Blu-Ray Review: After ‘New Moon’ Sets, Pick Up ‘Near Dark’

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CHICAGO – It’s funny the way that the Blu-Ray market has developed in that success of a new title can often bring an old one to the HD format more quickly than it otherwise would get there. In the case of the great “Near Dark,” it’s the success of two films, one that shares a theme (“The Twilight Saga: New Moon”) and one that shares director Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”). Whatever the reason, don’t fail to include arguably the best vampire movie ever made in your collection. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.5/5.0

I’d like to think that the success of one of the best movies of the year in Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is why we’re seeing one of her earlier films on Blu-Ray but the cheesy, re-done cover that makes the thing practically look like a “Twilight” sequel leads me to believe that it’s more of the resurgence of “vampire as love story” genre in things like “New Moon” or “True Blood” that brings “Near Dark” to new release shelves once again.

Whatever the business motivation, “Near Dark” is a genre classic, a great blend of mystery and suspense that perfectly balances the threat of the vampire with the allure of living an immortal life as a bad-ass bloodsucker. Very few films in the history of the sub-genre have so stylishly captured the fact that the life of a vampire can be just as enticing as it is terrifying. We’ve seen a lot more of that kind of story - the vamp as “cool guy” - in the 20+ years since “Near Dark,” but I often think that this film doesn’t get the trend-setting credit it deserves.

Near Dark was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 10th, 2009.
Near Dark was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 10th, 2009.
Photo credit: Lionsgate Home Video

Adrian Pasdar (“Heroes) plays Caleb Colton, an average, lonely, bored guy who becomes prey for the mysterious and beautiful Mae (Jenny Wright). Mae is a part of an outlaw band of vampires and, as any “New Moon” junkie will tell you, love between a human and immortal is no walk in the park.

Who hasn’t thought about being sucked into a more exciting world than their own? Face it. Being a vampire would be pretty cool. Hanging with “Dark” co-stars Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen all night at biker bars? Sign me up. “Near Dark” is a Western/horror/romance/biker movie hybrid that feels like nothing else in the subgenre of vampire flick. It stands alone. It is weird, unusual, riveting, action-packed, romantic, old-fashioned, gory, clever, and exceptional. “Near Dark” rules.

The movie rules but the Blu-Ray is clearly an afterthought timed for financial gain more than anything artistic. Where’s the retrospective documentary? Where is the new footage? Commentary on the influence of the film? All you’ll find is a commentary by Bigelow, “Living in Darkness,” and one deleted scene - all previously available. Not even all of the galleries - stills, storyboards, etc. - from the 2002 Anchor Bay edition have been imported. Why give a movie a technical upgrade but downgrade the special features?

Even the 1080p picture and 5.1 DTS-HD audio seem a bit lackluster. Maybe by the time they get to “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” someone will give “Near Dark” the treatment it truly deserves.

‘Near Dark’ is released by Lionsgate Home Video and stars Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton. It was written by Eric Red & Kathryn Bigelow and directed by Bigelow. It was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 10th, 2009. content director Brian Tallerico

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