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'Near Dark' (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 05, 1988

Kathryn Bigelow's "Near Dark" is pop allusive in the same way that George Miller's "Mad Max" movies are, and it has the same postmodern knowingness about genre conventions that the Coen brothers displayed in "Blood Simple" and "Raising Arizona."

Here Bigelow has cross-bred vampire legends, westerns and biker movies to arrive at a combination that's both outrageous and poetic; it has extravagant, bloody thrills plus something else -- something that comes close to genuine emotion.

The film is set in the Oklahoma farm country, where Saturday nights are slow and angelic blonds tend to cause a stir in the male population -- especially when the angels turn out to be vampires. And so when Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) first sees Mae (Jenny Wright) standing in front of a convenience store, licking an ice cream cone, it's as if the world has slipped into another gear. "Sure haven't met any girls like you," he tells her. "No," Mae answers. "You sure haven't."

The feelings here emerge from the texture of the imagery, from the way Bigelow stages her gun battles so that the bullets punch holes in the walls to let in the dread sunlight, and from the velvety intensity of Adam Greenberg's cinematography.

At its core, "Near Dark" is the story about a teen-age passion that lasts for all eternity -- a great concept. The only problem is that vampire love has a lot in common with junkie love -- the night life, it seems, exacts a high price.

Copyright The Washington Post

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