Down-Home, Country-Fried Vampires: A Review of Near Dark (1987)

Yell! Magazine’s Review Of Near Dark:

In continuing with the vampire theme that we’ve had recently, I embarked on an epic journey to bring you more bloodsucking fiends and sexy girls with fangs. My search led me to 1987’s Near Dark.

Near Dark (1987)

Oklahoman teen Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar, TV’s Heroes) is a bored farmhand who happens to spot a mysterious young woman (Jenny Wright, Pink Floyd’s The Wall) from afar. They gallivant around town together and even her cryptic non-sequiturs aren’t enough to deter him from the vague promise of a little slap and tickle. Mae eventually bites him on the neck and runs off into the night, but Caleb gets a nasty surprise at sunrise when the bite on his neck begins to burn and cause him pain. Just about the time that it would appear he’s done for, a roving band of renegade vampires kidnaps him because – surprise! He’s now just like them… or is he?

Near Dark (1987) - Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker
Near Dark (1987) – Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker

The vampires comprise of compelling leader Jesse Hooker (the LEGENDARY Lance Henriksen), sociopathic tough guy Severen (Bill Pullman – wait, no Paxton – wait, no Pullman… no, Paxton!), Jesse’s cold-blooded main squeeze Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein, Aliens) and pathetic/hilarious child vampire Homer (Joshua John Miller, Teen Witch). It becomes clear that Caleb isn’t meant for a life with these bloodthirsty psychopaths and Jesse finally gives him an ultimatum: he has one week to learn how to feed and become like them, or else he’s undead dog meat.

Things become all the more complicated when Caleb’s meddling father (low-budget film staple Tim Thomerson) and younger sister set out across the American countryside to track him down, and track him down they do, leading to a tense stand off that doesn’t end things there.

I was impressed by several things about the movie, but first and foremost was how good it was. When I went into the movie I wasn’t expecting the cult classic that I was getting. This was only director Kathryn Bigelow’s (Strange Days, The Hurt Locker) second film, but you can already see her distinctive style coming out. The script, also written by Bigelow and co-penned by Eric Red (who also wrote The Hitcher) is insanely good for a 1980s vampire film. It’s The Lost Boys, only nittier, grittier, and for the older kids. Surprisingly, the film dwindled at the box office upon it’s initial release but unsurprisingly has garnered a strong cult following.

Near Dark (1987)

The two “leads,” Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, do little to push the story along save for being necessary in the storytelling process. They’re nothing special as far as acting goes, but both were relatively new to the film industry. The real stars of the show are former Aliens cast members Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton. And to be honest, Jenette isn’t even really doing anything but looking super hot and providing the chance to show that Lance Henriksen’s character has a softer side. Still, she’s great at it and probably set the pulse of many young men racing. I applaud her for that much.

Near Dark (1987)Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Joshua John Miller, Near Dark (1987)

The level of Jenette’s hotness is only tantamount to what an amazing bastard Bill Paxton manages to be in this role. He gets almost all of the good lines and delivers them with incredible gusto. He’s the sort of villain that people love to hate and just plain love. You can feel from the get-go that he’s not the sort of guy (undead or alive) that you’d want to fuck with. Lance Henriksen as Jesse Hooker does an excellent job of conveying everything that a stone-faced leader needs to be: He’s cool, calm, and in control of the entire situation throughout and has a few great lines himself.

Joshua John Miller, Near DarkJoshua John Miller, Near Dark (1987)

The weakest parts of the film had little to do with any continuity errors, technical difficulties, or anything like that – simply put, it’s those damned pesky child vampires. Joshua John Miller seemed to have a unique penchant for playing burdensome kids in ’80s movies and this role is no exception. I genuinely can’t tell whether the character was supposed to be as pathetic as he is and if the humor involving Homer (H-O-M-E-R, mispronounce it and I wouldn’t want to be you!) was intentional or not. Jenny Wright as Mae does little but look adorable and pixie-ish, which leaves something to be desired. I didn’t feel she was as alluring as she could have been and she’s in a role that demands an ethereal sexiness and a little something more than that – she has the sexiness, but comes across as unappealingly vacant most of the time… unless you’re into that, and hey, who am I to judge?

While they never explicitly say the V-word in the whole movie, make no mistake: Near Dark is one of the most important vampire movies of our times and is sure to become a fast favorite to those looking for a fast-paced story, a solid script, and some knockout performances from familiar faces.


Near Dark (1987) Poster
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
Year Released:
2 October 1987
Kathryn Bigelow
Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller, Kenny Call and Lance Henriksen
Horror, Thriller
Official URL:

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