Near Dark

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Near Dark
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe
Written by Eric Red
Kathryn Bigelow
Music by Tangerine Dream
Cinematography Adam Greenberg
Edited by Howard E. Smith
Distributed by DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group
Release dates
  • October 2, 1987 (1987-10-02)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5,000,000[1]
Box office $3,369,307[1]

Near Dark is a 1987 American Western horror film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by her and Eric Red. The story follows a young man in a small midwestern town who becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires. Starring then little-known actors Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, the film was part of a revival of serious vampire movies in the late 1980s.

Despite the film preformed poorly at the box office upon release, reviews for the film were very positive by critics. Over the years, the film has garnered a sizeable cult following.[2]


One night, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar), a young man in a small town, meets an attractive young drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright). 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 unsociable of all the vampires, the callous and sociopathic Severen (Bill Paxton), wants to kill Caleb, 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 and 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 child 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 before wrestling 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 persuade 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 childlike 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.


(In credits order)

Production notes[edit]

Vampire films had become "trendy" by the time of Near Dark's production, with the success of 1985's Fright Night and 1987's The Lost Boys (released two months before Near Dark and grossing $32 million).[3] Kathryn Bigelow wanted to film a Western movie that departed from cinematic convention. 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 combine two genres that they regarded as ripe for reinterpretation: the Western movie, and the vampire movie. The combination of these two genres had been visited at least twice before on the big screen, with 1959's Curse of the Undead and 1966's Billy the Kid vs. Dracula.

Bigelow knew (and later married) director James Cameron, who directed Aliens, a 1986 film that shares three cast members (Paxton, Goldstein and Henriksen) with Near Dark. A cinema seen in the background early in the film has Aliens on its marquee, and Cameron played the man who "flips off" Severen.

The film was scored by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream.


Near Dark was released on October 2, 1987 in 262 theaters, grossing US$635,789 on its opening weekend. It went on to make $3.4 million, below its $5 million budget.[1]

In 2009 Lions Gate Home Entertainment released the Blu-ray disc, which includes the documentary of the film "Living in Darkness".[4]

Critical reception[edit]

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] Conversely, Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader 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 is "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]

Richard Corliss of Time magazine called Near Dark "weird (and) beautiful"[10] and "the all-time teenage vampire love story".[11] Likewise, Richard Schickel (also of Time) considers the film a clever variant of the vampire film genre.[12] Peter Travers, of Rolling Stone concurred, calling it "gory and gorgeous".[13]

Near Dark is ranked 34 on Rotten Tomatoes' "Top 50 Horror Movies" list of the 50 best reviewed horror movies of all time with a rating of 89%.[14]


A remake from Platinum Dunes film production company was originally planned[15] but has since been put on hold after the release of the vampire romance film Twilight. Producer Brad Fuller stated, "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."[16]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Near Dark". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-01-15. 
  2. ^ Tobias, Scott (November 5, 2008). "The New Cult Canon: Near Dark". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2014-01-15. 
  3. ^ Kaufman, Gil (March 10, 2010). "Corey Haim's 'The Lost Boys' Was The Original Teen Vampire Flick". Retrieved 2010-05-09. 
  4. ^ Barton, Steve (October 19, 2009). "Near Dark Blu-ray Features Announced". Dread Central. Retrieved 2014-01-15. 
  5. ^ Newman, Kim (1988). Nightmare Movies: a Critical History of the Horror Film 1968–1988. London: Bloomsbury. p. 36. ISBN 0-7475-0295-1. 
  6. ^ James, Caryn (October 4, 1987). "Near Dark, a Tale of Vampires on the Road". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  7. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan. "Near Dark". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  8. ^ Hinson, Hal (May 5, 1988). "'Near Dark' (R)". The 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. ^ Corliss, Richard (July 22, 1991). "Cinema: Board Stiff". Time. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  11. ^ "The Hurt Locker: A Near-Perfect War Film". Time. September 4, 2008. 
  12. ^ Schickel, Richard; Elizabeth L. Bland; Mayo Mohs (October 14, 1991). "Hollywood's New Directions". Time. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (October 17, 2002). "Near Dark". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  14. ^ "Top 50 Horror Movies". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  15. ^ Weinberg, Scott (April 7, 2006). "Near Dark Remake ... Nears". Cinematical. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  16. ^ Hewitt, Chris (December 12, 2008). "Near Dark Remake Is Off". Empire. Retrieved 2014-01-15. 

External links[edit]