‘Near Dark’ brilliantly mixes westerns and vampires

‘Near Dark’ brilliantly mixes westerns and vampires

Near Dark just may be one of my favorite vampire films ever. This little horror sleeper features Lance Henriksen, which gets you off to a pretty good start right there. Throw in Bill Paxton, the criminally-underrated Jenette Goldstein, a Tangerine Dream soundtrack, a forbidden romance, cowboy vampires and have Kathryn Bigelow direct it all and you have the recipe for greatness.

In addition to adding the unconventional twist of combining the Western with a vampire film, Bigelow expertly handled how to do a vampire romance right. You have elements of forbidden love, a family that doesn’t like the boy you brought home, but it doesn’t fall into tweenie, puppy love drivel. It’s sort of a westernized, modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Or something like that.

All I know is that this movie is the shit.

near dark vampire western

Bigelow directed Near Dark long before her Oscar-winning days and even before her cult classic Point Break. I believe this wasn’t long after she divorced mega-successful director James Cameron, and she “borrowed” some of the actors he’s used in his films, including Goldstein with a small part in Titanic as well as Bill Paxton. She also throws James LeGros a small part in this film, who would go on to play one of the bank robbers in Point Break.

This film has a real dark, moody, gritty feel to it and the romance between Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and Mae (Jenny Wright) feels real. Mae makes you want Caleb to run off with her forever, foregoing his human life for the eternal thrill of running with the night. It’s hard to capture in words in a review, but when Mae tells Caleb to listen to the night, you feel that lure of the inhuman freedom that’s being offered to him.

near dark vampire movie

Henriksen and the rebel family he’s created are true sociopathic desperados, especially Paxton’s character with his jugular splitting spurs and sick humor. It’s all just perfectly woven together, and proves you don’t need a big budget or special effects to make an amazing movie.

This is simply a must-see film not only for horror fans, that anyone with a remote interest in the genre.





Retro Cinema: Salem’s Lot

Retro Cinema: Salem’s Lot

One of the first books by Stephen King to find its way on celluloid was the made-for-TV flick “Salem’s Lot,” starring David Soul of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. (Don’t even ask me which he was because not only do I not remember, I don’t think I even knew back then.)

Now, when you think 70s and made-for-TV, one usually isn’t too optimistic about the result. But this was the exception, with good acting, nice makeup and yes, vampires that were scary and not emo. Not that should be surprising under the direction of Tobe Hooper.

The plot synopsis: Writer Ben Mears (a thinly-veiled King) returns to his hometown to explore some childhood trauma for a new book. He meets a girl, played by Bonnie Bedelia, and befriends the young teen Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) who is obsessed with the macabre (a thinly-veiled teenage King) and they join forces when the townsfolk start falling ill and dying unexpectedly. It’s no coincidence this starts shortly after a stranger arrives and occupies the spooky Marsten house, getting it ready for its new mysterious owner who no one has seen.

Or at least no one who lives to tell the tale.

James Mason is supreme as the evil caretaker for one seriously fugly vampire, and this was the first time I had seen a Nosferatu-inspired vampire. Between him, and the vampires tapping on the windows, this one has some genuine creeps. Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad) also has a great scene, featured below.

Grab this while you can: It’s out of print and you may have to go VHS to stay in budget.

Salem’s Lot (1979) Cast
David SoulBen Mears
James Mason … Richard K. Straker
Lance Kerwin … Mark Petrie
Bonnie Bedelia … Susan Norton
Lew Ayres … Jason Burke
Julie Cobb … Bonnie Sawyer
Elisha Cook … Gordon ‘Weasel’ Phillips
George Dzundza … Cully Sawyer
Ed Flanders … Dr. Bill Norton
Clarissa Kaye … Majorie Glick
Geoffrey Lewis … Mike Ryerson
Barney McFadden … Ned Tibbets
Kenneth McMillan … Constable Parkins Gillespie
Fred Willard … Larry Crockett
Marie Windsor … Eva Miller
Barbara BabcockJune Petrie
Bonnie Bartlett … Ann Norton
Joshua Bryant … Ted Petrie
James Gallery … Father Donald Callahan
Robert Lussier … Deputy Constable Nolly Gardner
Brad Savage … Danny Glick
Ronnie Scribner … Ralphie Glick
Ned Wilson … Henry Glick



‘The Strain’ first trailer

FX has released several super short teasers for their upcoming horror series, “The Strain,” but we finally got a full 30 second trailers showing some clips of the show itself.

“The Strain” is a 13-episode series from Academy Award nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, author Chuck Hogan and writer/producer Carlton Cuse, which is based on the best-selling vampire novel trilogy of the same title written by del Toro and Hogan. The teasers and this trailer look pretty creepy already, but with the resume of creative talent on this one, plus the groundbreaking reputation of FX for great, edgy TV, this is bound to be a winner. Both Cuse and del Toro had plenty of good things to say so far about their collaboration with the network.

“‘The Strain’ books are near and dear to my heart and now, Chuck and I have the blessing of a partnership with Carlton and FX that holds great promise,” said del Toro. “Working with FX has yielded an amazing experience with total creative freedom and support.”

“Working with visionary filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and the team at FX has been a dream come true for me,” said Cuse. “Guillermo’s epic, cinematic pilot for ‘The Strain’ starts a chilling and compelling story that will upend everything you thought you knew about vampires.”

The series  is a high concept thriller that tells the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.

Rounding out the cast are Mia Maestro, Sean Astin, Kevin Durand, Natalie Brown, Jonathan Hyde, Richard Sammel, Robert Maillet, Jack Kesy, Ben Hyland, and Miguel Gomez.

Emmy Award winning Writer and Producer Cuse (“Lost,” “Bates Motel”) will serve as Executive Producer/showrunner and writer. Gary Ungar will also serve as Executive Producer. The series premieres July 13, but stay tuned here for more news and trailers as the network releases them.

If you love Dario Argento, you may want to skip this

If you have vampires or you have Italian giallo legend Darío Argento, you know you’re going to have blood. And if you if you have both together, and you know you’re going to have a lot of blood. Normally, we would also presume that with a master like Argento at the helm, a movie would be stylish and well-done, if somewhat gory.


I’m a huge fan of Argento, and all his beautifully bloody past work, especially his classic “Suspiria.” It’s hard to dispute how creepy and how well done that film is, although I’m sure there are a few people out there that have panned it. I’m sure Argento is sick of everyone telling them how great that film was, and wants to hear how good “Dracula: 3-D” is. And I would really love to say that, as well.

However… I find myself in the very difficult position of having to say bad things about the work of someone who I’ve admired for a long time in the horror film industry. I keep trying to tell myself that Argento’s latest film, “Dracula: 3D,” is trying to be cleverly campy and have fun with the old-fashioned horror films. I’m trying to tell myself that, but it’s just not working.

I just don’t know how else to say it… I did not like this movie at all.

Even trying to interpret it in a campy way, the acting was just so bad. And, oh God help us, the CGI is probably the worst CGI I have ever seen, especially the praying mantis. Speaking of which, can someone please explain to me the whole praying mantis thing? Okay, I know Dracula can shape shift into other things besides bats or wolves, and I’m okay with that, but what the fuck are we doing with the praying mantis transformation, and a really bad one at that?


Also, let’s talk about the sets. I just kept looking at the styling and the props and it felt like the whole thing came from a Goodwill or dumpster diving. It all looked cheap and tacky and not in a kitsch, hip way.

I love Argento… I love the work his daughter Asia has done… I love Rutger Hauer… but I just can’t love this movie. If you want to have fun with the old-style of movies, take a look at Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” That’s how you do it.

I still love you Darío, but I have to tell movie fans you’d be better off to watch Coppola’s “Dracula” and “Suspiria” instead of this. I’m sorry, but it’s true. If that seems harsh, read some other reviews and you’ll see I’m being much kinder than most.

Please don’t ever make me be mean to you again, Dario. Please.

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Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D trailer and stills!

Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula in the Dario Argento version

Thomas Kretschmann as Dracula in the Dario Argento version

Count Dracula returns to the big screen again, but this time in 3D… and with horror legend Dario Argento at the helm.  The director, know for his giallo-style horror, also directs daughter Asia Argento as Lucy.

IFC Midnight will release the film in theaters,  View On Demand, and iTunes on  October 4. As if that wasn’t horror lover overload already, the film also stars Rutger Hauer as Van Helsing, and was an official selection at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

If the Italian horror master is true to form, there will be blood… and lots of it.

Check out the trailer for a sneak peek!


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