In Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan’s adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining, Danny Torrance teams up with a powerful young girl to fend off a cult known as the True Knot. The True Knot is a makeshift vampire family of caravanning misfits. They travel the country in campers, EarthCruisers, and Winnebagos in search of victims to satiate their appetites and longevity.

They’re hardly the first nomadic vampire clan to grace the big screen, though, nor the first to call a Winnebago home. The psychotic vampires in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark were pioneers of the Winnebago lifestyle, and they left an indelible mark on the genre.

Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) thinks he’s in for a night of necking with Mae (Jenny Wright), the pretty gal he’s just met. He’s not exactly wrong. Just before dawn, their makeout session ends with a bite on the neck before Mae flees in a panic. The sun rises during his walk home, which causes his skin to smoke and blister. As his home is in sight, a Winnebago barrels through the pasture and picks him up. It’s Mae and her family. Just before Mae’s family destroys what they suspect is Mae’s unfinished meal, she reveals that she’s turned Caleb.

He’s now one of them. That is, if he can show he’s worthy.

This particular bunch revels in their bloodlust, and the only hard and fast rule seems to be that any witnesses to their carnage be snuffed out immediately. Mae’s family is led by patriarch Jesse Hooker (Lance Henriksen). His companion, Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein), has a progeny in Homer (Joshua John Miller), a decades-old vamp trapped in a child’s body. Then there’s Severen, the most gleefully sadistic of the bunch, played to memorable perfection by Bill Paxton. Severen’s bulletproof cowboy persona combined with Paxton’s charm gave us one-liners like “It’s finger-lickin’ good!” and “It ain’t what’s goin’ on, son. It’s what’s comin’ off. Your face. Clean off.”

The word “vampire” is never uttered in Near Dark. This blood-sucking family wields guns and weapons, traveling throughout the south in a Winnebago with blacked-out windows. They sleep in bungalows or cheap motels during the day and feed at night by exploiting the kindness of strangers. Homer lures victims by pretending to be a hurt child in the middle of the road. Severen uses his Good Ol’ Boy charm to woo ladies while hitchhiking. Jesse and Diamondback prowl together, reminiscing of their Confederate days during the Civil War when Jesse was newly turned.

They sometimes come together for an all-out brutal feeding frenzy in small-town dive bars, too. Leaving destruction and a high body count in their wake. Mae’s family is so bonded together and distinct in personalities that you almost wish Caleb would give in and join their ranks, just so we could spend more time with them. It’s brilliant casting. Bigelow cast Henriksen, Goldstein, and Paxton hot on the heels of their stint in Aliens. They’d already forged a shorthand and friendship working together on what was essentially a war movie, and Bigelow used it to create a believable family with deep roots. It’s easy to grasp straight away that this vampiric bunch has a profound love and respect for one another. Blood is thicker than water, right?

Bigelow and co-writer Eric Red set out to create a Western, which proved difficult to obtain financial backing for. Instead, they blended the western with horror, creating one of the most unconventional and engaging vampire films of all time. This beautifully shot gem is a gritty western that trades traditional black hat villains for a clan of vicious nomadic vampires. Jesse, Diamondback, Homer, and Severen make for an iconic bunch that steals the film. They live in poverty and constant upheaval, but they love their life and they revel in carnage.

The True Knot feed off of humans in a very different way, but there are still a lot of similarities between these two vampiric families. The impenetrable bonds, the Winnebago lifestyle, and the careful selection of who can join their ranks; it’s hard to imagine that Near Dark wasn’t some sort of touchstone in creating the cinematic version of the True Knot.

Mae’s family were the originators of the Winnebago vampire, but Doctor Sleep‘s True Knot carries the torch admirably.

Bill Paxton

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Author : Meagan Navarro

Publish date : 2019-11-08 18:00:41