Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Scariest Characters in Cinema #27 - Severen

Any member of the family of bloodsucking rebels from Near Dark could have just as easily occupied this space. It's a movie that grew on me over the years, and as good as The Hurt Locker was, I still think this is Kathryn Bigelow's best movie. A sort of romantic vampire western, Near Dark has stood the test of time thanks to its stunning atmosphere and a strong ensemble that, guided by Bigelow's understated directorial hand, is at once fearsome, believable and totally badass. Lance Henriksen as grizzled paterfamilias Jesse, Jeanette Goldstein as matriarch Diamondback and Joshua Miller as the perpetually childlike Homer are all spooky and effective in different ways.

But it's always Severen that I think of the most when I think of Near Dark. Bill Paxton plays the hotheaded member of the family with a cocky swagger, a perpetual shit-eating grin and an all-around don't-give-a-fuck attitude. Severen is afraid of nothing and capable of anything, a self-assured predator, unfazed even when he's missing half his face. In an age of moody, self-pitying vampires who are more interested in romancing teenage waifs in the Pacific Northwest than in feasting on the living, it's kind of refreshing to watch a vampire who enjoys being a vampire as much as Severen does. And when all hell breaks loose in the film's classic barroom slaughter scene, Severen stays cool, delivering an absolutely perfect reading of the line "Finger lickin' good!" For this and so many other reasons, Bill Paxton has definitely earned a pinball machine made in his honor.

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