As I went over the list of films that were chosen as topics for this year’s event, I’m always surprised that certain films have never been featured in 5 years of the Halloween Horrors series. Halloween III. The Exorcist. Near Dark. Ernest Scared Stupid.

Well, thanks to debuting contributor AJ Rusulis, one of those films will be coming off the list this year. NO, it’s not Ernest. It’s the one with the toughest vampires you’ve ever seen.

AJ is a fellow Floridian, but let’s try not to hold that against him. While I’ve seen the man at a local area convention, I can’t say that I know much about him. Knowing that particular convention, we are presumably both drunk at any given time. That said, as I feel he deserves some sort of introduction…. Ahem…

AJ Rusulis is a cantankerous, streetwise junk dealer (trash, not drugs) living with his grown son on South Central in Watts. When not working on one of his notorious, yet doomed schemes to make a buck, he can usually be found arguing with his sister-in-law, Esther. He’s also been known to hang out with a dude named “Grady”.

With this being a hidden prize (or bloody gem) of a cult classic, Near Dark is on the same line as Legend, NightBreed, The Wraith, or non-top layer horror that is a must-see for all Vampire fans.

The film starts out with our lead protagonist, Caleb Colton (played by Adrian Pasdar) going out on the town (insert “dust bowl”) for some fine adventures. Let’s be frank: there ain’t much to do in this shit hole town. So you’ve got the setting. Ok, back to the adventure. So, after straddling along, Caleb happens to bump… heh… bump into Mae, (Jenny Wright), our classic love interest. As most men (whom don’t think), he can’t sniff out… heh… heh… what’s rotten in Denmark when someone like THIS is in his town, talking to him.

They have a natural attraction to each other and decide they should “go for a cup of coffee”. However, Mae wasn’t craving…. java. Together enjoying their brew ,the heat got turned up and she decided we should take a shot, and a shot she took. Along with a willing Caleb, they make their way to the coffee maker and then BOOM: grind. Mae bit into Caleb’s neck, finishing her taste test. Mae runs off to her awaiting Partridge family… in the happenin RV, the V-mobile. Caleb attempts to follow her like a lost puppy, but to no avail.

After returning to his shitbox, he attempts to start it to complete and utter failure. As they do in “No-Man’s Land”, he decides to huff it on foot to meet sunrise, where the giga-fireball starts to cook him like a $2.00 steak. Stumbling along the dust field, nearing well done status, the V-ride pulls right next to Caleb and scoops him up. Inside the rolling coffin, the Joe Pesci of the group,  Severen (Bill Paxton), wants to do the cemetery shuffle with him, but Mae talks him outta of it. The Greg Allman of the group, Jesse, played by the forever (heh) ancient Lance Henriksen, agrees to give Caleb one week to see if he would fit in with the group.

After a few setbacks and Caleb’s refusal to pop a top on a warm one, the clan enters a local stomping ground for some refreshments. After some fine local patrons offer them “the good word”, the crew honorably defends themselves against the overpowering mortal and righteous crusaders… by murdering them… brutally. The remaining man of god was left for Caleb, to make his kill; to fall in line with the family. The last survivor jumps out the bar window and takes off into a dusty crop field. Caleb chases after him, catches him, and lets him go to “spread the news”. Jesse and the gang proceed to feed and then torch the pub.

The Beverly Hillbillies leave the bar, racing to find cover from the impending sun that’s about to rise. They arrive at a motel and rent a bungalow. Day arrives as they slumber, and Johnny Law is in high gear around the unit when they are disturbed from their “light nap”. The lone survivor that Caleb let go reached the cops. The crew fights off the cops with the help of Caleb, proving his worth by grabbing a van with which to escape while risking his hide in the lava rays. The gang escapes to a new hotel. They begin to bond after the respect they earned for Caleb after risking life and skin (literally) to save them. Brews and spurs (one given from Joe Pesci) to Caleb and an undead game of cards churned up vampire-hood. Caleb inquires the age of Jesse with him alluding to the fact that he fought for the losing side in the American Civil War.

While on the search for Caleb, his father and little sister, arrive at the same motel as the Brady Bunch. After a hand of cards, the child-vamp, Homer, steps out for whiskey and milk (coke) and happens to run into Sarah (Caleb’s sister) at the vending machine. Homer then brings Sarah back to his room to watch TV where Caleb and his sister reunite. Homer insists on turning Cindy Brady into a life sucker, and obviously Caleb refuses to let this happen.

During this, Tim Thomerson​ (Caleb’s father, “Loy”) arrives to rescue his family. ​Jesse approaches Loy during the conflict, with it escalating to Loy shooting Jesse in the gut, only for him to smile, vomit up the bullet (which is awesome!) and force the pistol from Loy’s hand. The mosh pit was broken up when Loy’s daughter opened the sun beaming door to hit the clan and cause a distraction they needed: aka deep fried dead flesh. Loy and his kids return home with Loy putting Caleb in his barn. During the ride home, Loy insisted he bring Caleb to the hospital with Caleb utterly refusing “it will kill me” He proceeds to hook him up with Kool-Aid in plastic swishy bags to replace and flush out his go juice. It was successful and his transformation was reversed.

The Coltons get back to Coltoning while the Clampetts search for them. Mae returns to get the attention of Caleb. He takes off on High-Hoe-Silver to locate Mae. During this designed distraction, Jesse kidnaps Sarah.  Severen ambushes Caleb while on horseback. My personal favorite line of the movie delivered is by Paxton: “First, you’re going to give me back my spur. Then, I’m going to knock your tonsils through your asshole!” Anyway… during their long discussion on politics, Caleb is able to get away and  “borrows” a semi truck to attack Severen. With Severen doing the “with arms wide open” pose, he is rammed by Caleb. Pesci is semi… heh… semi… damaged and appears on the hood of the truck at next glance. Caleb speeds the semi. Severen is on the hood ripping out the engine wires when Caleb flips the truck, ending Severen.

After the explosion, Jesse and Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein) arrive to settle the score with Caleb, with his sister in their custody. Not realizing once they arrived that dawn was about to break, they are forced to high tail it. The remaining 4 flee with Sarah in the Griswold mobile when Mae decides that she doesn’t want Sarah to become a monster. Mae breaks out of the car with Sarah to begin their escape, in full daylight. Mae carries Sarah to Caleb on the dusty lone highway as she is burning. Caleb is able to cover her in his jacket, reducing most of the burning. At the same time, Homer left the car to pursue Sarah. With his desire to have another child-monster in their fold and to not be alone, he burns up in the strong sun rays and explodes.

Jesse and Diamondback are doing the shittiest job sunproofing their escape vehicle, to no luck as they escape. The sun is coming through each crack, window, hole, and cigarette burn in the crap mobile, leading to complete failure. While half-way ablaze, they attempt to run down Caleb and “his” crew. They never reach them and burn to pieces as the car falls off the road and explodes. As the next scene rises from the black, we see that lazy Mae (like she did much) on the same gurney that Caleb was on in the barn as light hits her. She is astonished that she doesn’t burn, is warm, and sees the sun. The transfusion has worked for her as well and they live happily blah blah blah puke.

The effects for this time period were on point, tangible, and correct. Not over the top, but highly practical and believable. The dialogue was simple, yet on the money for the scenes to be played out. Definite 80’s feel (because it was), happy one-liners and Paxton stealing each scene he’s in. The song “Fever” by Peggy Lee is subtle, yet appropriately placed throughout the film. Fitting. Highly recommended, especially for the white trash take on Vamps.