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Sunday, May 8, 2011

NEAR DARK (1987)

Perhaps being ‘odd gal out’ at the all-boys’ action-filmmakers’ club makes helmer Kathryn Bigelow overcompensate on her hardware & fights, working us over so hard she undercuts the drama. But in this early horror pic, her first mainstream release, a miserly budget steadies her. There’s a tasty beginning as the twang of a ‘modern’ Western (like HUD/’63 or THE LAST PICTURE SHOW/’71) meets up with some outlaw vampires, on the lam & roamin’ the range. The great plains of Oklahoma & Texas may be big, but they ain’t far or wide enough to keep the usual bloodsuckers, victims & hunters from bumping into each other at perfectly inconvenient moments. That’s how things play out in the night world. But problems show up when the plot starts ignoring the time-tested tropes of vampire etiquette, particularly when they find a way to reverse the condition, leaving little at stake. And though Bigelow is a whiz at explosions & car chases, the staging & camera set ups for the undead donnybrooks are much less effective. Flawed as it is, this artsy vampire film, along with the same year’s unintentionally hilarious THE LOST BOYS, helped relaunch/reposition vampire mythology as youthful rebellion, replacing its outmoded use as undercover sexual metaphor. Bigelow, as we know, went on to better things, but oddly, the cast didn’t fare quite as well, though Bill Paxton’s deranged baddie is a swivel-hipped treat.

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