Friday, September 13, 2013

My years in horror: 1987

There are years when it seems that one type of movie or one monster gets a bigger push than any other. 1987 was definitely the year of the vampire, although there were some twists.

Among the best of the year: Evil Dead II, Baste Taste, The Video Dead, and one of the best of the franchise A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. The vampire got good press with The Lost Boys and The Monster Squad. While one modernized the creature, the other gave life to a more traditional Dracula. But neither of those films were the year's best.

Nor is Clive Barker's Hellraiser. I feel a strange kind of blasphemy saying that Hellraiser wasn't the best horror movie of its year because Hellraiser is a classic and has had a longer shelf life than the movie I think is 1987's best. And maybe it is all of those sequels (and a remake that I haven't bothered to waste 90 minutes watching because Doug Bradley is Pinhead and no one else) that have diluted public opinion of the original film. Perhaps the single-serving quality of Near Dark gives it something more special than Hellraiser.

 Sure, Kathryn Bigelow has gone on to win an Oscar for Best Director since this movie came out 26 years ago. But this was her big entry into cinema. The film is dark (duh) and has a Western overcast. Like The Lost Boys, the vampires of Near Dark are thoroughly modern, except that these vamps are rural modern instead of suburban modern. This difference gives Near Dark a unique quality that has not really been seen since.

Near Dark could also be seen as a predecessor to Twilight. Ugh. I hate even mentioning that travesty on this blog, but I have to. Near Dark's heart is a love story between a mortal and a vampire and while the mortal does succumb to vampirism  the story gets deeper. Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) doesn't take to his new condition well and his new love Mae (Jenny Wright) find a cure and end the film watching the sunrise. It's beautiful, partly because we're not entirely sure the cure is permanent.

Lance Hendrickson and Bill Paxton (what is this? An Aliens reunion?) also co-star. Paxton particularly shines (not f***king sparkles!) as Severen. Watch for when he goes berserk and eventually gets burnt to a crisp. I'm still surprised that he didn't become a bigger star after this film, but I shouldn't be. While Near Dark has become a home video favorite, the film grossed only $3.4 million on a $5 million budget. By contrast, The Lost Boys grossed more than $32 million on an $8.5 million budget and Hellraiser, with a miserly $1 million budget, grossed $14.5 million.

Bigelow next made Point Break before becoming an Oscar darling with The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

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