Friday, October 5, 2012

Well, It Doesn't Suck: "Near Dark" (1987)

Bigelow's revisionist vampire picture, cowritten with Eric Red, can be lumped in with all those other revisionist vampire pictures.

Adrian Pasdar is an aw shucks cowboy in Oklahoma who hooks up with weird girl Mae, played by Jenny Wright (what ever happened to her?). She brings him home to meet the family, who all happen to be vampires. A little love nip gets Pasdar hankering for some blood, and he reluctantly goes along with the band of psychotic human hunters. Pasdar's dad, Tim Thomerson, tracks down Pasdar and takes him back home. A blood transfusion fixes Pasdar right up, but the pack of vampires follows him, kidnapping his sister. A fiery climax ends this weird little film.

Lance Henriksen is the leader of the pack, and he is great. He has never received the recognition he deserved, and I wish "Millennium" was still on the air. Bill Paxton plays "the crazy one," the vampire who enjoys killing. In short, is seems to be the same role Paxton plays every other film or so. Pasdar and Wright are okay as the bloodstruck couple, but there is no real body heat between them (so to speak).

My problem with this film is this vague lack of spark throughout the film. Everyone goes through the motions, but no one looks like they are really into this. Like Red's other notorious film, "The Hitcher," this film opens badly. I felt like I sat down in the middle of the film, not the beginning. Pasdar and Wright are not given enough time to generate this Romeo and Juliet kind of love they are supposed to be experiencing. The vampire "family" are all nuts, and are not given enough time to show any care for each other, which means we eventually do not care either. Thomerson as the veterinarian dad is very good, but again, in an underwritten part.

The film certainly looks good. The special and makeup effects are great, especially the infamous scene of a little fifth grader-looking vampire running down a highway in sunlight and bursting into flame. Bigelow's direction is good, if a little sloppy. There are a couple of editing errors, but she does a good job of keeping things going.

When you think things are finally clicking, the film makers throw in a silly scene that makes you rethink your previous joy at the film. The blood transfusions and the second kidnapping of Pasdar's sister (really dumb) just provide grist for the mediocrity.

Throw in a completely inappropriate musical score by Tangerine Dream, and this film is a definite mixed bag. I recommend "Near Dark," but with some huge reservations. (* * * *) out of five stars.