Near Dark is What Happens when You Add Vampires to a Western

Near Dark (1987) Review

Near Dark is not your typical vampire film, and Caleb Colton is not your typical lead character. When Caleb meets a gorgeous woman (who is unsurprisingly a vampire), he quickly gets turned and is involved in the dealings of a local gang of vampires. However, Caleb finds the process of killing to survive a little too much for his tastes and when he realizes that his human family is in danger, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

How it Goes

Caleb, a cowboy, ends up spending the night with a beautiful girl named Mae. She manages to bite him in the neck before running off, and Caleb is suddenly unable to go into areas with direct sunlight. It does not take long before Mae comes back with a group of vampires led by Jesse, who decides that they should give Caleb a week to prove that he is worthy to join their group.

Right off the start, Caleb’s strong principles make him an uneasy fit for the gang, especially his refusal to kill for blood. It is not until Caleb willingly exhibits his selflessness (for the sake of Jesse and the others) that the gang feels compelled to welcome him to the group. However, the vampire in the youngest body, Homer, decides that he wants a companion. And he wants none other than Caleb’s sister, Sarah. This causes an altercation in the group and Caleb is rescued by his father, though a quick exposure to sunlight leaves him badly injured. In the hospital, a blood transfusion manages to reverse the effects of his vampirism, making him human again.

Near Dark (1987) Review

Despite being cured, he is unable to stop the gang from kidnapping his sister thanks to a kind of obvious distraction involving Mae. Unable to use his car, Caleb resorts to riding on horseback in order to give chase. Mae, who is with the gang, decides to help Caleb by fleeing with Sarah. Eventually, the three are reunited and the other vampires end up getting exposed to the sun during the chase. Mae is given a transfusion too, turning her back into a human. This allows her to remain with Caleb.

Bring Out the Horses

The film was originally envisioned as a western –which is why Caleb remains as a cowboy. However, at that time the genre of westerns was not doing so well in the box office. The filmmakers had the idea of combining the western with the vampire theme –then having a resurgence in cinema thanks to the success of Fright Night and The Lost Boys. This is why there are many moments in the film where the situation can be easily seen in a western more than a typical suspense-thriller that is more commonly associated with vampires.

The end result is a surprisingly good film, thanks mostly to director Kathryn Bigelow (who is now married to James Cameron). Many critics have praise for Bigelow’s approach to filmmaking, and it is obvious why. The way she composes the scenes looks really impressive. Of course, it is also a little obvious that dealing with the whole vampire thing is not her main forte, and there are times when Jesse’s group seems all over the place.

A Not So Different Vampire

Near Dark (1987) Review

The vampires of this film seem very similar to the small gang seen The Lost Boys -80’s Hollywood sees the vampires as some sort of underground or counter-culture movement, as opposed to the more grandiose appeal that the older vampires have like with the more classical Dracula or the glamorous and mysterious trend that are more associated with modern interpretations of the mythical horror creature.

Jesse’s gang is seems like a typical street gang, each member has their own unique agendas and are not like a close knit coven. Mae in particular is more easily drawn to Caleb than the group, easily evidence by the fact that she chose to turn Caleb of her own will. It does make their group dynamic feel a little too common and generic. This should be fine since the movie does not focus on a Jesse’s group all that much. Surprisingly, Caleb’s family (especially his sister), despite not playing much of a role in the story until later on, become a key part of the film near the very end.