[box cover]

Near Dark

Released by an independent studio about to file chapter 11, only to find new life later on home video, 1987's Near Dark probably would have developed a cult following solely based on its re-teaming of about half of the marine platoon from James Cameron's Aliens. All the better that it's actually a good movie. In fact, that's something of an understatement. It's a great movie, and one of the few original and entertaining vampire flicks free of the Anne Rice-bred self-pitying existentialism that's engulfed the genre. Adrian Pasdar stars as Caleb, a cowboy who meets a pretty girl named Mae (Jenny Wright) whose behavior is different than any other girl he's ever known. But when his advances are resisted (even though they are both attracted to each other), she bites him. Caleb is then rapidly drawn into Mae's "family," which includes father-figure Jesse (Lance Henriksen), mother Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), wild-card Severen (Bill Paxton), and child Homer (Joshua Miller). However, except for Mae, they all hate Caleb because they realize he isn't much of a killer — especially when Caleb lets one of his prey go and the cops come looking for them. Caleb buys himself some time, while his father (Tim Tomerson) is looking for him. And Caleb knows he doesn't belong with this ghoulish clan. Making her solo-directing debut, Kathryn Bigelow (working from a script she wrote with Eric Red) was trying to make a western with Near Dark and ended up making a vampire movie. Fortunately the film is the best of both worlds, and it's told at a fast clip that economically packs each scene with meaning. But the key ingredient is the vampires, and — perhaps because most of them had worked together before — these vamps are great to watch in action (Paxton especially). The main set-piece of the film is its triumph, as the vampires go to a bar to feed: The scene makes the most of the films' black-comic gothic horror underpinnings ("I hate it when they don't shave" says Severen). The movie also understands and tweaks the vampire mythology, as there's no crucifixes and the filmmakers know that they can invent their own rules. Anchor Bay has put together an excellent two-disc special edition of Near Dark featuring a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and audio in DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Supplements include a dry audio commentary by Bigelow on Disc One, while the second disc features "Living in Darkness," a 47-minute documentary that gathers together Bigelow, Pasdar, Goldstein, Paxton, Henriksen, cinematographer Adam Greenberg, and producers Edward S. Feldman and Steve-Charles Jaffe. A two-minute deleted scene with commentary is included, as are storyboards, two trailers, talent bios, and still galleries. Dual-DVD digipak in paperboard slipcase.

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