Near Dark by Kathryn Bigelow borrowed her cure for vampirism from Dracula

Before becoming the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar in 2009 Jhe hurt the locker, Kathryn Bigelow has made one of the most unusual and effective vampire films ever made. 1987 almost dark got lost back then amid Joel Schumacher notoriety the lost boys, released the same year, but has developed a cult following for its strong visuals, compelling characters, and unique take on age-old clichés of vampirism. Indeed, Bigelow’s stated goal was partly to strip the undead monsters to their bases.


And yet, as wildly as the film succeeded on that front – to the point that the word “vampire” is never uttered on screen – it still relied on a few tricks from the genre’s forefather. Bram Stoker’s original novel Dracula has suffered a lot of distortion with its multitude of film adaptations. Among the details ignored or dismissed was a cure for vampirism, and for all the ways it eschewed old folktales, almost dark fully embraced Stoker’s view on the subject.

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The film’s vampires are a clan of vagabonds — more akin to serial killers than undead corpses — who roam the forgotten highways of the Southwest in search of victims. When a young woman in their company, Mae, bites a local boy, Caleb, he is drawn into their world against his will. If he can’t learn to be a killer, they’ll murder him in the most brutal way possible. Bigelow specifically removed all lore beyond the most rudimentary traits. The vampires in the movie are super strong, immune to normal damage, and never seem to age. The price to pay is to kill and drink blood to survive, which they accomplish through a variety of methods, from picking up hitchhikers to – in the film’s showstopper – locking the doors of a honky country. -tonk and murder customers one by one. Sunlight kills them, causing their skin to become inflamed in another of the almost darkbut none of the other preventative measures – such as stakes in the heart – are effective or even mentioned.


This gives their vampirism a courage that more traditional bloodsuckers lack, suggesting a virus or scientific root for the condition rather than a supernatural cause. This makes almost dark as much western neo-noir as horror film, and even the idyll between Mae and Caleb is more of the runaway outlaw than of the infernal seduction. And yet Bigelow uses one of the strangest tropes in Dracula lend a helping hand to its protagonists. Midway through the novel, Dr. Van Helsing arrives to examine Lucy Westenra, on whom the Earl feeds. Recognizing her condition, he arranges for a blood transfusion, which partially restores her. Dracula later returns and finishes the job, turning Lucy into a vampire and rendering Van Helsing’s efforts futile.


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Caleb receives a blood transfusion in Near Dark

The sequence is notable for being one of the first descriptions of a blood transfusion in fiction. It is also factually questionable on several issues. Blood type is never mentioned, for example, and although Lucy receives blood from four unrelated people, her body accepts everything. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of the novel presents the scene more or less as a derision written and earned at the time for its inaccuracies. The director was simply staying true to his source.

Bigelow had a better understanding of the science involved, as well as 100 years of blood transfusions serving as standard medical practice. The idea worked well in the context of its story while providing a means for a happy ending. Caleb is rescued from the clan by his father, a country veterinarian who gives him a blood transfusion to cure him of his vampirism. Mae receives the same procedure after a final confrontation with the other vampires. Both are presented much more realistically than transfusion in Draculawith a single donor and a modern medical professional overseeing the whole affair.


Strange as the detail is, it is consistent with the idea that vampirism is a virus and almost darkThe vision of the creatures being simplified versions of their traditional gothic incarnations. It provided a workable defense against the condition that didn’t resort to hokey rituals and gave the film’s romance powerful symbolism to thrive. It’s an odd detail in a highly unusual film and indicative of the one-of-a-kind approach that has helped it find a loyal fan base.


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