotional art.
  • Bystander Syndrome: A lot of the people in the bar just gawk and stare as the vampires kill them one by one. Although this is somewhat justified given how they've seen trying to attack the vampires doesn't work and they're terrified about being next.
  • Can't Grow Up: Homer.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: The trucker explaining to Caleb how to brake a truck in such a way that it will jack knife.
  • Covers Always Lie: Behold the new Blu-Ray covers, meant to lure in Twilight fans. Boy, are they going to be in for a shock. . .
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Caleb's horse does not react well to vampires.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When the last two vampires are about to die, they smile at each other, and one says "Good times."
  • Feral Vampires: The modern Trope Maker, concerning a clan of filthy redneck vampires in backwoods Oklahoma.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Blonde-haired Mae is the least villainous of the gang.
  • Hellbent For Leather: Severen wears a motorcycle jacket when he's not wearing a cowboy outfit.
  • Historical Rap Sheet: Jesse and Severen once reminisce how they started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
  • Humanity Ensues: Vampirization can be reversed with human blood infusion. In the end, Caleb is turned back by his father and sister, and he does the same thing to Mae.
  • I Love You, Vampire Son: Caleb falls in love with Mae before she reveals herself to be a vampire and turns him. It's also implied that this is the reason why Homer turned Mae herself, but since he's an immortal man trapped in a 10-year old body nothing comes of it. It does fuel his resentment towards Caleb, later threatening to turn his little sister as well. Inverted at the end, where Caleb turns Mae back into a human through a blood transfusion because despite everything he still loves her.
  • Kill It with Fire: It takes a lot of fire (a whole tanker full), but this is how Severen dies.
  • Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: When the vampire gang kill everyone in a small bar, Jesse orders Caleb to kill the lone kid who managed to escape out a window. When he lets the kid go? Yeah, the masquerade comes close to crashing down, and he nearly gets killed over it.
  • Knife Nut: Diamondback is quite the knife-thrower.
  • Large Ham: Bill Paxton was having a blast as the Ax-Crazy Severen.
  • Made of Explodium: Vampires react very energetically to sunlight, just not with positive results for the vampires.
  • Missing Mom: Caleb and Sarah are being raised by a single father, and their mother is never mentioned.
  • Mugging the Monster: Do not try to carjack vampires, they respond quite well.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Severen, Bill Paxton's fight-happy psycho-vampire.
  • New Old West: The film is set in the back roads of Oklahoma and Kansas.
  • Not Using The V Word: No one says the word "Vampire" and Caleb is even a bit confused as to what he is.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're grimey, not very pale, unhappy but not mopey, and can be cured.
  • Power at a Price: It is not explicitly discussed, but this definitely applies.
    • The Power: vampires have a very long life, super strength, and a massive Healing Factor.
    • The Price: They have to kill people every night to feed. They seem to have no moral problems with this, but they're always on the run for murder, and will die in daylight. The gang change vehicles three times during the film, and seem to own nothing beyond the clothes on their backs, some weapons, and a roll of tin foil for blacking out windows.
  • Puppy Love: Homer is tired of being the only (apparent) kid in the group and is - in his own monstrous way - sweet on Caleb's sister Sarah. Bunch of reasons why it ain't happening.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Homer, who looks ten but is over 50, and none too happy about his physical state.
    • Judging from his offhand comment alluding to the Great Chicago Fire, Severen has been alive since at least 1871.
    • Jesse is mentioned as having fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
  • Screaming Warrior: Jesse, who fought for the Confederacy, lets out rebel yells while firing at the cops.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The teenage cowboy who survived the bar massacre and is brought by the police to the motel to identify the killers wisely high-tails it out of there when the gunfight starts.
  • Shout-Out: In an early scene, a movie theatre in the background is showing Aliens, which starred some of the vampire gang.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To The Terminator. Both films share cast members and aesthetic, but while The Terminator dealt with threats from the future, set near the coast and ended with most of the cast dead, Near Dark's villains come from the past, the story is set in inland America and among the named characters, only the villains die.
  • Sunlight Hallway: In effect, the gang's shootout with police turns their bungalow into a Laser Hallway variant, by blowing holes in the walls that let vampire-searing beams of daylight into the room.
  • Undead Child: Homer again.
  • Undeath Always Ends: At the end all of the vampires are dead, except the main character and his love interest, who have been cured of vampirism through a blood transfusion.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Less bites, more just ripping your throat out.
  • Vampires Are Rich: Inverted: these vampires are poor. See Power at a Price, above, for details.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The brooding Homer becomes obsessed with Caleb's little sister, and goes ballistic when she's taken away from him, chasing her into the sunlight and dying as a result.
  • Weakened by the Light: See Made of Explodium, above.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Caleb saves the gang by running into the sunlight as the rest of them are engaged in a shootout with the cops. They sing his praises afterwards, giving him more time to prove himself, and it looks like Caleb is about to sign on with them full-time ... until his father and Sarah walk into the motel room where they're staying.


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