As I grew up there were a few influences on my life. I was, at about the age of 17, starting to get into a slightly restrained sense of self expression.
Initially I thought the world was encapsulated in the lyrics of pop band Climie Fisher. Their song “This Is Me” really struck a chord about being yourself and being honest.
Looking back on it, that is quite embarrassing to even admit to.
Later on I went from sanitised, crappy crooning to the vulgar delights of The Macc Lads. Muttley McLad and the Beater (less so whoever was drumming) had a massive effect on me and I wore a leather jacket in the same style and was an obnoxious, foul mouthed poet for the next few years. Emulaton of a rock band that could put the line “I rattled me ‘tatoes against her dirt box” was something that kept me amused through many a lonely day.
But another influence was a movie. It came out in 1987 and it was called Near Dark.
It was about vampires (even though the film never used the word) and told the story of cowboy-esque figure & veterinarian’s son Caleb. He is bored and restless, living in a small town in the US deep south, and one night pulls the beautiful wander Mae, taking her for a ride in his truck. As dawn approaches she starts to freak out, demanding he take her home. He agrees in return for a kiss which she gives but bites his neck in the process. After Mae runs off Caleb finds his truck won’t start and begins a long walk home. As the sun rises his skin starts to smoulder and and burn. In the distance a Winnebago is roaring up behind him, windows blacked out. It pulls up, and a figure swaddled up like a bedouin yanks Caleb into the truck. It is Mae’s “family” who then decide to give Caleb one week to see if he can join their clan (as the bite has infected his blood and “turned” him). As Caleb tries to come to terms with this brutal, nomadic life, his father and kid sister are trying to track him down.
This movie was badass from start to finish. It had a cracking theme tune by Tangerine Dream (and one track by John Parr that turned up in the trailer). It had three of the cast of Aliens in it. It had a vampire “child” (in reality a curmudgeonly old man trapped in the body of a kid). It had the gorgeous Jenny Wright as Mae. It had a gunfight between the vampires and cops, where the vampires are immune to the bullets but get burned by the sunlight coming in through the bullet holes. It had a tense scene in a redneck bar with the immortal line “Just a couple more minutes of your time, about the same duration as the rest of your life!”.
The whole thing was fucking awesome.
Now…Jenny Wright was masturbation material as Mae. Lance Henriksen (sp?) was brilliant as alpha male clan leader Jesse Hooker (who was so old he fought in the American Civil War). Joshua Miller was creepy as the vampire kid Homer.
But….the one guy in the whole movie who grabbed my attention more than any other. The one that got me to put patches on my denim jacket to try and look like him. The one I even bought spurs for my boots to try and look like him. The one I even tried to copy the laugh of (kind of a “hurr! hurr! hurr!”) was Bill Paxton’s wild, hyper-alive, psychotic thug Severen.
Severen wasn’t a nice guy. He was brash, unpleasant, crude and a bully. Instead of simply killing victims and then drinking their blood, he would torment them first. He shot a guy in the face and whooped “BULLSEYE!” as the man slumped down dead. He took on a truck face first (and won…for a while). He was an utterly, unrestrained, uncontrollable psycho who seemed to only have respect for Jesse.
The only reason this character was so good was that he was played by Bill Paxton.
I’d seen Paxton in Aliens as Hudson. Another irritating character (basically Chit from Weird Science but with a pulse rifle). He was good in the role but as all Aliens fans know, Hudson isn’t a badass (not even at the end when he’s dragged under the floor by a xenomorph…although he did redeem himself a bit). He was also in The Terminator (one of the punks) and cameoed in Commando. He later blotted his copybook with sodding Titanic but redeemed himself fully by playing a nasty in Agents of Shield.
Paxton played Severen so well that I just wanted, aged 17 to about 21, to BE him. My father was a bit concerned, saying “But he kills people”, but that wasn’t the point.
Severen was cool because he didn’t give a fuck about what people thought of him. His behaviour bordered on the ridiculous sometimes (“oh, yoo hoo!”) but he was free spirited, unrestrained and a lethal killer. All things I most certainly wasn’t, living in a world of haircuts, smart clothes and constant disapproval of EVERYTHING I was into.
I loved this movie so much that I had the quad poster for it on my wall at Uni (years before the internet, never mind Ebay, so this was expensive) and a friend got me the lobby cards set which I also hung with pride on my wall.
I tracked down an uncensored copy of Near Dark in about 1990 (a few seconds of extra footage, nothing overwhelmingly awesome) and would wax lyrical on the movie to anyone who wanted to borrow my pirated copy on VHS.
Today I found out that Bill Paxton was dead. He died yesterday aged 61.
It pissed me off but then again, this is something that is going to happen more and more as I get older.
Carrie Fisher (not Climie Fisher) saw me through my first, pre-teen crush. Bill Paxton helped me to fantasise about what it would be like to be an immortal, ludicrous badass.
I’ll leave the last words to Jesse Hooker from the movie.
“I taught Severen everything he knew but not everything I know”.
Bill Paxton. Thank you.