Tag Archives: Near Dark

Composer’s Corner: Nate’s Top Ten original scores from Tangerine Dream

The 80’s are coming back in a big way within film and television and with them comes the always awesome sonic synth sounds of that era. One of the pioneering musical influences and inspirations in this movement is German electronic group Tangerine Dream, consisting of group members Edgar Froese, Paul Haslinger and a whole host of others who contributed over the years. They literally have hundreds of albums due to the simple fact that they loved to experiment with sound and release all sorts of eclectic material, first on tactile vinyl and these days strewn across the internet like hidden treasure. They also worked heavily in film, lending their pulsating, ethereal, gorgeous and incomparable aesthetic to many genre cult films throughout the 80’s. They are my favourite film composers of all time and it’s hard to pick but I narrowed their work down to ten of my favourite original compositions for film! Enjoy:

10. Rainbow Drive (1990)

This is admittedly an unspectacular film, an L.A. noir starring Robocop’s Peter Weller as one tough cop caught up in your garden variety political conspiracy complete with extortion and murder. The score here is driving, grungy while still airy with just the right hints of menace and murky danger. Favourite track: the moody, slow crawling opening theme.

9. Flashpoint (1984)

Another noirish conspiracy flick, this is set in the New Mexico desert and sees two opportunistic border guards (Kris Kristofferson and Treat Williams) run afoul of dark forces headed by a cynically corrupt federal agent (Kurtwood Smith) and apparent ties to the Kennedy assassination. The work here is arid, dusty and atmospheric, accenting the remote, lonely locations well and swelling up portentously when danger looms over the sun n’ sand drenched horizon. Favourite track: Highway Patrol, a clap of rolling backroad thunder that suggests the danger to come.

8. Ridley Scott’s Legend (1985)

This old school fantasy is mostly remembered for a young Tom Cruise as the hero and Tim Curry as evil itself with a demon getup that puts the Devil from Tenacious D to shame. Dream composes a lyrical, melodic playlist here that holds the beautiful imagery and special effects onscreen nicely. Favourite track: ‘Loved By The Sun’, a particularly lovely passage of ambience.

7. William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977)

This fierce, arresting adventure film sees several lowlifes and hard-cases from around the world transporting giant trucks loaded with volatile nitroglycerin through the South American jungle. You can imagine the fun that Dream would have composing this score and they don’t disappoint, their score doesn’t properly kick in until we first see the trucks nearly halfway through the film, but when it does you feel it like a sonic boom. Favourite track: ‘Betrayal’, an intensely affecting, dark hued composition.

6. Michael Mann’s Thief (1981)

The elemental group goes decidedly more urban in Mann’s early career crime masterpiece about an expert safecracker (James Caan) taking one one last heist. The music is moody, dark and nocturnal to suit Mann’s blooming aesthetic we know so well today. Favourite track: ‘Final Confrontation’, a sweeping piece that plays overtop a blisteringly cathartic slow motion shootout and carries over into the end credits with epic grit and grace.

5. Mark L. Lester’s Firestarter (1984)

Drew Barrymore and David Keith battle nefarious government forces in this thrilling Stephen King adaptation, made more so by Dream’s rhapsodic score, which suits the supernatural, trippy tone of this story so perfectly. Favourite track: ‘Charley The Kid’, a layered, star speckled composition that has a forceful edge appropriate for the character but also a playful curiosity that reflects her childlike mind.

4. Steve De Jarnatt’s Miracle Mile (1988)

A film about a potential nuclear attack on Los Angeles seems like it would have a traditional Hollywood-esque score but this is the brilliant, unconventional cult classic that is Miracle Mile and it greatly benefits from the talents of Dream to make it so. Their proverbial surname fits like a glove here because there is an overall dreamy aura to this nocturnal neon nightmare, I’ve had a few dreams myself about impending, inevitable nuclear or otherwise inflicted disaster, probably why I connect so well with this material. The score may seem counterintuitive but there’s a momentous drive to it and lighter, brisk areas to underscore the very sweet romance at its core. Favourite track: ‘Running Out Of Time, which sets the ‘anything can happen’, pins and needles apprehensive mood just amazingly.

3. Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto 5 (2013)

Any hardcore GTA fan knows that the main musical component that everyone looks forward to and remembers are the car radio soundtrack choices, but there’s also original scores deftly layered into the action, missions and cutscenes. Everything from heists to shootouts to plane rides to car chases to boat derby’s and every spectacle in between is outlined here in a California-lite series of compositions that see Dream slightly evolve out of their 80’s synth sensibilities yet still retain the essential soul that says ‘this is our work.’ Favourite track: ‘North Yankton Memories’… because I couldn’t count the amount of times this brilliant piece kicks in the minute I do something naughty, that two star wanted level pops up and the LSPD come careening down the highway after me.

2. Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987)

Atmosphere haunts this cult vampire western about a young cowboy (Adrian Pasdar) seduced by a gorgeous waif (Jenny Wright) and swept you in the brutal nomadic lifestyle of her roving clan. Desert sunsets, blood on chrome, choking smoke, hurtling police vehicles and the occasional moment of nocturnal solitude, it’s a rigorous, ravishing aesthetic and Dream gives it their all with an intermittently droning and ariose work. Favourite track: ‘Mae’s Theme’, a low key, hovering piece that accents the tragic nature of her character.

1. Michael Mann’s The Keep (1983)

This film is something of an artifact, hacked to pieces in the editing process by the dipshits at Paramount, causing Mann to disown the film and yank any distribution rights. One day he’ll cool off and we’ll get a decent Blu Ray. It’s a stunning piece of pseudo Lovecraft WWII supernatural horror and one of my favourite films. Dream’s score echoes throughout the halls of this Romanian structure as German soldiers, metaphysical warriors and Jewish historians try and piece together the meaning behind this ancient place. Favourite track: ‘Gloria’, a synth laden piece with orchestral strains and beautiful vocal work, full of mystery and reverence.

-Nate Hill

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Bill Paxton Performances

Bill Paxton was one of those guys who could be the most affable dude in the room, the friendliest guy on the block and without warning, at the drop of a hat turn the energy of his performance around 180 degrees into something dark and dangerous before the audience even had a chance to react. A boisterous, scene stealing, standup guy and just as talented in the director’s chair as he was in front of the camera, this guy was one of cinema’s greatest treasures. Here are my top ten personal favourites of his many excellent performances!

10. Wayne Caraway in Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams

This indie drama was one of his last films before passing and one of the most terrifying, despicable characters he’s ever played. Caraway is a corrupt county sheriff who is running drugs as a side hustle and letting his daughter (Sophie Nélisse) become collateral damage in the process. He’s volcanically unpredictable, heinously abusive and frequently very violent, especially towards the kids around him. It’s an arresting portrayal of renegade small town law gone bad to the bone and he relishes every rotten mannerism and brooding, misanthropic gesture.

9. Bokky in Traveller

This is an obscure little indie focused on the lives of the descendants of Irish Gypsy ‘Travellers’ in the states, making their living as con artists. Paxton’s charming Bokky is a seasoned pro who mentors a young rookie (Mark Wahlberg) with roots in the community, both eventually finding themselves in over their head. It’s a quaint, eccentric caper flick that showcases a niche society you don’t often get to hear too much about.

8. Dale ‘Hurricane’ Dixon in Carl Franklin’s One False Move

Dale lives up to his name, a bull in a china shop of a small town sheriff played expertly by Paxton as extremely warm and welcoming at first, until we see a dangerous core smouldering just under the salt of the earth exterior, brought out by a violent, twist laden crime narrative that lets no character off the hook.

7. Earl in Baltasur Kormákur’s 2 Guns

A spectacularly corrupt CIA agent in a Panama hat, Earl is out to get back a stolen slush fund that somehow ended up in the hands of the cartel and then the film’s two heroes (Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg). He isn’t just the pursue and retrieve type of fellow though, he relishes his power and has a nasty sadistic streak that comes out in ruthless Russian roulette torture bouts he puts his captives through. A cheerfully psychotic, scene stealing villain, Bill has a lot of fun and banters around with the rest of the cast nicely.

6. Hank in Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan

Just a small town dude who finds a whole whack of stolen money, things spiral out of control for him, his girlfriend (Bridget Fonda) and dullard brother (Billy Bob Thornton) in this brutal, icy and brilliant morality play of a thriller. Paxton always excelled at showing the dark side of seemingly harmless characters and this is no exception, giving the old saying ‘money is the root of all evil’ a run for *it’s* money.

5. Jerry Lambert in Stephen Hopkins’ Predator 2

This is a fucking great film and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Lambert is the spitfire rookie in Danny Glover’s impossibly badass squad of tactical street cops, which include familiar faces like Ruben Blades and Maria Conchita Alonso. This being an 80’s action flick, Paxton gives his trademark lovably obnoxious and inexhaustibly verbose energy and is a terrific addition to an already packed cast.

4. Brock Lovett in James Cameron’s Titanic

Brock is one of the characters who only exists in the present and sort of anchors the historical facts with his presence. Paxton gives this scruffy treasure hunter a laid back yet determined edge and rocks a pirate hoop earring awesomely.

3. Dad Meiks in Bill Paxton’s Frailty

This was his feature directing debut and what a film it is. A sort of Southern Gothic horror whodunit, he gives an absolutely haunting, harrowing turn as a loving father who gradually begins to lose his marbles and display murderous tendencies. He plays the horrific elements straight and frankly, making his curve into madness hit all the harder.

2. Private William Hudson in James Cameron’s Aliens

“Game over man!!” Paxton made that hilarious line and many others iconic in this portrayal of the ultimate badass who has the ultimate nervous breakdown when danger shows up and ultimately actually fights pretty damn impressively and redeems himself for freaking out like a little bitch earlier on. He’s also riotous comic relief and gets all the best moments.

1. Severen in Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark

One in a pack of roving vampires, Severen is undoubtably the most rambunctious and bloodthirsty of the pack, an unpredictable wild card who murders humans on a cheerful whim and always has a quip ready before blasting someone’s face off. In a career full of rowdy behaviour and off the wall performances this one stands out as the most impressive sustainment of energy for a feature length running time I’ve ever seen.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

Blood on the Frontier: Nate’s Top Ten Horror Western films

I love a good horror western. There’s something about the American West that lends itself to to mystery, menace and an ever felt presence of supernatural evil. Be it ghosts in the mountains, giant cryptozoological behemoths from beneath the earth, terrifying cannibalistic psychos, cursed burial grounds or haunted ghost towns dotting the vast plains, there’s an unspeakably harried energy to be found in this setting and the combination of dust, horses, blood and terror is a delicious mixture akin to movies and popcorn for me. There’s a lot of them out there ranging from low budget B grade junk to beautifully crafted genre efforts, but whether gooey schlock or eerie art house, the genre mashup has no shortage of creative efforts. Here are my ten favourites.. Oh one more thing! I’ve tried to stick to films set in the Old West as that to me is what a western is, while more contemporary stuff set closer to present day feels like cheating. I did make an exception with one entry though because despite being set somewhere in the 80’s, it totally falls squarely into Western territory and deserves inclusion. Enjoy!!

10. J.T. Petty’s The Burrowers

There’s something nasty dwelling beneath the acrid soil, something that was once content to feed on bison until the population was driven scant by millions of hunters. Now it’s forced to breach the earth and feed on humans, while a gaggle of gnarled character actors like Clancy Brown, Doug Hutchison and William Mapother form a posse to try and face them. This is a genuinely frightening creature feature with graphic, sickening violence and a sly commentary on capitalist colonial tendencies that swept across the land during that era.

9. Grim Prairie Tales

This is a creaky old anthology flick from the 80’s that sees James Earl Jones cast against type as a gregarious, grizzled bounty hunter and the great Brad Dourif as a timid businessman trading spooky stories around the campfire. Their tales involve murder, haunted canyons, betrayal and more and although are hit and miss occasionally provide chills. The real fun though is the interaction between these two brilliant actors and honestly I would have preferred the filmmakers not cutting away to every story and just having James and Brad tell the whole thing, leaving the rest to our imaginations.

8. Sam Shepard’s Silent Tongue

River Phoenix sits out in the desert looking haggard and grieving over the corpse of his Native American wife before she comes alive to haunt him. This is a bizarre, disjointed film full of terrific ideas and striking imagery, and although I can’t quite wholeheartedly recommend it because overall it doesn’t work, it’s worth to see vivid performances from Phoenix, Alan Bates, Richard Harris and particularly Sheila Tousey as the vengeful ghost.

7. Dead Birds

Several confederate outlaws and their hostages hide out on one severely haunted farmland after robbing a bank in this low budget but well made chiller. There’s nicely gooey creature effects, a pseudo twist ending and cool work from varied folks like Mark Boone Jr, Patrick Fugit, Henry Thomas, Muse Watson, Nicki Aycox and Michael Shannon.

6. From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter

The best of the Dawn sequels (better than that lame duck TV show too) is a prequel set in the past outlining how the vamp bar the Titty Twister acquired it’s business license of sorts and how evil princess Santanico Pandemonium (Ara Celi) came to power. The real treat here is seeing legendary Michael Parks playing real life poet Ambrose Bierce, who really did go missing near the end of his life. This film plays ‘what ifs’ with that notion really nicely and just has a wickedly imaginative story that builds upon the Mexi Vampire mythos in a cool way.

5. Avery Crounse’s Eyes Of Fire

This one is almost damn near impossible to find, but my god is it worth it. A weirdo minister (Dennis Lipscomb) is booted from a pilgrim colony for being a creepy polygamist and sent along with his followers out into the wilds of Missouri. They accidentally wander through the burial ground of a Native Tribe though, and the ghosts are none too happy. This is a surreal, pagan style trip through eye catching folk horror elements, witchcraft lore and strange earth magic. Trees come alive, spectral figures loom out from thickets and the sheer creativity behind production design is commendable. Their low budget goes a long way in crafting something beautiful and striking. Good luck finding it though, it never made the jump to DVD and VHS’s seem to be lost to time. There was a YouTube version so that’s probably your best bet. Like I said though, this one is something special, and well worth the hunt.

4. S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk

Kurt Russell and his entourage hunt down deadly troglodyte (such a great word) cannibals in this paced, aggressive, atmospheric and arresting piece. What makes Zahler’s aesthetic so special is he takes time getting to know his characters, their eccentricities and relationships to one another in meticulous fashion before throwing them to the wind, and whatever comes howling along with it. In this case it’s a tribe of terrifying cave dwelling inbred psychos who provide a formidable enemy for Russell’s grizzled Sheriff and Co.

3. Ron Howard’s The Missing

This film is tied with Backdraft as my favourite Howard film and I’ve never understood why it’s so low rated. Cate Blanchett plays a plucky frontierswoman whose young daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) is snatched by an evil witchdoctor (Eric Schweig) who is also a part time human trafficker. Together with her estranged and dysfunctional halfbreed father (Tommy Lee Jones), she hunts them down across plains and mountains to an eventual showdown. This is a frightening, atmospheric genre film that I’ve always loved and provides the actors with excellent roles to have fun with. Plus it’s got a Val Kilmer cameo that he only took to spend time around Blanchett, but can you blame him?

2. Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark

Not a traditional western but bite me. Bigelow’s lyrical, dreamy take on the vampire mythos is an enduring masterpiece with colourful character work from Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and others. It’s a nice touch that the word vampire is never mentioned but the energy and ambience around those legends couldn’t be thicker. That gorgeous Tangerine Dream score is one for the books too.

1. Antonia Bird’s Ravenous

Probably the quirkiest film on this list, it’s a spectacularly gory, pitch black horror comedy that sees ex soldiers Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle facing off against the breathtaking backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains sometime after the Mexican American war. This is a curious film that approaches the taboo of cannibalism with a cheerful, nonchalant attitude and wholeheartedly plunges down a narrative with no end in sight but blood, guts and mayhem. A literal acquired taste, it has offbeat energy, a kooky but beautiful score and spooky, campfire story energy that has always spoken to me.

Thanks for reading!! What are your favourite horror westerns?

-Nate Hill

PTS PRESENTS ERIC RED POWERCAST

ERIC RED1

eric redPodcasting Them Softly is proud to present a chat with cinematic horror/thriller icon Eric Red, as he chats about his eclectic career, his future projects, and his love for movies in general! Eric is famous for having written THE HITCHER, NEAR DARK, and BLUE STEEL, as well as writing and directing the incredible action thriller COHEN & TATE, BODY PARTS and BAD MOON. His most recent effort was the psychological horror thriller 100 FEET which features a gripping lead performance from Famke Janssen. Eric also writes novels, and his latest, WHITE KNUCKLE, is now available on Amazon.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!