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the walking dead, season two premiere

#41: near dark (kathryn bigelow, 1987)

(This is the 10th of 50 pieces that originally appeared in a Facebook group devoted to three of us choosing our 50 favorite movies. I’ll present them un-edited except for typos or egregious errors. I’ll also add a post-script to each.)

One thing is becoming clear: I have a much larger appetite for gore than either Jeff or Phil.

Near Dark is a long-time favorite of mine that has faced some challenges in the last couple of years. I’ve always considered it Kathryn Bigelow’s best film, but then along comes The Hurt Locker, which deserves consideration as well. And it has always been my favorite vampire movie, but then along comes Let the Right One In, which is vying for my fave in that category.

So I watched Near Dark again, as I have done for all of the movies on my list. The things I have always loved about Near Dark are still there, as good as ever. My appreciation for the moody atmosphere was increased; not sure why, but I noticed it more this time around. Some of the shots are gorgeous and ominous at the same time, and there is a hot tenderness in the blood-exchanging scenes between Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright that is a match for anything on True Blood.

Still, what lifts this film above its competitors can be reduced to two words: Bill Paxton. This is a list of favorites, and Bill Paxton’s Severen is my favorite vampire of all time. I can’t think of another vampire who enjoys his job as much as does Severen. Paxton inhabits the part (yes, like he’s possessed), offering up a rare combination of viciousness and glee. It’s the role of a lifetime, even if it is far less known than his work on Big Love.

Kathryn Bigelow has had a fascinating career, and I say that not as a Johnny-come-lately but as someone who has been a fan of hers since Near Dark, her first solo directing job, in 1987. Her films are often more style than substance, and I usually prefer the opposite, but when they work, you have something special. Her misses can be invigorating (Point Break, but also K-19: The Widowmaker), but her lesser films expose her weaknesses (Blue Steel, The Weight of Water). I was delighted when she became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar. I suppose the Academy still has a hard time rewarding genre work, though. Otherwise she might have won an Oscar for Near Dark.

 

The comments this time consisted of Jeff, Phil and I talking about our favorite gory movies. The highlight was Jeff telling us he once interviewed Herschell Gordon Lewis.

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