Near Dark (1987)

Two vampire movies came out in 1987.* One became a celebrated big-budget film that launched the careers of the Coreys and Kiefer Sutherland, with songs that people still sing, shirtless saxophonists and quotable dialogue about why there’s no need for a TV when you have TV Guide. The other movie was in and out of theaters in the time it took to read the last sentence and has stuck in my mind forever since.

Kathryn Bigelow had never directed a movie before. She was given five days to succeed or be replaced. She wanted to make a Western, but they weren’t popular. So she combined the vampire genre — the word is never mentioned — and hired three of the actors from her future husband James Cameron’s recently completed Aliens, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein.

Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) falls for the mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright, who is another beyond cult horror film that few discuss, I, Madman) but then learns her family — Severen (Paxton), Jesse Hooker (Henriksen), Diamondback (Goldstein) and Homer (Joshua John Miller) — are a roving band of RV driving maniacs given to acts of merciless terror.

The only problem that I’ve ever had with this film is that I have always seen the normal people in the world as the real monsters, despite the hints that Jesse and Severen set the Great Chicago Fire. The blood transfusions that save the beautiful people seem way too easy of a way out of the hell that the gang promises.

Biglow would go on to make the equally well-made Blue Steel. Most of the cast went on to fame, at least in the circles of people who read our site. And if you look close enough, there’s a picture of a torn-apart Severen on my fridge.

If you’d like to learn more about the films scored by the band who gave this movie its unique soundtrack, check out our article Exploring: 10 Tangerine Dream Soundtracks.

*We know that A Return to Salem’s Lot and My Best Friend Is a Vampire also came out in 1987. For the sake of poetic license, we hope you understand why we juxtaposed these two films. Ironically, both movies have a son of The Exorcist star Jason Miller in their casts, with Joshua John Miller is in Near Dark and his half-brother Jason Patric in The Lost Boys.

BONUS: You can hear Becca and Sam discuss this movie on our podcast.

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