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One year post-Aliens, a good chunk of the cast of that movie agreed to star in then relative newcomer Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark: a vampire film with a difference.

For one thing, the word "vampire" is never uttered during the movie.

Near Dark follows a normal dude, played by a young Adrian Pasdar (yes, Nathan from Heroes), who meets Jenny Wright's adorable Mae one night and what starts off as an innocent-enough impromptu date soon turns to disaster when it's revealed that not only is Mae a vampire but night is quickly turning to day. Caleb (Pasdar) is bitten and stumbles home in the burning daylight before finally being captured by Mae's vampire pals/family which happens to consist of a dangerously mischievous Bill Paxton, an intense Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein sporting a badass blonde poofy haircut and Joshua John Miller, an adult stuck in a child's body. As scary as they can be, they're also charming as hell and Caleb, despite not wanting to kill for blood (a big no-no in that group), soon considers being one of them. Unfortunately, they do need him to be a killer in order for him to qualify as one of them so they give him a few chances to prove himself (see the particularly awesome bar scene, below) but, although he does save their lives at one point, that only buys him some time and when his actual family finally finds him, reality sinks in and things get somewhat complicated.

The film portrays vampirism both as a pretty cool, if solitary, way of life, as an unhealthy addiction and, ultimately, as a curse. It's only when Caleb sees those vampires for the cruel, messed-up people they are that he decides that killing for immortality just isn't worth it, even if he is in love with Mae. The film perfectly captures what's attractive, repellent and tragic about these vampires and as sad as you are that Caleb didn't just join them and start kicking ass Paxton-style, you totally get why he makes the choice he makes. I mean, these guys play Russian roulette when they're bored! Near Dark not only looks fantastic (it's actually shocking its budget was only about $5M) but feels unique. The stylish cinematography blends beautifully with the atmospheric score/soundtrack to give the film an almost Lynchian, otherworldly quality. We get to see a character be born into this new life and living through a dream then a nightmare. The whole "scientific" cure the film comes up with near the end is a bit of a cop-out but then again, the rules of this particular take on vampire lore are implied and never obviously defined so anything kinda goes.

More people should find and watch Near Dark: it's a charming, bittersweet gem and one of the best and coolest vampire movies around.

Love it.

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