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Near Dark

Theatrical poster
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe
Written by Eric Red
Kathryn Bigelow
Starring Adrian Pasdar
Jenny Wright
Lance Henriksen
Jenette Goldstein
Bill Paxton
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Editing by Howard E. Smith
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date(s) October 2, 1987
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,000,000
Gross revenue $3,369,307

Near Dark is an American vampire/Western horror film, written by Eric Red and Kathryn Bigelow, and directed by Bigelow. Starring then little-known actors Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, the movie was released in 1987, part of a revival of serious vampire movies in the late 1980s. It did poorly at the box office upon release, but was viewed favourably by critics subsequently and has a sizable cult following.[1]



One night, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar), a young man in a small Oklahoma town, meets Mae (Jenny Wright), an attractive young drifter. Just before sunrise, she bites him on the neck then runs off. The rising sun causes Caleb's flesh to begin to burn. Mae comes with a group of roaming vampires and takes him away. The most dissocial of all the vampires, the callous and sociopathic Severen (Bill Paxton), wants to kill him, but Mae reveals she has turned him into a vampire. Their charismatic leader, Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), reluctantly agrees to allow Caleb to remain with them for a week to see if he can learn to hunt and become a trusted member of their group. Caleb is unwilling to kill to feed, which alienates him from the others. To protect him, Mae kills for him then has him drink from her wrist. After Caleb endangers himself to help them during a daylight police raid on their motel, Jesse and the others are temporarily mollified.

Meanwhile, Caleb's father (Tim Thomerson) has begun searching for the group while the police are also investigating. A young vampire in the group, Homer (Joshua John Miller), meets Caleb's sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds) and wants to transform her into his companion, but Caleb objects. While the group argues, Caleb's father arrives and holds them at gunpoint, demanding Sarah be released. Jesse taunts him into shooting, but regurgitates the bullet then wrestles the gun away. In the confusion, Sarah opens the door letting in the sunlight and forcing the vampires back. Burning, Caleb escapes with his family and suggests they try doing a blood transfusion to attempt to cure him. The transfusion successfully reverses Caleb's transformation. That night the vampires search for Caleb because he knows their identity, and Homer still wishes to have Sarah for his mate. Mae distracts Caleb by trying to convince him to return to her while the others kidnap Sarah.

After Mae leaves, Caleb discovers the kidnapping and gives chase on horseback after finding his tires slashed. Along the way, he commandeers a tractor-trailer and encounters Severen, whom he runs over. The injured vampire manages to get into the truck's cab, so Caleb jackknifes the vehicle and jumps out as the truck explodes and kills Severen. Seeking revenge, Jesse and Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) pursue him, but are forced to flee in their car as dawn breaks.

Not wanting Sarah to become another child-like monster, Mae breaks out of the back of the car with Sarah, getting badly burned by the sun as she runs with Sarah into Caleb's arms, taking refuge from the sun under his jacket. Homer attempts to follow but dies from exposure. Jesse and Diamondback, their sun-proofing ruined, also begin to burn. They attempt to run Caleb and Sarah over with the car but fail, also dying in the process.

Mae awakens later, her burns now healed; she has been given a transfusion and is also cured. Together, she and Caleb watch the sunrise.



Kathryn Bigelow wanted to film a Western movie that departed from cinematic convention, which at the time was strongly identified with the films of John Wayne and John Ford. When she and co-writer Eric Red found financial backing for a Western difficult to obtain, it was suggested to them that they try mixing a Western with another, more popular genre. Her interest in revisionist interpretation of cinematic tradition led her and Red to the idea of combining two genres that they regarded as ripe for reinterpretation: the Western movie, and the vampire movie, whose conventions largely derived from Bela Lugosi's performance in Dracula. The film was scored by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, who also created the soundtracks for Risky Business, Legend, The Keep, Sorcerer and Thief.


Near Dark was released on October 2, 1987 in 262 theaters, grossing USD $635,789 on its opening weekend. It went on to make $3.4 million, below its $5 million budget.[2]

In 2009 Lions Gate Home Entertainment released the blu-ray disc, which includes the documentary of the film "Living in Darkness".[3]

Subsequent screenings

The film will be screened on 35mm on 26th March 2010 in Edmonton, Canada.[4]

Critical reception

Part of a late 1980s revival of serious (as opposed to comedic) vampire depictions on the big screen,[5] it received mostly positive reviews for its mix of the western, biker and vampire movie genres.

In her review for the New York Times, Caryn James wrote, "Ms. Bigelow's too-studied compositions - Caleb in silhouette riding a horse toward the camera - clash with her unstudied approach to the characters' looks".[6]

Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader, conversely, was impressed by Bigelow's first foray into big budget films with the "hillbilly vampire" movie, describing it as "beautifully shot".[7]. As well, Hal Hinson of the Washington Post said the intermixing of vampire legends, westerns and biker movies has an end result that's "both outrageous and poetic; it has extravagant, bloody thrills plus something else - something that comes close to genuine emotion."[8]

Jay Scott in his review for the Globe and Mail wrote, "Bill Paxton as the undead sex symbol - is exceptional, but not exceptional enough to put across the cop-out that concludes the film".[9]

In his book, Monster Show: Cultural History of Horror, Film critic David J. Skal highly praises the film's mix of western and horror genres, and homeless wanderings and undeath.[10] Richard Corliss, of Time Magazine calls Near Dark "weird (and) beautiful "[11] and "the all-time teenage vampire love story".[12] Likewise, Richard Schickel (also of Time) considers the film a clever variant of the vampire film genre.[13]. Peter Travers, of Rolling Stone concurs, calling it "gory and gorgeous".[14]

Near Dark is ranked 34 on Rotten Tomatoes' "Top 50 Horror Movies" list of the 50 best reviewed horror movies of all time.[15]


A remake from Platinum Dunes film production company was originally planned[16] but has since been put on hold after the release of the vampire romance film Twilight. Producer Brad Fuller opines, “I think that Twilight was the same type of thing we were going for although Near Dark was a much darker, sexier, rated R version of that. But I’m concerned that, conceptually, Near Dark and Twilight are too similar in terms of a vampire movie. For now, that movie is on hold.”[17]

Further reading

  • Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. University of Chicago Press, 1995. p. 137. ISBN 0226032019

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Near Dark". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  3. ^ Near Dark Blu-ray Features Announced
  4. ^ Canadian Near Dark Screening!
  5. ^ Newman, Kim (1988). Nightmare Movies: a Critical History of the Horror Film 1968-1988. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 36. ISBN 0-7475-0295-1. 
  6. ^ James, Caryn (October 4, 1987). "Near Dark, a Tale of Vampires on the Road". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  7. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Near Dark". Capsule. Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-02-04. .
  8. ^ Hinson, Hal (5 May 1988). "'Near Dark' (R)". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  9. ^ Scott, Jay (October 2, 1987). "Vampire myth spawns new terrors in seductive demons of Near Dark". Globe and Mail. 
  10. ^ Skal, David J (15 October 2001). Monster Show: Cultural History of Horror. Essex, UK: Faber & Faber. pp. 432. ISBN 0571199968. 
  11. ^ Corliss, Richard (22 July 1991). "Cinema". Magazine. Time Magazine.,9171,973430,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  12. ^ The Hurt Locker: A Near-Perfect War Film
  13. ^ Schickel, Richard; Elizabeth L. Bland, Mayo Mohs (14 October 1991). "Hollywood's New Directions". U.S.. Time Magazine.,9171,974032,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  14. ^ Travers, Peter (17 October 2002). "Near Dark". Reviews. Rolling Stone magazine. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  15. ^ "Top 50 Horror Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  16. ^ Scott Weinberg (7 April 2006). "Near Dark Remake ... Nears". Cinematical. Retrieved 13 February 2009. 
  17. ^ Empire: Near Dark Remake Is Off

External links

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