Are you surprised by my grades? This is a ďBĒ movie! Baahahaha, I kill me. =P~
Near Dark is a 2 DVD set. The films is presented in itís original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 - it has also been enhanced for 16x9 televisions.
In all honesty I wasnít sure what to expect from the picture when I popped Near Dark in. Sure it had all the signs of a great re-mastering, THX and the like, itís just that older movies, especially those with a lot of night times scenes tend to be burdened with a lot of visual problems.
Overall the picture was surprisingly good. While there were certainly many scenes with speckles and the odd shot here and there was pretty grainy - a majority of the film looked quite good. With older films that have been transferred to DVD, the night time shots tend to be very unforgiving. Fortunately - for a movie that takes place at night about 85% of the time, it wasnít really a big problem. In fact, many of the scenes looked absolutely pristine and the great contrast between light and dark looked fantastic.
There were also a few scenes in which the picture was either too soft or fuzzy - in particular during the motel shootoutís interior scenes, but this was easily overlooked and I didnít find it to be very distracting - although it was certainly noticeable.
As a whole and with all things considered, the visual presentation featured far more positive aspects than negative. Colours were never natural in appearance, even if a majority of the film was lit by the production crew and not daylight. Simply put, this is a great transfer, not a perfect one, but far from disastrous.
Near Dark comes with your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS or a 2 channel Dolby Surround audio track. For the purposes of this review I selected the DTS.
Iíll admit I didnít go into this film expecting much from the audio - but Iíll also admit that I was presently surprised when I finally did get to hear it. While much of the audio dominates the front spectrum of the sound field, there was still a good amount of activity in the rear surrounds.
The filmís music was active in all 5 speakers and filled the room nicely. It was crisp and clear and at no time did it sound even remotely negative. Less than perfect in the film were the voices, While this wasnít a problem in every scene, they did occasionally sound a little edgy and less than natural. Things like gunshots were also a tad dull and lifeless - they just didnít have the impact that Iíve come to expect from gunshots in other films.
In the area of sound effects I found that even though the rear surrounds werenít constantly active, they were used quite well much of the time. Things like thunder or explosions moved nicely around the room and used the LFE to its advantage. Other effects, like trucks or trains driving by were also well done. The sound panned perfectly in the rear from left to right and created a great feeling of being there.
For a movie that was certainly not in 5.1 to begin with, the new audio tracks exceeded my expectations; but like many older films it was a tad dull and lifeless, the realism of the sound was simply lacking that something special.
While nowhere on the box for this 2 DVD set does it mention that this is a special edition - it sure packs in the special features like one. Honestly, this is no big surprise since Anchor Bay is well known for making a big deal out of relatively obscure movies. One only needs to pull the beautiful gatefold contents from the slipcase to see the level of pride and joy that went into the release of this picture. Within the packaging is a small 12 page booklet which lightly goes over the history of the film as well as providing some full colour publicity photos and interesting little factoids that you may or many not have picked up on while watching the film.
Our first special feature on these 2 DVDs is a feature length audio commentary by the films co-writer and director - Kathryn Bigelow. Now I donít know about you, but Iíve always had the understanding that the purpose of a commentary was to enlighten the listener with some of the little known facts and details involved in the production of the film. Unfortunately Bigelow probably hasnít heard very many commentaries in her time - as she obviously didnít know where to begin.
For the most part I found her comments on the film to be wholly uninteresting. She seldom even mentioned anything that would be considered - insider information. In fact much of her commentary revolved around explanations for either the characterís actions or motives. The big disappointment stemmed from the fact that she hardly said anything at all. I even timed it on my watch, and it wasnít uncommon for her to go several minutes without uttering a single word. To top it all off, this seemingly endless silence on her part occurred over and over again. While Iíll admit audio commentaries that feature more than one person tend to be a little more chatty, Kathryn Bigelow seems to neglect the process and possibly even forgot the purpose of her being there. While Iíve never been big on commentaries for most films, Iíve certainly been giving them much more attention since becoming a reviewer for this site. So far this has to be the weakest audio commentary Iíve ever had the misfortune of having to sit though.
Next up on our roster is a feature entitled - Living in Darkness. This segment run for a lengthy 47 minutes and 14 seconds - and thankfully it more than makes up for the travesty that is Kathryn Bigelowís audio commentary. This portion of the special features consists of the usual array of clips from the film, as well as some great interviews with key members of the cast and crew.
Some of the people we get to hear from are Kathryn Bigelow (Writer/Director), Ed Feldman (Executive Producer), Steven-Charles Jaffe (Producer), Adam Greenberg (Director of Photography) and the film stars - Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein and Adrian Pasdar. Fortunately for fans of Near Dark, this segment includes a wealth of great information and was thoroughly interesting.
The production crew talks mostly about their initial intent for the film to stay away from typical vampire themes and adopt some of their own mythology. They also go over the difficulties the crew had to endure because of the constant night shooting. The actors tend to offer less technical information, but instead chose to use their time to reminisce. Paxton and Henriksen were of particular interest to me because they talked a lot about the pranks they used to pull. Everything from scarring hitchhikers to intimidating policemen. Truth be told, I found their stories hilarious, and it becomes evident when you listen to them that they took their rolls very seriously, but at the same time tried to have a little fun as well.
ďLiving in DarknessĒ turned out to be my favourite extra in this set. While there are many things that I enjoy when watching special features, I especially enjoy interviews. This one was particularly good because was long enough to be packed with great information and stories, but it wasnít so long that you began to lose interest before it was over.
Disc 2 also contains 1 deleted scene, which runs for a mere 1 minute and 19 seconds. The scene includes audio commentary by Bigelow and serves to show Caleb adapting to his new vampiric powers. In particular it illustrates his unnatural ability to see virtually anything - even in the blackest of night.
Next up we have storyboards. This section shows us the original storyboards from 5 of the films key scenes. Namely Calebís Transformation, A Taste of Blood, Feeding Montage, Roadhouse Slaughter and Motel Shoot-out. These storyboards contained anywhere from 22 to 178 individual stills that thankfully moved from once picture to the next automatically - making it unnecessary to do so manually. The storyboards were also accompanied by music from the film, which helped to make viewing them a little more enjoyable. Being somewhat artistic in nature, I tend to enjoy viewing storyboards, but found these particular drawings to be a little crude and simple for my tastes. Oddly enough these storyboards must have served little purpose in the production of the film other than that of reference material. What I mean by this is that the film plays out quite differently from the film makers original vision.
Adding to the already ample supply of bonus material we find 2 still galleries. One is a basic poster and still gallery comprised of approximately 93 photos. The second is a behind the scenes still gallery that features some great pictures of the cast and crew at work. This second gallery is made up of about 29 pictures.
Trailers isnít anything we arenít already familiar with, it features no less than 2 of the films theatrical trailers. Old hat really.
Next up we have talent bios, which give us a little information on the careers of cast and crew members - Kathryn Bigelow, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Adrian Pasdar, Tim Thomerson and Jenny Wright.
Last, but certainly not least we have DVD-Rom features that allow you to view the original screenplay for the film as well as download some nifty screen savers.
Itís been 15 years since Near Dark originally appeared in theatres, and while I never saw it on the silver screen, I have seen it numerous times on home video. I fact, because the film was released in theatres at virtually the exact same time as another well known vampire flick, namely The Lost Boys - the film never did exceedingly well during its theatrical run.
Still, as is often the case with horror films, Near Dark went on to do extremely well on the home video market. Whether by word of mouth or blind luck, it has gone on to almost cult-like status. Itís considered by many to be one of the greatest contemporary vampire movies ever. Maybe its popularity revolves around the sheer brutality of our protagonists, or perhaps it the fact that underneath all the blood and guts this is a simple tale of a tight, nomadic family that despite disrespect for humanity, has an unbreakable bond with one another. Who can say for sure, but it works.
Itís been ages since the last time I saw Near Dark, and after all that time my only complaint comes from the filmmakers ridiculous attempt to reach a happy conclusion. Frankly I just didnít buy into the possibility of returning to a normal life. One interesting thing that Kathryn Bigelow did touch on at the end of her audio commentary (Yes, there was at least one interesting thing said by her. Go figure it happens as the end credits are rolling.) was how the film was originally going to have a completely different ending. While I wonít spill the beans on this, I think the unused ending, which was never filmed, would have been a much more powerful conclusion.
All in all Near Dark provides a rather solid package. The picture quality is quite good and the sound isnít too shabby either. On top of that, this 2 disc set includes a ton of supplemental material - even if the directorís audio commentary wasnít even close to enjoyable. For fans of the film, picking up this package isnít even an issue, itís a must have. However, if by chance you have never seen the film I strongly recommend you give it a rental first. Still, at its reasonably low retail cost, there wouldnít be too much financial regret in finding out this film wasnít your cup of tea.
One final point of interest for fans out there. If you hang tight after the closing credits in the ďLiving in DarknessĒ feature - the interviewees come back to talk about the possibilities of a sequel - and their interest in returning to their rolls. While I donít suspect it will happen anytime soon, itís nice to know that thereís a least a chance.