By Marc Bernardin
Updated September 20, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
Near Dark: Ron Phillips

Fifteen years ago, a stylish thriller was released about a handsome young man who gets smitten by a ravishing stranger, bitten in a flush of passion, and then adopted by her clan of outlaw vampires — and it went on to do rather well at the box office. That film was ”The Lost Boys” — and its success all but doomed director Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, which came out the same year to cult status on video, where it has lurked for years as one of the sharpest, pulpiest bloodsucking flicks most people have never seen.

It’s a shame, because ”Near Dark” is a paradigm of thrift, an example of a species of smart, low-budget genre filmmaking that seems to have gone extinct. Written by Bigelow and Eric Red (”The Hitcher”), ”Dark” follows the fate of Caleb (Adrian Pasdar), who falls in with a band of night stalkers (Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenny Wright, Jenette Goldstein, and Joshua John Miller) who’ve ravaged the South for decades. Casting aside most of the traditional gothic leanings, the filmmakers crafted a lean flick — one that never uses the word ”vampire” — that’s more Buffy than Bela.

The centerpiece of this two-disc set is a nimble 47-minute documentary that traces the film’s genesis. Among the goodies are Paxton recalling how Bigelow asked her future husband James Cameron for permission to use a chunk of his ”Aliens” cast, Pasdar’s plea for the out-of-touch Wright to pick up the phone, and Henriksen’s freaky in-character road trips. (The actor, armed with nothing but menace, once got a highway trooper so freaked that he went for his gun. Talk about Method.)