(good) Horror Films discussion

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Weekly (Good) Horror film 2: Near Dark.

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I think by having a thread for each movie it'll make it easier for people to comment whenever they want and in the case of 'Rec' it will probably be a couple of months before most people actually get to see it.

So...I decided to jump ahead and pick 'Near Dark' a s a movie we can discuss after watching it again sometime during this week.
It's regarded as a classic, if not THE classic Vampire film, by most critics but does it deserve such acclaim?


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited May 21, 2008 02:59AM) (new)

I watched this last night and was very surprised by how well it has aged. I think the decision to steer clear of traditional vampire iconography has certainly helped but it's the barren landscapes and night time scenes that give 'Near Dark' its timeless quality in my opinion.

I had forgotten some of the exchanges in the film and the lines that hinted at how old the vampires actually were such as remembering the fire in Chicago and the American Civil war. I would have liked to know more about why the group of vampires ended up in the situation they found themselves in as I would have thought that, by now, they would have had some safe houses and not needed to steal vans every week in order to live. Also, why DID they need to keep moving? Were they being hunted?

Those questions, though, push the ideology of the film into cliched territory and when this film came out it avoided cliches in all respects so those answers are probably best left unknown.

The score by Tangerine Dream is very atmospheric, though, if i was harsh, I would suggest that this is the one area of the film that betrays it's 80's dating.

The bar scene is now rightly regarded as a classic and I can't help thinking of the Nick Cave song 'O'Malleys Bar' every time I see it.
This film is well worth a re-watch and if you haven't actually seen it then search it out now...before the remake.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy | 238 comments Mod
I've seen this movie a few times - I agree with Dave that the bar scene is a classic, and definitely the vampire characters are among the coolest I've seen on film - not cliche at all. One that hasn't been mentioned is the kid vampire, who decides he'd like his own child bride - creepy and sad at the same time. The Western setting is also great, as opposed to the typical urban setting of most vampire movies. Lots of grit, leather, and blood - a thumbs up.


message 4: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 02, 2008 02:17PM) (new)

Rob, I felt the same way as you a couple of years ago; my memories were mixed and I'd had a lingering impression of not liking or empathising with the two lead characters. I don't know if its nostalgia or a better appreciation of acting over the years but this time round I actually felt more for them.

The movie, as you rightly point out, is not innovative in terms of reinvention or even storyline but the setting is novel (or Was!) and this helps overcome the other deficiencies.

Amy, the child vampire was probably the most complex character in the film and it would have been interesting to know more about his past. Comparisons are always going to be made with Claudia from 'Interview...' though, again, the modern dustbowl setting probably creates enough distance between the two.


message 5: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie Not only did I see a comparison between Claudia and Homer, but many aspects of the Anne Rice vampire series. When Mae turns Caleb and he must feed on her, he hears her heartbeat while he is drinking and Mae must pull away telling him that drinking too much will kill her. This whole scene could be right out of an Anne Rice novel. In addition, when Jesse is shot and he spits out the bullet...this is also another scene in the Rice series. So I thought there were quite a few similarities. In researching further, I found an interview with Kathryn Bigelow where she says the two books she used as a basis for her vampires were Bram Stoker's Dracula and Anne Rice's Interview.

My favorite line was from Severen: "Hey Jesse, remember that fire we started in Chicago?" I laughed as not only do they remember the fire, but they were responsible for starting it. Bill Paxton was great in this role. Without his character, the movie would not have been quite as enjoyable. I do appreciate the exploration of vampires having human feelings; the idea that they do not completely act in an animalistic manner. I can see how this film, in conjunction with The Lost Boys (also 1987), created a new perception of what makes a vampire. Overall, a good movie.


message 6: by George (new)

George | 157 comments Watched it last night. I wasn't even aware it existed before this section started off. It was pretty decent, even if it hasn't aged particularly well. Nice to see Lance Hendricksen, but definitely, the film would have seriously dragged without Paxton, who was the undead life of the party. I would have liked a bit more on the history of the group, and given the film wasn't non-stop action, they could have taken a little time to flesh out the characters. But, all in all, worth watching. However, I think I'd vote for The Lost Boys as the better film by far.


message 7: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie George, I agree. The Lost Boys was by far the better film. A little tidbit, the boy that played Homer (Joshua Miller) is Jason Patric's half-brother. I thought it interesting that they both starred in vampire movies the same year. I see that The Lost Boys: The Tribe is due out in theaters on July 29th. My favorite headline for this thus far: "Feldman promises blood, gore, nudity and Corey Haim". Should be interesting to see how The Lost Boys will fair 20 years later. Although I'm sure there will be a lot of die hard fans of the 1987 film, such as myself, who will be buying advance tickets!


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 07, 2008 12:05PM) (new)

I can only presume that you guys are joking about 'the lost boys' being a better film!


message 9: by George (last edited Jun 07, 2008 12:57PM) (new)

George | 157 comments Well, each to their own. I do feel that The Lost Boys as a concept was more fully fleshed out and better realized as a film. Near Dark had a great deal of potential and a surprisingly good cast, but it wasn't sufficiently developed and frankly, I thought the ending was pretty weak. However, I'd be happy to read your spirited defense.


message 10: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie No joke...I have to agree with George. While Near Dark had a lot of opportunities to be a great film, the characters were never truly developed and downright cheesy. The exception is Bill Paxton who was genius. If The Lost Boys wouldn't have come out at about the same time, Paxton's role would not have gone as overlooked. Overall, I think that the storyline of Near Dark was far superior to that of The Lost Boys, but that its potential was never fully developed. Between the two, I could watch The Lost Boys again and again, but I would need a lot longer stretch of time before I would want to watch Near Dark again.


message 11: by Tera Marie (last edited Jun 07, 2008 05:33PM) (new)

Tera Marie I love Fright Night! Sarandon effortlessly portrays the vampire and his stalking of "Amy" is terrifying. There were a lot of comical aspects to this film, but it was a great movie all the same. I need to watch this again real soon.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 08, 2008 02:09AM) (new)

Hmmm, interesting points of view and I should say first of all, (and I don’t mean to be patronizing!), that I’m specifically comparing the films in the context of this group; ‘(good) horror films’: to my mind ‘The Lost Boys’ is very enjoyable and certainly more watchable than ‘Near Dark’ but in terms of effort and bringing something new to the genre I feel ‘Near Dark’ is the more serious and the film that tries to invoke a sense of fear and awe in a modern audience as opposed to playing it for laughs (nothing wrong with that approach but it constantly nullifies suspense as it goes.)

I would never have put these films side by side as they are completely different beasts and as such it’s hard to be fair in weighing up their opposing merits; if ‘Near Dark’ should be compared to any Vampire film it would be Jerry Ciccoritti’s ‘Graveyard Shift’ or to a lesser extent ‘The Hitcher’ (same writer as ‘Near Dark’ Eric Red.).

For me, ‘Near Dark’ is a more courageous film than ‘The Lost Boys’ because of it’s setting, characters and willingness to stay serious and treat its subject matter with respect rather than goofy embarrassment: it was never going to be as big a ‘success’ commercially as ‘The Lost Boys’ because of this but it was an approach that the genre needed at the time in light of the audiences of the late 1980’s period becoming used to their horror fix diluted with comforting and dependable comic relief filled sequels, i.e.- The Elm St. films, Evil Dead, Fright Night, Childs Play…
The slow pace, the long panoramic dusk and dawn shots by Adam Greenberg and a screenplay that hinted at elements it chose to allow the audience to wonder about, for me, created a film that not only made us fully immerse ourselves in the twilight world of the contemporary vampire but also, with deliberate intent, left emptiness and washed out anaemic landscapes instead of what we had been previously used to; romantic, garish and over stated contrast: these vampires were dead, their world reflected this.
Again, to compare this with the world of ‘The Lost Boys’ seems unfair to me; whooping teens jumping off bridges, going to carnivals…it’s a safer, more identifiable (for the intended teen audience) place.

Screenplay wise, really, one is a pastiche (an unapologetic one, of course!) and the other is a flawed, sometimes frustrating, attempt at something new; I prefer the latter but I’m more inspired and enthused by a horror film that pushes at the walls of the genre than one that dilutes and plays for lowest common denominator hooks again and again. To use the old cliché of the Big Mac and Steak dinner, I really enjoy both but I know which one is better for me! (within reason, ha ha!)



message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I REALLY liked the first 'Fright Night' but the second one was pretty bad. My point was that even accepting that, the film was still a comedy/ horror that had a poor sequel.

I agree with what you write about the reasons for 'The Lost Boys' commercial success.


message 14: by George (last edited Jun 08, 2008 04:10PM) (new)

George | 157 comments Dave, I think you make interesting points, but I don't personally buy into them entirely. I certainly agree that Near Dark is the more ambitious of the two. I don't object to slow pacing in certain aspects, I just feel that it should be used to fill in the gaps in the plot and to better define the characters, so that their downfall has more meaning or impact. I would have certainly liked to know more about the kid vampire, the most interesting in the group in many aspects. Didn't happen, but not for lack of time to give us something. I thought the group was rolled up fairly easily for a vampire group lead by someone who's been around over a hundred years. at least 2 of them were involved in the Chicago fire, so they've had their trials and tribulations to overcome in the past. I was waiting to see what was going to happen when the girl was cured at the end of the film, since she probably wasn't 21. I thought perhaps they were going to destroy her by saving her from the virus, or whatever the vampire germ was, but no. So, for me the ending lacked real punch. they could have done something more with it, they wouldn't have had to have the girl fall into dust, it was just a possibility. maybe just turn her into a grandmother. I thought she got off amazingly lightly, given her participation in killing folks. Certainly that was a bit of a commercial choice.

I'm sure casting had a lot to do with the general commercial success of Lost Boys, although I wasn't personally intrigued by pretty boys at the time, and haven't particularly changed over the years, so I'd prefer that not be read into my general support for the film.:) I did like Lithgow quite a bit though and I thought Kiefer did a very good job. I still think Lost Boys is the better effort as a film, not that it was particularly frightening. I found myself disappointed that Near Dark wasn't better than it was. It really could have been a lot more.


message 15: by Amy (new)

Amy | 238 comments Mod
My 2 cents - both Lost Boys and Fright Night are clearly very commercial films. I like both of them - but I think one of the things I like most of all about both is the sense of humor they both have. In both, some characters have to convince other characters that vampires do exist, even when there's comics and a TV show that are built on the so-called existence of blood-suckers. In both, the rituals of keeping out vampires and killing vampires are also called out. There are dark turns, but there's also sexy vampires and laugh-filled endings.

Near Dark is different - there's no laugh track, there's no abundance of teens (and yes, they were there in Fright Night). It starts in a dusty small town, with a guy driving a truck. These vampires stick to the lonely, back roads, where a hitchhiker won't be missed. To me, it takes risks - it's not slick, or obvious. Sure, the movie isn't perfect. But it does take some great chances, so for me, it's done much more for horror than The Lost Boys or Fright Night.


message 16: by Tera Marie (last edited Jun 08, 2008 11:04PM) (new)

Tera Marie I disagree with the idea that Near Dark and The Lost Boys do not bear comparison. Any two films can be compared on a multitude of levels. These two films easily lend themselves to comparison simply based on the subject matter.

Having said that, however,there is a very stark contrast between the two as one attempts to portray the dark side of life as a vampire and the other attempts to show how to enjoy the nightlife, but truly the overall storyline is the same; there are just two separate approaches to reaching the final scene.

In both films we have a young man desparately resisting the hunger growing within, a female vampire to which our protganist is attracted and who has quickly won his heart, the token vampire in child form, the general disdain of the newcomer by the group at large, and the newcomer being challenged by the group to prove his worth. At the end of each film love prevails and the couple once again become human either through the death of the patriarch of the brood or.....a blood transfusion. One ending sounds conceivable, the other ridiculous....a blood transfusion? Seriously?

What makes The Lost Boys a better film to me is the seamless way in which the story unfolds. As onlookers, we quickly become involved with the characters and empathize with the issues presented to them. We care about what happens. The relationships seem genuine. In Near Dark, the storytelling is stiff, the interactions between characters forced and the development of both insufficient in allowing us to have any emotions about what happens to these characters in the end.

In addition, The Lost Boys has discernable comedic moments that make the audience chuckle, but keeps us focused during serious scenes. In Near Dark, I found myself laughing or rolling my eyes at even the most serious scenes as they were just so trite-lacking any real luster or believability.

Now, despite all this and even though I enjoy watching The Lost Boys more than I ever will Near Dark, I do believe that the concept behind Near Dark was superior as its purpose was to create a different perception of vampires and their emotional fight for survival. The problem being that this story was never fully realized. There are so many gaps or holes in the story that were just never answered and could not be redeemed by its outstanding cast.


message 17: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 09, 2008 02:24AM) (new)

George,
You make perfectly good points and there's certainly an element of bias in my criticism due, entirely, to personal taste.
Re: your point about the ease in which the group of vampires were destroyed, I agree,and yet I felt that throughout the film Lance Henricksens character was weary of living and in his dialog with 'Diamondback' there was a tendency to reminisce as if they knew time was catching up with them, however, I'm not sure if that was the makers intention and again its an observation that 'I' like as opposed to one that is definite.

Tera,
Great points as well and in terms of story structure you're bang on; all the classic elements of mythological tales are in order throughout both films although I stand by my claim that in the context of this group they are completely different beasts.

Re: the blood transfusion, it was supposedly the one homage that Eric Red (the writer) wanted to pay to Bram Stokers 'Dracula'. In the novel, Lucy is saved by Van Helsing (for a while, anyway!!!) by being given blood transfusions. So, that particular method of saving a person from the parasitic form of vampirism is actually the original way to 'cure' a bitten victim.


message 18: by Tera Marie (new)

Tera Marie Dave, you are definitely correct about the blood transfusion "cure". I do know that this method is employed in much literature, film and tv (Blade to some degree, for example). My disbelief at this ending was more due to the fact that there was just no background info given besides Caleb asking his dad if he thought he could perform a blood transfusion on a human and then it happened. Yes, we briefly see that his dad is involved with animals, it just seemed like such a huge jump for the film to make. The ending was a particularly weak part of the film.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Maybe a more downbeat ending would have suited the film more, with Mae dying and, possibly, Caleb too. That said, I expect the film would have found even more difficulties in its transition from screenplay to studio backing.


message 20: by George (new)

George | 157 comments You're probably right, and of course it emphasizes my earlier point that the commercial demons haunt this movie as well. I think when watching it, I had a different level of expection and demand than I had with Lost Boys. For me, Near Dark could have been a real classic. Lost Boys is what it is, but for what it is, it's very watchable.

Now tell me, how have we had so many posts on horror and no one has yet mentioned one of my favorites, Re-animator?


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, George, you could put it up as a separate thread or you could put it as movie of the week next. Rob has 'Sisters' for this week which I've only just got round to watching!



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