We explore the inner workings of vampires and serial killers and today’s horror picks
October is here once again, which means all things spooky, creepy, and outright horrifying are currently making their way into the homes of millions of people – through their screens, of course. All Halloween aficionados know that this is the month where we attempt to watch as many horror movies as we can, marathoning as much blood and guts as anyone might be able to stand (or delight in). It may as well be a sacred tradition.
In that spirit, Knotfest has called on our very own Ryan J. Downey as well as resident film critic Nicolás Delgadillo to put together two individual lists of vital Halloween horror picks for every day of the month. The wide variety of macabre favorites range from classics to more obscure cult films and feature zombies, demons, serial killers, vampires, and monsters of all kinds from all different eras.
Today’s picks include one of the greatest vampire movies ever put onscreen as well as a smart and witty slasher that changed the game forever upon its original release.
‘Near Dark’ (1987) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
If there’s an ‘80s counterpoint to The Lost Boys‘ “it’s fun to be a vampire” tagline, it’s Near Dark, the unflinchingly brutal neo-Western horror tale from writer/director Kathryn Bigelow, released just two months after Joel Schumacher’s modern teen vampire classic.
Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is a young Texan whose night with a sweet, supposed drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright) sweeps him up in the nomadic lifestyle of a crew of cruel vampires.
Led by Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen), the posse consists of Mae, Severen (the great Bill Paxton, who costarred with Henriksen in Aliens), Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein, also in Aliens!), and creepy kid vampire Homer (Joshua John Miller). Jesse admits he “fought for the South” during the Civil War, putting his age somewhere around 150 years old.
Caleb is really into Mae, but isn’t sold on the rest of it, and that conflict persists throughout a tale filled with tension, as Near Dark veers away from the romantic side of vampirism into the decidedly violent co-reality of creatures who willfully kill innocents for their own gain. It’s moody, sort of gothic, and crudely stylish, without wavering from its exploration of morality.
As a genre film, Near Dark is a bit cowboy, a bit biker, and altogether horrifically vampire, with the necessary bloodshed that entails. There are several visually stunning moments, crisp cinematography (and Bigelow’s framing is just out-of-control awesome), and grisly close-up looks at the unapologetic killers. Add to all of that a mesmerizing score by Tangerine Dream.
Near Dark boasts an 81% positive critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, with good reason.
‘Scream’ (1996) Directed by Wes Craven
Wes Craven’s Scream franchise breathed new life into the increasingly stale horror genre at the end of the 90s with its smart story and sharp sense of humor. The film completely changed slashers for the better as well, playing on their many cliches and forcing a sense of self-awareness for all future movies of the kind. Literally any and all slashers since the first Scream in 1996 owe it a debt.
The initial trilogy ended in 2000 before Craven returned with a fourth installment in 2011. Scream 4, along with a three season television series, revitalized the franchise and helped usher in a new wave of horror once again. Tragically, Craven passed away in 2015, leaving the upcoming fifth film – simply titled Scream – the very first to not be directed by the iconic filmmaker.
But the original stands tall all its own. While it may be something we take for granted now, Scream was one of the very first to play on the tropes that had (and let’s face it, at times to continue to) plagued the horror genre for decades. It is the quintessential slasher of the 90s, and one of the very best from well, one of the very best.
Knotfest 2021 Halloween Horror Coverage: