Review Date: August 21, 2002
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 9/10/2002
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
When Near Dark was released into theaters back in 1987 it had the misfortune of being released just a few months after The Lost Boys, a vampire flick that, at first glance, appears to be similar in plot to Near Dark. For that reason, coupled with a poor marketing campaign, Near Dark turned out to be a box office failure. Like so many other horror movies (e.g. The Thing), Near Dark went on to find eventual success and a fan base in the home video market. Now, to the delight of horror fans around the world, Anchor Bay has once again delivered what fans have been dying to get - Near Dark on DVD, in its first ever home video widescreen presentation. Not only that, it's being released as a 2-disc set with some impressive looking extras, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. I'm very happy to report that this set is in NO WAY a limited edition. That's a good move on Anchor Bay's part.
Without further delay, lets take a look at Anchor Bay's Near Dark DVD.
Caleb Cotton (Adrian Pasdar) is a young man living on a farm with his father Loy (Tim Thomerson) and his sister Sarah (Marcie Leeds). One night while Caleb is in town to drink some beers, he meets a young and beautiful girl named Mae (Jenny Wright). When she asks for a ride home, he quickly agrees. Caleb makes a detour during the ride, promising her a surprise, all the while trying to steal some kisses off her. Mae, having lost track of the time, finally realizes that dawn is near. She tells Caleb that he must bring her home at once. He agrees, but only if she gives him a real kiss. She does exactly that, in addition to giving him a small bite on the neck, which will forever change his life.
Mae is part of a group of eternal drifters. The group consists of Jesse, the leader (Lance Henriksen); his wife Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein); crazy and wild Severen (Bill Paxton); Homer (Joshua John Miller), the man stuck in a boy's body; and, of course, Mae herself. This group lives off the blood of humans, traveling from town to town in search of fresh food, and perhaps some adventure as well. By biting him on the neck and not subsequently killing him, Mae has inducted Caleb into their little group. But the other members aren't so quick to accept Caleb, insisting that he first prove himself capable of their lifestyle.
Caleb is given multiple opportunities to prove himself, each of which he fails. He must be able to kill other humans in order to feed off their blood. Jesse gives him one last chance when they take a visit to a local bar. The group kills off each person in the bar until only one is left; one for Caleb to kill. Caleb fails to do so, but ends up buying himself some more time when he saves the group after a run-in with the law. That extra time comes to an abrupt halt when the group crosses paths with Caleb's father and daughter. Homer decides he wants Caleb's sister, Sarah, as a companion to spend eternity with. Caleb refuses to allow this, ultimately igniting a battle between himself and the group. Now Caleb must decide between his day family and his night family; his love for Mae and his love for the day family. Either way, a bloody battle is sure to ensue.
Near Dark has a bit of everything. It's a western, a love story, a comedy, and an adventure all rolled into one. It doesn't play by the vampire rules. There are no stakes through the heart, no crosses, no holy water, and no garlic. Hell, there aren't even any of the trademark vampire fangs. Even the word 'vampire' isn't used during the course of the movie. The only rules that remain are they need blood to survive and sunlight will kill them. The 'vampires' here aren't the suave and debonair type that so many other movies depict. This is a group of dirty, hungry, and care free drifters looking for their next meal, and perhaps some fun and adventure along the way. Because of these this, any predictability on the part of the viewer is out the window. You don't know what to expect next, which creates a great level of tension for the viewer.
Near Dark benefits greatly from having a top notch cast. I've always loved Lance Henriksen as an actor. He has always given strong and powerful performances; Near Dark is no exception. He's perfect as Jesse, the leader and elder of the group. Jesse has been through it all and has seen it all. Every problem he encounters is no big deal, it's nothing he hasn't seen or dealt with to some extent in the past. And lets not forget Bill Paxton, who is absolutely brilliant as Severen, the wild and crazy one of the bunch. Severen loves being a vampire; he loves having this strength and power over regular humans. He doesn't just hunt humans for food and survival. It's a cat and mouse game for him. And like a cat, he has to play with and torture his prey before he kills it. Otherwise it just isn't as tasty.
The rest of the cast give top notch performances as well, it's just that they're overshadowed by Bill and Lance.
Both makeup effects and lighting in the movie are extremely well done. There are scenes where various characters are caught in the daylight. When this happens, a trail of smoke is omitted from their body as it begins to catch fire. These effects are very detailed and realistic. Since the majority of the movie takes place at night, lighting is very important as it makes or break the particular environment. The lighting and shadows are superb. It's evident that there was an amazing attention to detail in the making of Near Dark, putting it a step above so many other low budget movies.
It's interesting that both The Lost Boys and Near Dark are two of the greatest modern day vampire movies, and that they were released nearly simultaneously. The same can be said for Howling and An American Werewolf in London on the werewolf side. And like Howling and An American Werewolf in London, both The Lost Boys and Near Dark do well standing on their own. There's really no need to compare one to the other so extensively, so I'm going to avoid doing so in this review. Both are different, and both are great in my opinion. I give a slight edge to The Lost Boys only because it's more faithful to vampire mythology, and I'm stickler for playing by the vampire rules. Having said that, Near Dark is still an excellent movie that takes a different and refreshingly original approach to vampires. Highly recommended.
Near Dark is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that has been THX certified. This transfer is very close to perfection. Image remains consistently sharp, with only a few scenes appearing slightly soft. No grain or blemishes were seen whatsoever. This is a very dark film with lots of shadows, all of which looks beautiful on this transfer. Even the night scenes with various smoke and fog contain no signs of compression artifacts. Colors during the day scenes look rich and vibrant. A near perfect transfer here that I'm going to rate with an A-.
Both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks are included on the DVD. I'm reviewing the DTS track here, which sounds great. Rears and LFE activity is light, but during the action scenes there were some great effects from both. Soundtrack is powerful and dialogue remains clear and audible. A good DTS track overall.
Also included is the original Dolby Stereo soundtrack and Closed Captions.
Anchor Bay has released Near Dark as a 2-disc set with a good amount of extras. First is a commentary with director Kathryn Bigelow. Sadly, she didn't have much to say during the commentary, resulting in a lot of silence on the track. Her discussion is mostly on the characters and the story itself. It was a bit on the dull side overall. I prefer more discussion on behind-the-scenes experiences, effects, and working with the cast and crew. She discusses very little of those things here.
The highlight of the set in on disc two; it's a 47 minute documentary titled Living In Darkness. It features interviews with director Kathryn Bigelow, stars Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Adrian Pasdar, Jenette Goldstein, producer Steven-Charles Jaffe, director of photography Adam Greenberg, and executive producer Edward S. Feldman. It's great seeing the cast and crew reminisce over their experiences with Near Dark. They discuss how and why they received the roles, preparation for the roles, writing the story, directing, and much more. It's evident that everyone involved was proud of the movie, and remains proud to this day. It's a great documentary that fans will really enjoy.
Also on disc two is a short deleted scene with director commentary; storyboards for Caleb's Transformation, A Taste of Blood, Feeding Montage, Roadhouse Slaughter, and Motel Shoot-Out; still galleries; talent bios; and DVD-ROM features consisting of the original script and screen savers. Finally, a short little book is included that contains photos, notes by Michael Felsher, and an interesting section titled, '12 Things You May Have Missed & Other Interesting Facts About Near Dark'.
Definitely a nice special edition here. The commentary is lackluster, but the documentary and other goodies more then make up for it.
Near Dark is a great little horror, action, western, and love story rolled into one. It has stood the test of time and is enjoyed by legions of horror fans around the world. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend this nearly forgotten gem. Anchor Bay's 2-disc Near Dark is a godsend, containing great video and audio, as well as some enjoyable supplements. At a price of $29.98, coupled with the fact that this is NOT a limited edition in any way, this DVD is a must buy for Near Dark fans.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+
- Running time - 1 hour 34 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- English DTS 5.1
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Dolby Stereo
- Closed Captioned
- Commentary with Director Kathryn Bigelow
- Living in Darkness: 47 minute documentary containing retrospective interviews with cast and crew
- Deleted scene with director commentary
- Theatrical trailer
- Original storyboards
- Poster & Still Gallery
- Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery
- Talent Bios
- DVD ROM: Original Screenplay
- DVD ROM: Screen Savers