I’ve always thought it a bit of a shame that, for a good decade now, the vampire movie has degenerated into what can politely be called a bit of a mundane mess. The most popular contemporary franchise is the appalling Twilight saga, successfully cementing, for a lot of people, the idea of the vampire as a self-pitying, socially awkward stalker type who look as if they’re on a heroin comedown. Either that or they’re a foppish, grandiose dickhead.
Of course, there have been extremely impressive euro-efforts such as Let The Right One In, and I’ve yet to see The Only Lovers Left Alive so I’m unable to give fair comment. But aside from occasional flickers of brilliance, I’m going out on a limb and saying the last great bloodsucker picture was 1997’s From Dusk Till Dawn. But 10 years before that, you had the fantastic and severely underrated Near Dark.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who you may better know as the force behind The Hurt Locker and the excellent bank-robbing surfer flick Point Break (which arguably gave Keanu Reeves as much opportunity to make fun of his own accent and mannerisms as the Bill & Ted movies), Near Dark unfolds the story of Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) a small-town farmhand who fancies himself as a charismatic cowboy. One night, while shooting the shit with his friends at their local watering hole, he runs into Mae (Jenny Wright) a slightly spooky but reasonably attractive girl who immediately takes to him.
You probably don’t need me to tell you where this is going, and I obviously won’t spoil anything major because fuck anyone who does that, but its not long before you are introduced to THE most badass, hateful, dangerous clan of vamps there has ever been on screen.
Led by Jesse (Lance Henriksen) a cold but completely awesome Civil War veteran who is assisted by his lady Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) and his completely and utterly unhinged lieutenant Severen (Bill Paxton), this exciting group of new pals take Caleb on the most violent and disturbing journey of his entire life. Forget ruffles, silly hair and Received Pronunciation accents, these guys are dirty, spur-wearing assholes who drive around in a bashed-up RV, ensuring they mask the windows in thick foil every morning just before the sun rises.
Complimented by an excellent soundtrack, a mix of dusky 1980’s ambience a la The Hitcher, At Close Range etc, and obviously some hard rock and heavy metal, if you like vampires, heavy metal culture or basically just like a great, solid little actioner, don’t pass this one up. The only minor drawbacks are Joshua Miller as the annoying little shit Homer (he also played an even more annoying little shit in nihilistic 1986 teen thriller River’s Edge) and slightly dated effects. But I promise that won’t detract from the overall awesomeness. 9/10