Monday, October 30, 2006

I Hate It When They Ain't Been Shaved

This is part of the Vampire Blog-A-Thon, an October 30th cross-blog-event, of which you can find many more posts of a bloodsucking-centric nature over at the Film Experience.

(WARNING: There are SPOILERS contained below, as well as even scarier Freshman-level Film & Gender Politics prosthelitizing, as well as copious images of PG-rated man-flesh, homoeroticism, and violence.)

Katheryn Bigelow's Near Dark threw all sorts of the vampire mythos into the blender, but the part that I appreciate most is the omnisexual perversity of Bill Paxton's sick motherfucker Severen. While far from the explicit romp that is the love affair between, say, Louis and Lestat in Interview With The Vampire (I am being sarcastic), Paxton adds a delightful air of homo-tension to his sparring with pretty-but-confused new vamp Caleb, played by pretty-but-confused Adrian Pasdar.

Even outside of his interactions with Paxton, the film doesn't shy away from exploiting Caleb as a hot piece of man-flesh eye-candy. For example, the extended transfusion scene towards the end, where Caleb's father straps his shirtless, sweaty vamp-son down to a table and brings a flush to his cheek once more:

But the best bits of homo-tension are played out with Paxton's Severen. Take, for instance, one of my favorite throw-away moments in all the Vamp-canon, which takes place in what's probably the centerpiece of the film - the vamps take over and slaughter a bar full of people. Caleb's only just been turned, and thrown in with this insane family unit of vamps, and this is his opportunity to prove himself worthy.

Severen is the most outlandishly psychotic of the bunch, reveling in his power, and is positively turned on by showing Caleb how strong he can be now, and after Caleb punches a guy clear across the room (after having been punched himself), Severen can hardly contain himself. So he doesn't:

He reaches right on over, dabs some blood off of Caleb's pouty lip, and exuberantly sucks his finger dry. It's a quick moment, and I'm unsure whether it was in the script or if Paxton was improvising, but... golly I like it. Immediately following his taste-test of Caleb, Severen moves on this hirsute fellow:

Whom he wraps his arms around and details lovingly to how he'd had sex with his mother with his father watching and getting off on it. There's a bit of sweet foreplay before Severen squeezes the guy's head to death, and as he goes in for the bite he winces and says:

"I hate it when they ain't been shaved."

Luckily for Severen, as you can see in that first set of pictures, Caleb is smooth as a baby's bottom, just the way he likes 'em.

Paxton really owns this whole movie; Severen is a sick live-wire whose palpable (and sure, slightly repulsive) attraction to Caleb burns a thousand times brighter than Caleb's sweet puppy love romance with vamp-ingenue Mae. I mean, the most touching moment of the film comes when Caleb finally proves himself to Severen, and Severen gifts Caleb with one of his deadly heel spurs.

Which, of course, means Severen's gotta be killed specatularly before the happy hetero couple can waltz into the sunrise. You just gotta love the way Bigelow frames the start of the final confrontation between Severen and the now-human-again Caleb:

Nothing like having our pretty boy hero laid out prostrate in front of our sexually ambiguous villain's spread legs to get the point across, eh?

So yeah, Severen gets it in the end, leaving the rest of the vamp-family with nothing to do but literally explode in the face of Caleb and Mae's not-so-eternal-anymore love-to-be, but it's Paxton's Severen that walked the walk and talked the talk, right away with the whole movie.




i hate it when they aint been shaved too.

no seriously.

but... thanks for describing a memorable not much discussed performance so well.

i know some people think Near Dark is overpraised but I think it's arguably the best vamp flick since Herzog's Nosferatu... unless you count pieces of Bram Stokers Dracula.

Jason Adams said...

I actually wasn't that big a fan of ND until recently; I'd seen it years ago and barely remembered it, but then watched it again a year or two ago and then the other night again for this post and it really is fascinating, the way Bigelow makes something totally unique out of such a well-trodden subgenre.

richardwatts said...

Thanks for your post shedding new light (heh) on this great addition to modern vampire canon. The transfusion ending is far to pat for my liking, but up to that point, Near Dark is a savage, unrestrained romp through vampire legend. Reading this post really makes me want to watch it again...

Chief Brody said...

Interesting article. I've included Near Dark in my Top 10 horror films from the 1980s - check it out HERE, let me know what you'd add/subtract.