Back in 2010, as Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director, debates swirled about her war drama The Hurt Locker and about her body of work as a whole. Both detractors and supporters were quick to point out that the aesthetic of Bigelow’s films was decidedly unfeminine. She didn’t make romantic comedies, nor did she seem to be allied with the feminist avant-garde or indie circles. Her films weren’t about women “finding themselves” or the bonds of sisterhood or the paradoxes of female sexuality. They were mostly about…men. One notable exception is her gynocentric cop drama Blue Steel, starring Jamie Lee Curtis; but even here, Bigelow could be accused (and was by some, I’m sure) of quite literally dressing up a strong woman in male clothes, casting her into the masculine genre of the police thriller.
Bigelow is thus a difficult figure to place within a conventionally feminist history of cinema. Because I like difficult figures, I appreciate her willingness to fuck with a whole host of expectations that attend the figure of the Female Director. Her gravitation toward conventionally masculine genres and material, though, also means that I’ve often been as bored by her work as I am by most male-authored cop dramas and war films. I was thus eager to sit down with Bigelow’s first feature, the well-regarded vampire flick Near Dark (1987). As an avowed horror fan, I held out hope that this would be the Bigelow film for me.