glitter_n_gore: (freddie lounds)
glitter_n_gore ([personal profile] glitter_n_gore) wrote2017-03-04 10:02 am

The Night Has Its Price: Bill Paxton, Severen, and Near Dark

In the Year of Our Lord 1987, two cult favorite vampire movies came out within a couple months of each other. One, you've probably heard of: The Lost Boys. It stars Corey Feldman and Corey Haim, Jason Patric, and Keifer Sutherland. It's funny, action-packed, kind of disgusting, and endlessly quotable. It's a summertime staple for me and probably will be until the end of time. The other was Near Dark. It's darker, weirder, leans more on horror than comedy, stars half the cast of Aliens, and is violent and scary in a way that modern vampires can't touch.

It is my very favorite vampire movie. Why? Bill Paxton.

The cinematic universe lost another icon this week. And I lost another hero. Although in this case the word "hero" doesn't exactly convey what I want it to. Paxton was a terrific actor who I still don't know as well as I want to, who always entertained me when I happened to stumble across him. The fact that this happened more often than not in horror movies, sci-fi thrillers, and superhero franchises is not lost on me. Mostly, I remember him as the deliciously sadistic Severen. If you still haven't seen Near Dark yet--go do that right now. I'll wait.

Director Kathryn Bigelow gives us very few details about Where Vampires Come From in Near Dark. There are so many unanswered questions left dangling by the destruction of Jesse Hooker's coven. Who was the first vampire? Are there more nomadic covens trekking across the American southwest? How many people even know about vampires, and are there vampire hunters in this universe? We know sunlight burns them--and by the way, I still think this is the best Death By Sunlight effect I've seen on film. Caleb can't eat regular food once he's been turned, but is that a condition of his being a newbie and not having drunk blood yet, or is that a permanent problem? There is a "cure" for vampirism in this universe--a total blood transfusion does the trick for both Caleb and Mae by the end. Has this cure been used before? What most intrigues me, the itch that keeps me coming back to this movie despite the fact that I don't particularly like Caleb as a protagonist, and Mae's cure at the end really, really bothers me, is Severen.

Paxton's raggedy, psychotic, spurred-and-dangerous vampire is the most mysterious figure in the coven, the one whose history is the least defined. The others, we all know at least a little about where they came from. Jesse "fought for the South." Diamondback first met him at the side of a road, and knew he was trouble before he turned her. Diamondback turned Homer as a surrogate son. Homer found Mae at a high school and lured her by pretending to need help with his homework. But how did Severen get there? How long has he been around? Jesse "taught Severen everything he knows," so that suggests he was turned by Jesse like Diamondback, but we don't really know that. I can see Severen as the kind of guy who might kill his maker by mistake, or out of spite, or because he thought it was funny. That's just how he rolls. Furthermore, we know Severen's been around since at least the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I somehow doubt a measly 18-wheeler explosion could do him any lasting damage. In my head canon at least, he eventually got up and walked away.

Bottom line, the people who love this movie love it because of him, and that includes me. He’s the ultimate unrepentant vampire, the sort of monster who knows what he is and never once apologizes for it. What makes him unique is that he is fiercely devoted to his coven. That’s what remains so fascinating about vampires; they’re more than monsters. They’re still a little bit human, just enough to make you wonder what it might be like to be one, or to have someone like Severen backing you up in a fight. He, and the actor who brought him to life, will be sorely missed.

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