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Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

Finding Love in a Desolate World

Kathryn Bigelow delves into the vampire psyche in her film Near Dark (1987), by demonstrating the human characteristic for love through blood sucking, violence, and the hunger to survive. Vampires and humans combine to create a world where ‘feeding’ is a necessary part of life, which enables both to become emotionally connected within an isolated environment. Their lifestyle implies no outside source of connection, thus both the vampire and human look for ways to unite together. Like vampire films The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987), Twilight (2008), and Let The Right One In (2008), the choice to become involved with the vampire is based on the pursuit of finding love. The decision one makes to join a vampire seems to represent the romantic ideal to have and maintain a loving relationship. In Dark, Caleb (human) is encouraged by Mae (vampire) through her strange beauty and features. Caleb, attracted to these features, makes and advance on her and in response, Mae takes a large bite out of his neck. The transformation begins in a slow, long played out interpretation of a western film, which puts Mae in a position where she must choose Caleb or her vampire family. The pursuit of a mate is the appealing quality which drives Mae to want to become a member of human society. Her strong connection with Caleb proves to be more powerful than her vampire family. She understands that her family exists in a world which is dominated by human beings. Her pureness, shown by not killing Caleb when she bites him, allows Caleb to see that Mae is good hearted. She saves Caleb countless times from her family and possible extraction from the vampire clan. Her love for Caleb unites her with him when Caleb performs the blood transfusion on her. She becomes human and her vampire family burns in the sunlight. When the transformation begins to take place, Bigelow shows a very slow progression towards normalcy of human life to vampire life. Bigelow in Near uses long takes an long shots to convey the isolation between Caleb’s used-to be familiar human


Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

world and his now unfamiliar vampire world. The distance is key in determining the differences between these worlds. Those differences are: humans (can exist in the daylight, eat food to survive, make a living) vampires (burn in daylight, suck blood as food source, only feed for survival). These differences are brought up with the Caleb character and his struggle with becoming a vampire. Caleb becomes physically sick in the bus station when he is approached by a police officer for supposedly being on drugs. He is profusely sweating and appears to be in severe pain. The only thing that takes his pain away is when Mae offers him her blood. By doing this, she is protecting Caleb from potential wrongdoing. She has a deep emotional bond to Caleb and she continues to protect him when danger reaches its peak. Howard E. Smith, editor on Near, performs a number of close up and medium shots to capture this. The sensual display of Caleb feeding off of Mae’s arm correlates to their need to take care of one another. If Caleb can try and exist as a vampire in a vampire world, Mae can sacrifice herself and become human to do the same thing. Lost Boys is similar to Near in how Michael pursues Star on the basis of wanting to find love and connection. Star is trapped between a life of control from the vampire gang, but this is only realized by Michael when he chooses to become a vampire. Michael becomes interested in Star because of her curiosity and attractiveness. Upon becoming a vampire, Michael fights the urge to kill because he knows he doesn’t want to become that person. Star consistently reminds Michael that he should leave the group. However, Michael’s passion for obtaining Star’s love is won over when he saves her from the vampire gang’s lair. With the help of Sam and the Frog brothers, Michael is able to return to human status and become united with Star. Michael’s vampire persona only exaggerates the idealistic vampire image. He is aggressive when it comes to potentially feeding on a victim and he sleeps most of the day. His eyes become red and his fangs lash out in the midst of danger. The interesting part about Michael is that his intentions are purely good and he doesn’t use


Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

his vampire attributes to harm. This seems to be the difference between the human that becomes a vampire and an already existing vampire. When posed with danger, a human vampire uses the powers for protection and sacrifice, where as a vampire uses the powers for killing and destruction. The powers are a way for Michael to balance his relationship with Star for good and avoid evil. His whole heartedness is noticed by Star which allows her to become romantically attracted to Michael. When David threatens Star’s life, Michael uses his powers to kill him and make sure Star is out of harms way. Environment plays a big factor in determining relationships in vampire films. When moving into the town that is Santa Carla, Sam mentions that there is a faint smell. It is not the smell of fresh air and beach but more so the smell that, “somebody died”. As Michael looks behind, he notices that somebody has graffitied the same sign to say, “murder capital of the world”. Jim Schembri of New Castle Herald (Australia) references vampire environment and how, “...vampires must keep their identities hidden by blending in with human society” (Schembri, New Castle Herald). In all of these films, the characters are faced with living in a desolate environment where they encounter vampires. The only rational explanation to become involved is because there is simply nothing else to do in that place other than pursue a mate. The other reason for living in what appears to be an abandoned environment is because it attracts less attention for vampires. Vampires live in isolation and are kept in their usual hiding places. In these films, they reside in houses with tin foil, underground, in the woods, and a run down apartment. It is only until a vampire meets a human that the environment becomes lively due to connecting with that human. Jay Scott of The Globe and Mail (Canada) talks about vampires in relation to sacrifice in his essay Near Dark Vampire myth spawns new terrors in seductive demons of Near Dark. He mentions the, “...mentality of vampires: familial, insular, even tribal...and is willing to sacrifice anything to perpetuate its prejudices” (Scott). With particular attention to sacrifice, a vampire will go out of their way to make sure a


Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

particular job is done. In the case of all these films, the job is acquiring love from another person. However, Twilight captures love by sacrificing family, friends and relationships as a whole. Bella, a shy human, discovers Edward, a pale vampire who continues to save Bella from danger with freakish acts of heroism. Bella catches on and realizes that Edward is different but chooses to accept his difference, no matter if it puts her own life or her family in jeopardy. Edward understands, through his father and family (vampires), that having a relationship with Bella means sacrificing their vampire community to other vampire clans. Edward begins to protect Bella from danger and harm, something which her parents could never do (aka their divorce). Bella’s shyness is compensated by Edward’s love and allows her to become a more open person. There is an instance where Edward backs off from Bella because them being together is causing too much tension between the human and vampire world. Because of this, Edward and Bella do not speak. However, that is negated when they end back up together because their emotional connection is too strong for one another. The protection that Edward provides to Bella is unmatched by any other form of species in the Twilight world. There are a number of different species/animals that threaten the lives of Bella and vampires (other vampire clans and wolves). However, when danger lurks towards Bella, Edward uses his god-like strength, incredible speed and flight to rid that danger away. Schembri also mentions that, “Twilight vampires are capable of astonishing super speed...super strength” (Schembri, New Castle Herald). Vampires use their talents as a means of getting a task done. In this case, Edward is using his power to protect Bella, not to hurt her. Edward’s protection of Bella allows them to function in their society and gives them an opportunity to be together as one. Like all of the above vampire films, Let The Right One In is a close interpretation of the vampire genre and portrays similar characteristics to humanism all the rest. Oskar, a human with no outside friendship other than his parents meets Eli, a vampire


Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

who has been hanging around his apartment complex for a couple of days. Eventually, Oskar finds out that Eli has been 12 years old for a very long time which leads to them connecting with regards to revenge and violence. Because Oskar gets picked on in school and lacks the personal strength to do anything, Eli decides to take action and insist that Oskar does something about it; he takes a stick to his bully’s ear. Their relationship builds when Oskar gives Eli his rubik’s cube to play with. Oskar hands over the cube but also his trust to Eli, allowing her to see Oskar for what he truly is, a devoted and loving person. Because Eli has been so disconnected with the world around her, the only connection that she finds is feeding pray for blood. When she meets Oskar, that begins to change. Oskar’s weakness throughout their time is contrasted with Eli’s strength and power. One scene in particular is when Eli gets into bed with Oskar. Oskar mentions to Eli that he wants to go ‘steady’. Eli is confused by this and doesn’t want a relationship based on the idea that she may look to Oskar for blood to survive. She asks Oskar if anything will change in their relationship due to them becoming ‘steady’. He says no. After, Eli, in a gorgeous display of human affection, touches Oskar’s arm in a gentle manner. Oskar and Eli continue to save one another from danger by coming to the rescue of their potentially fatal situation. Oskar pulls a knife on a man who discovers Eli’s bath tub hiding place while Eli saves Oskar from a large bully trying to drown him. They go as far as to kiss right after Eli has murdered, blood all over her face. J.M. Tyree mentions their connection in Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let the Right One In when he says, “The film’s premise builds up carefully through small gestures: they care for each other very deeply, each has saved the other’s life, and they are bound by a kiss in blood” (Tyree, 36). Another scene which shows this eternal love is when Oskar hesitates to let Eli into his apartment. When he does, she is so consumed by their relationship that she is willing to do anything to be together. This is shown when Eli


Second Draft: Near Dark Noah Feldman

makes herself bleed out until she has Oskar hugging her tight. By doing this, she is willing to sacrifice her own body so she can have Oskar’s acceptance. The human and vampire love connection in these films is established by an isolation of environment and an willingness to find a mate. Bigelow is implying with her film Near Dark and the vampire genre in general that even a vampire can find love in a desolate situation. When the environment is isolated and there is small room to make connection with people other than family, a human finds emotional connection with a vampire. When situations become dangerous, the vampire uses its powers to protect the other person which solidify the relationship.

Works Cited

“Let The Right One In”. imdb.com. imdb.com, Inc., 2008. Web. 10 May. 2011. “Near Dark.” imdb.com. imdb.com, Inc., 1987. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. Schembri, Jim. “A Bloody Shame; FEATURE”. New Castle Herald (Australia). H2: pg 20.

20 Dec 2008. LexisNexus Academic. 10 May 2011.

Scott, Jay. “Near Dark Vampire Myth Spawns New Terrors In Seductive Demons of Near Dark”. The Globe and Mail (Canada). 2 Oct. 1987. LexisNexus Academic. 10 May 2011. “The Lost Boys.” imdb.com. imdb.com, Inc., 1987. Web. 26 Mar. 2011. “Twilight”. imdb.com. imdb.com, Inc., 2008. Web. 10 May. 2011. Tyree, J.M. “Warm-Blooded: True Blood and Let The Right One In”. Film Quartely. Vol. 63, No.2: 31-37. Winter 2009. University of California Press. JSTOR. 18 May 2011.

Finding Love In A Desolate World  

Academic paper on Katherine Bigelow's film 'Near Dark'

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