Monday, April 4, 2016

Vampire Cowboy Junkies, or Thoughts on Near Dark

The western-horror crossover genre is a complicated and misunderstood genre but it remains uniquely American, and it’s difficult to find a more gritty and visceral example than Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987).  The modern vampire is largely a product of Victorian England and Easter European myths, grafting the archetype onto all those familiar cowboy elements can produce a confusing and distracting mess like Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966, starring John Carradine).  What’s interesting is it’s basically the same time period; in the original novel by Bram Stoker one of Lucy’s suitors, Quincey Morris, is described as an  “American cowboy” from Texas. 
Near Dark however, is a modern western with vampire protagonists, set to a moody 80’s soundtrack by the iconic German techno band Tangerine Dream, in the same year that The Lost Boys came out.  Vampires were popular in the 80’s, but these films had completely different visions of what being a vampire entailed.  The vampires in Near Dark are darker, grimier, bored with immortality and borderline psychopathic.
Caleb, played by Adrian Pasdar is a young cowpoke with a pickup truck who falls in love with Mae, played by Jenny Wright.  She belongs to a nomadic vampire tribe led by Civil War vampire Jesse Hooker, as portrayed with quiet, tired malice by Lance Henriksen.  Near Dark also features Jeanette Goldstein, who you know as Vasquez in Aliens (1986) as Diamondback, Jesse’s girlfriend.  But the horror scenes are stolen by the psychotic hillbilly biker vampire Severen, as played by another Aliens alumnus, a very young Bill Paxton.

While there is a romantic element at the core of this movie, the classic boy meets vampire girl story, there is nothing romantic about these vampires or the transformation into one.  The thirst for blood is treated like an addiction metaphor and these vampires act more like junkies than immortal European nobles in evening clothes with exquisite manners.   Again, they're American vampires; hard drinkin’, hard partying, leather jacket wearing, cigarette smoking rebels.  The western vampire bloodline would continue with films like From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998).


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.