Set in the contemporary American Southwest, the film begins as Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), a bored farm boy, spots the beguiling Mae (Jenny Wright) at his usual Friday night hangout. By the break of dawn, Caleb has been bitten in the neck by Mae and befriended by a bizarre "family" of vampires--led by
Jesse (Lance Henriksen), undead since before the Civil War--who travel across the country in a Winnebago. To his horror, Caleb learns that he has been "nipped" (i.e., he's almost a full-fledged vampire), and to graduate he must kill and drink blood. Sensing that Mae is in love with the boy, Jesse
gives Caleb a week to perform his first kill.
Although several movie genres are represented here, NEAR DARK is most obviously based on Nicholas Ray's feature debut, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (Bigelow's characters literally must live by night). Both films focus on a young couple desperately in love but trapped in a lifestyle they detest by their
surrogate families (bank robbers and vampires, respectively). Bigelow, who codirected THE LOVELESS with Monty Montgomery in 1982, and coscreenwriter Eric Red (THE HITCHER) demonstrate a keen understanding of the history of American cinema and create a unique film that explores the conventions of
the vampire movie while moving it from dank European castles to modern-day Southwestern America. Bigelow sees the vampire (the word is never used in the film) as a nomadic outlaw, much like the fabled gunslingers of the Old West or the bands of bank robbers that roved the landscape during the
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An auspicious solo directing debut from Kathryn Bigelow, NEAR DARK combines such diverse genres as horror, western, crime, and romance into what may be the first vampire road movie.