RJ Bayley Reviews: Near Dark

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Imagine if the Twlight Saga movies (bear with me here) were crushed down into one film, with all the half naked werewolf boys, awkward superimposition and moping removed. Then reverse the gender roles into something less hackneyed. Set it in the modern west, throw in a star turn from Bill Paxton, crank the violence and gore up to a more pleasing 18 certificate and do it all 18 years before the first Twilight novel was ever published. Now you’re looking at writer/director Kathryn Bigelow’s wonderful slice of 80s vampire Americana Near Dark.

Near Dark is a great time capsule from the 1980s. The electronic soundtrack by Tangerine Dream isn’t the most obvious choice for dust, cowboys and pickup trucks, but it works wonderfully. It’s bleak, cold as the desert night and is the perfect contrast to the film’s setting. Watching and listening to the movie combined is gorgeous and it’s no surprise electronic scores are seeing a revival in the current neo-80s movement.

The central story between Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and Mae (Jenny Wright) is nicely played out. The film isn’t in a rush to unbelievably push them from one structured plot point to another. The damagingly over-emphasised idea of the tight three act structure would’ve strangled this world of nomadic vampires and probably robbed us of the terrifically protracted, tense and smouldering vampire bar fight that is the film’s standout sequence. Granted, the ‘vampire bar fight’ sequence is a niche category, but Near Dark’s has never been topped.

Props go to the real stars of the film Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, on stellar form in their 80s heyday. It’s probably Paxton’s finest role, eminently watchable as a seductive, macho, lunatic bloodsucker.

Near Dark is necessary viewing.

★★★★

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