Near Dark (1987)

R | 95 mins | Horror | October 1987

Director:

Kathryn Bigelow

Cinematographer:

Adam Greenberg

Editor:

Howard Smith

Production Designer:

Stephen Altman

Production Company:

F/M Entertainment
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michael Thielvoldt, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Tom Schatz as academic advisor.

Composers Christopher Franke, Edgar Froese, and Paul Haslinger, who collaborated on the original musical score, are credited under their band name, Tangerine Dream.
       The film begins with a mosquito biting "Caleb" and a sequence depicting the character driving into town at sunset. In DVD commentary, Bigelow explained that the production had to raise the mosquito in order to ensure it was free from contaminants, a process that took six months. Bigelow also explained that she cast Joshua Miller after seeing him in the 1986 teen crime drama, River's Edge .
       Bigelow reported that she and co-writer Eric Red originally wanted to write a western, but a more popular genre would help the project succeed, and chose to create a western-horror hybrid. Although the term, vampire, is never stated in the film, Bigelow frequently used the term when she described the characters and the film's generic conventions. She stated that the idea to use blood transfusions as a cure for vampirism in Near Dark was based on Bram Stoker's Dracula , in which bloodletting was mentioned as a possible cure. Bigelow and Red adapted this detail into the more modern blood transfusion for Near Dark .
       In preparation for their roles, Bigelow had the actors portraying gang members perform timed "blackout" drills, in which they were required to work as a team to convert a given area into a sunlight free space ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Michael Thielvoldt, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Tom Schatz as academic advisor.

Composers Christopher Franke, Edgar Froese, and Paul Haslinger, who collaborated on the original musical score, are credited under their band name, Tangerine Dream.
       The film begins with a mosquito biting "Caleb" and a sequence depicting the character driving into town at sunset. In DVD commentary, Bigelow explained that the production had to raise the mosquito in order to ensure it was free from contaminants, a process that took six months. Bigelow also explained that she cast Joshua Miller after seeing him in the 1986 teen crime drama, River's Edge .
       Bigelow reported that she and co-writer Eric Red originally wanted to write a western, but a more popular genre would help the project succeed, and chose to create a western-horror hybrid. Although the term, vampire, is never stated in the film, Bigelow frequently used the term when she described the characters and the film's generic conventions. She stated that the idea to use blood transfusions as a cure for vampirism in Near Dark was based on Bram Stoker's Dracula , in which bloodletting was mentioned as a possible cure. Bigelow and Red adapted this detail into the more modern blood transfusion for Near Dark .
       In preparation for their roles, Bigelow had the actors portraying gang members perform timed "blackout" drills, in which they were required to work as a team to convert a given area into a sunlight free space as quickly as possible. Bigelow claimed the group worked their time down to less than two minutes for an "average"-sized room over the span of five days. Before production began, Bigelow required the actors to practice with firearms their characters used in the film. Under close supervision, the cast members attended a shooting range in which they shot live ammunition to feel the weapons� actual recoil, which lessens when using blanks.
       Although some modern sources, including Box Office Mojo, put the production budget at $5 million, a 22 Oct 1986 Var news item reported the budget as $6 million. HR production charts reported that filming began 17 Nov 1986 and, according to a 5 Feb 1987 Var news item, principal photography wrapped in early Feb. The same news item reported the film was shot in Arizona and Los Angeles. Bigelow specified that the film's opening driving montage was shot in Coolidge, just outside of Phoenix, AZ. The barroom slaughter scene was shot in Santa Clarita, CA at Newhall Ranch. She explained that, because the scene required the "gang" to torch the bar, the production had to build the structure from scratch. The initial meeting between Caleb and Mae in the town and the subsequent truck ride were set in mid-summer. However, the shooting took place in late Oct/early Nov, when it was extremely cold and occasionally snowy. In some shots the actors worked with mouthfuls of ice in order to counter the steam of their breaths against the cold night air. The scenes outside Caleb's truck were shot on a set in Los Angeles. Bigelow claimed the film had an accelerated production schedule, with roughly forty-two to forty-four shooting days. Because the constant threat of sunrise featured prominently in the narrative, many of the scenes required shooting during the roughly twenty-minute "magic hour" periods that occur just before sunrise and just after sunset. Bigelow estimated one-third of the schedule required filming during these times.
       Bigelow also revealed some of the special effects techniques used in the film. She explained that a portable smoke device added to the illusion of smoldering skin. For example, in the scene where Caleb burns in the sun for the first time, Adrian Pasdar wore the device under his clothes as he walked through the fields at dawn. The scene, captured primarily in long shots, looked as if the figure was smoking in the sunlight. Additionally, the production constructed facial prosthetics for scenes in which the sunlight sears a character's face. The smoke device was then tubed under the prosthetic to create the illusion of smoking/burning skin in close-up shots. On the day Homer's" death scene was shot, strong winds rendered the smoke device useless. As a remedy, the smoke and flames were added optically in post-production. In order to shoot the fatal showdown between Caleb and "Severen," the production team built an undercarriage for the truck, which the stunt man held on to when dragged by the vehicle. Additionally a platform was attached to the front of the truck to support Bill Paxton as he climbed up the hood.
       Near Dark reunited three cast members from the previous year�s Aliens (see entry): Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein. Aliens , the second installment in what would be a successful Alien franchise, was directed by James Cameron, who was later married to Bigelow for a brief period starting in 1989. In Near Dark , Caleb passes a movie theater that has Aliens listed on its marquee, as he shuffles his way to the bus station during his first night with the gang.
       A 27 Sep 1988 HR news item reported that Swedish film censors were demanding heavy cuts to Near Dark . Censors wanted nine minutes edited out of the film, including a proposed five-and-a-half minute cut, reportedly "one of the longest cuts on record." Conny Planborg, the film's Swedish distributor, appealed to the government to ease up on the magnitude of edits. Although the Swedish minister of culture, Bengt Goransson, had final decision regarding how much the film was edited upon release, his decision had yet to be determined. Censorship issues also arose in Canada, according to a 30 Oct 1987 Toronto Star news item that reported Canadian censors in a 3-2 vote narrowly passed the film with a "Restricted" rating and a warning of "Brutal Violence."
       A 11 Sept 1987 Var news item announced that The De Laurentiis Entertainment Group acquired the domestic and Italian rights to the film. According to the 15 Sep 1987 Var review, the film premiered 12 Sep 1987 at the Toronto Film Festival. Statistics on Box Office Mojo indicated the film grossed $635,789 on 262 screens its opening weekend, well outside the top ten listed grosses. By 27 Oct 1987, Var reported grosses of $217,575 on 261 screens. Box Office Mojo listed the total domestic accumulation at $3,369,307.
       The film received generally positive critical reception. The 15 Sep 1987, Var review compared it to Terrence Malick's 1973 film, Badlands , stating it was "something akin to a 'Badlands' of the supernatural, a tale that introduces the unearthly into the banality of rural American existence." Additionally, though, the review recognized the marketing limitations brought about by the film's high levels of violence. The review, which declared Near Dark "the most hard-edged, violent actioner ever directed by an American woman," identified the focal demographic as fans of hip actioners like The Road Warrior and The Terminator . In a 7 Oct 1987 HR review, critic Kyle Counts was less enthusiastic, writing: "this ghoulish thriller, a sort of 'The Lost Boys' in bib overalls, should titillate devotees of 'Night of the Living Dead' and 'Robocop,' but is likely to leave those with an aversion to cruelty and bloodletting groping for their sickbags."
       The film's violence did not, however, limit its presence on the science fiction and fantasy film circuits. A 6 Jul 1988 Var news item announced that Near Dark took the grand prize at the Paris Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film Festival. Jenny Wright took the festival's best actress award. Bigelow won the Silver Raven at the 1988 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film. Additionally, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror nominated Bigelow for Best Director, Miller for Best Performance by a Young Actor, Paxton for Best Supporting Actor, and Goldstein for Best Supporting Actress awards the same year. Also in 1988 the film was nominated for a Young Artist Award in the category Teenage Favorite Horror/Drama Motion Picture, while the following year Marcie Leeds won a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a Horror or Mystery Motion Picture for her work on the film.
       A 7 Apr 2006 Cinematical article reported that a Near Dark remake was in the works and being penned by White Noise 2 scribe Matt Venne. However, a 12 Dec 2008 Empire exclusive announced the remake was off. According to Platinum Dunes producer Brad Fuller, the cancellation came in reaction to the success of the vampire franchise Twilight , which Fuller explained is "conceptually...too similar" to what was planned for the remake. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Cinematical
7 Apr 2006.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1987
p. 3, 26.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Oct 1987
p. 10.
New York Times
4 Oct 1987
p. 67.
Toronto Star
30 Oct 1987.
---
Variety
22 Oct 1986.
---
Variety
5 Feb 1987.
---
Variety
11 Sep 1987.
---
Variety
15 Sep 1987.
---
Variety
23 Sep 1987
p. 13.
Variety
27 Oct 1987.
---
Variety
6 Jul 1988.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Feldman/Meeker production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Assoc prod/Prod mgr
Unit mgr, Arizona unit
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Asst to the prod/2d unit asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Co-prod
WRITERS
Wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog/Op, 2d unit
1st asst cam
1st asst cam, 2d unit
2d asst cam
Lighting gaffer
Best boy elec
Elec/grip, Arizona unit
Key grip
Best boy grip
Grip, Arizona unit
Still photog
Still photog
Arriflex® cam and lenses
Grip and electrical
Film processing
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Negative cutting
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Const
Const
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd fx/Foley
Sd fx/Foley
Sd fx/Foley
Sd fx/Foley
Dial/ADR
Apprentice
Foley artist
Foley artist
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff makeup
Spec eff makeup asst
Spec eff coord
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Titles and opticals
Fire opticals
Body smoking effect
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Scr supv
Auditor
Asst auditor
Prod secy
Prod secy, Arizona unit
Loc asst, Arizona unit
Continuity, Arizona unit
Post prod supv
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Researcher
Horse wrangler
Dog wrangler
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Craft service
First aid
Time lapse footage
Time lapse footage
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
SONGS
"Naughty, Naughty," performed and written by John Parr, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, Polygram International Music B. V.
"Morse Code," performed by Jules Holland, written by D. Woody and P. Simmons, courtesy of I. R. S. Records
"Fever," performed by The Cramps, written by John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, courtesy of I. R. S. Records
+
SONGS
"Naughty, Naughty," performed and written by John Parr, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, Polygram International Music B. V.
"Morse Code," performed by Jules Holland, written by D. Woody and P. Simmons, courtesy of I. R. S. Records
"Fever," performed by The Cramps, written by John Davenport and Eddie Cooley, courtesy of I. R. S. Records
"The Cowboy Rides Away," performed by George Strait, written by Sonny Throckmorten and Casey Kelly, courtesy of MCA Records.
+
COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
October 1987
Premiere Information:
Toronto Film Festival screening: 12 September 1987
New York opening: 3 October 1987
Los Angeles opening: 9 October 1987
Production Date:
17 November 1986--early February 1987
Copyright Claimant:
The Near Dark Joint Venture
Copyright Date:
4 February 1988
Copyright Number:
PA362499
Physical Properties:
Sound
Ultra Stereo
Color
Lenses/Prints
Release prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28812
SYNOPSIS

It is nighttime in Caleb’s small, southwestern town when he spots the petite Mae eating an ice cream cone. He asks her for a “bite,” and says, “I’m just dying for a cone.” Mae smiles as she echoes two select words, “bite” and “dying,” and then asks Caleb for a ride to a nearby trailer park where she is staying with “friends.” On route she tells Caleb to stop and, when the two get out of the truck, she converses whimsically about the light of a star taking a billion years to reach earth. She adds, “you know why you’ve never met a girl like me before…because I’ll still be here when the light from that star gets down here to earth.” While kissing Mae’s neck, Caleb professes that it “sounds like fun.” When he says he would like to be there, too, Mae replies, “Maybe.” Caleb then takes Mae to see a horse. However, the horse becomes riled at Mae’s presence and takes off. After a bit of flirting and kissing, Mae demands he take her home, as she is due by dawn. Despite Caleb’s claims that dawn is a long way off, she becomes increasingly frantic. On the ride home he stops and tells her that he will get her home, but first she has to kiss him. As the two kiss passionately, Mae bites Caleb’s neck. With blood on her lips she leaves the truck and runs for home just as the sun starts to rise. Caleb follows, but quickly gives up and returns to find his truck won’t start. On his walk home through the fields, Caleb’s skin smolders in the sun. He is weak ... +


It is nighttime in Caleb’s small, southwestern town when he spots the petite Mae eating an ice cream cone. He asks her for a “bite,” and says, “I’m just dying for a cone.” Mae smiles as she echoes two select words, “bite” and “dying,” and then asks Caleb for a ride to a nearby trailer park where she is staying with “friends.” On route she tells Caleb to stop and, when the two get out of the truck, she converses whimsically about the light of a star taking a billion years to reach earth. She adds, “you know why you’ve never met a girl like me before…because I’ll still be here when the light from that star gets down here to earth.” While kissing Mae’s neck, Caleb professes that it “sounds like fun.” When he says he would like to be there, too, Mae replies, “Maybe.” Caleb then takes Mae to see a horse. However, the horse becomes riled at Mae’s presence and takes off. After a bit of flirting and kissing, Mae demands he take her home, as she is due by dawn. Despite Caleb’s claims that dawn is a long way off, she becomes increasingly frantic. On the ride home he stops and tells her that he will get her home, but first she has to kiss him. As the two kiss passionately, Mae bites Caleb’s neck. With blood on her lips she leaves the truck and runs for home just as the sun starts to rise. Caleb follows, but quickly gives up and returns to find his truck won’t start. On his walk home through the fields, Caleb’s skin smolders in the sun. He is weak and stumbling when his little sister spots him nearing the family farm. She tells her father, and the two watch as an RV with darkly tinted windows careens into the field where a figure opens the door and pulls Caleb inside, before speeding off. Inside the RV Mae’s companions threaten to kill Caleb but stop when Mae reveals she “turned” him. After a day’s rest, Mae, Jesse Hooker, Diamondback, Severen, and Homer, agree to give Caleb a week to prove he is one of the group. Later, as they disband to roam the night, Caleb tells Mae that he must go home. She lets him leave, but he cannot afford a bus ticket. At the bus station he buys a candy bar, but cannot eat it. A police officer gives him money to pay for a ticket, despite believing Caleb is under the influence of drugs. Caleb gets off the bus early, too sick to continue. When he makes his way back to Mae she feeds him her blood, which he drinks vigorously. He heals instantly and the two run off together for the night. Unsatisfied with the police’s efforts to find Caleb, his family sets out to find him. Mae informs Caleb that he must learn to kill in order to survive. Despite claiming he is not a killer, the two seek out a truck driver for his first attempt. However, when Caleb cannot follow through, Mae kills for him. She allows Caleb to drink from her instead, but warns that if he drinks too much he could kill her. After a week Caleb has yet to kill and the gang is ready to kill him, but Mae convinces them to give him one last night. Later the gang visits a bar and kills all the patrons except one. That one is for Caleb, but Caleb lets him escape. An infuriated Jesse knows the patron will go to the police, but as the sun is rising the gang must seek shelter in a nearby motel. The police arrive at the motel during the day demanding the gang come out. Vulnerable to sunlight, the gang chooses to shoot it out. During the gunfight, Caleb makes his way to a van that is fashioned to block out sunlight and rescues the gang. Free from the police, the gang switches vehicles and heads to a new town. They are delighted with Caleb’s actions and give him more time to prove himself. After checking into another motel Caleb and Mae leave to enjoy the night, while the rest stay in to play cards. During the evening, Homer makes his way to an outside soda machine where he meets Caleb’s kid sister, Sarah. As Homer looks like a young boy, he has no trouble convincing Sarah to watch television with him in his room. Soon after, Caleb returns to the gang’s room and finds Sarah and their father, who Severen has brought from another motel room. Caleb tells his family that he will not return with them and asks Jesse to let them go. However, Homer refuses and announces he is going to turn Sarah. Caleb’s father pulls a gun and shoots Jesse, who coughs out the bullet. During the altercation Sarah wriggles free from Homer and opens the door. Sunlight pours in and the family escapes with Caleb wrapped in a blanket. After Caleb explains his situation, Caleb’s father gives him a blood transfusion. The process cures Caleb, who eagerly takes to the sunlight with Sarah. Some night later, Caleb leaves his home to find Mae outside. When she asks why he left, he tells her he belongs at home with his family. Mae takes off and when Caleb goes back inside he finds Sarah missing. Discovering his truck tires slashed, Caleb pursues on horseback. In town the horse bucks Caleb as Severen comes upon them. Following a brief beating from Severen, Caleb waves down an approaching truck. Severen shoots the driver, but Caleb uses the truck to run down Severen. However, Severen survives, climbs up the hood, and begins ripping the engine out with his hands. Caleb brakes, causing the trailer to crash into the cab, and bails out just before the vehicle explodes, killing Severen. With Severen gone, Jesse emerges to finish off Caleb. While Caleb questions Jesse about the whereabouts of Sarah, Diamondback sneaks up unnoticed behind him. She readies a knife to throw in his back, but, when Sarah emerges and warns Caleb, he ducks and the knife strikes Jesse, instead. Caleb grabs Sarah and runs, and Mae interrupts Jesse’s attempt to gun down Caleb. The gang chases down the siblings, snatches Sarah and drives off, while frantically prepping the vehicle for the rising sun. In the middle of the chaos, Mae rips Sarah from Homer’s grasp and jumps out of the car. Smoldering in the sunlight, Mae runs with Sarah toward the approaching Caleb. Homer follows but quickly explodes in the sunlight. Jesse and Diamondback drive toward Caleb and Sarah, who surround a blanketed Mae, intent on running down the three. However, Jesse and Diamondback burn before they can reach the trio and the car rolls harmlessly off the road. Later, Mae wakes during daylight and finds that Caleb has given her a blood transfusion, curing her. When she tells him she is afraid, he tells her, “Don’t be, it’s just the sun.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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