Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Based on the comic book limited series by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night is a tense and savage number that brings the vampire back to its more animalistic roots. No prissy, posturing, velvet- and lace-clad pretty boys with questionable sexuality lamenting existence and exuding ennui here. These undead just don’t d!ck around. They’ve got their sights set on your jugular, and director David Slade (of Hard Candy fame) takes them there with a calculated flourish.

Set in the appropriately-named Barrow, the last northern town before ice and snow swallow the land, the film runs the course of 30 sunless days, as Sheriff Eben Oleson (a surprisingly effective Josh Hartnett) tries to keep the remaining survivors alive till they get to the other side of this month-long darkness.
Among the ragged bunch, Oleson‘s estranged wife, Stella (The Amityville Horror’s Melissa George), and his teen-aged brother, Jake (Mark Rendall, from TV’s ReGenesis and Time Warp Trio).
This set-up, of course, looks pretty much like the standard horror movie of this stripe, where a ragtag bunch must stay alive in the face of a horde of monsters. And, admittedly, Slade doesn’t really attempt to transcend the genre. What he does though, is present us with a crackerjack ride that doesn’t quit, from the methodical cutting off and shutting down of Barrow during the film’s opening minutes, to the climactic sunrise.
Once the vampires (led by Marlow, as played by Marie Antoinette’s Danny Huston) arrive, Slade doesn’t let up, and there are moments when you can sympathize with our asthmatic hero.

Fortunately, the characters are given just enough humanity to keep us interested, and the narrative is also allowed to slow down at certain points to spotlight grace notes that typify the strength and the frailty of the human spirit. And though it may have been a wiser choice to have placed more distance between two key scenes, they’re still nonetheless effective in keeping 30 Days of Night a story about the people, and not the monsters hunting them.
This is so not about the monsters, in fact, that we don’t really get any answers regarding the vampires, their natures nor their origins. For the purposes of the film, this is all we need to know: they exist, and they’re thirsty. (So anyone hoping for protracted flashbacks of the vampires in frills and ruffles, sporting questionable accents, is in for bitter disappointment.)

And while Slade was certainly instrumental in keeping the film above the schlocky waters of the run-of-the-mill monster mash, composer Brian Reitzell (Stranger Than Fiction and the film version of Friday Night Lights) and editor Art Jones (who cut Slade’s Hard Candy as well) likewise contributed tremendously to make 30 Days of Night an effective creepfest, as did the sound department.
But if you still need more motivation, 30 Days of Night also boasts a commendable performance by a practically unrecognizable Ben Foster (Six Feet Under, and Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand), as a drifter whose arrival in Barrow presages the undead attack.

So go on. Get out there and see 30 Days of Night.
It’s guaranteed plasma-rich and angst-free.

Parting shot: Reviews of The Amityville Horror and The Tripper (which is produced by Steve Niles) can be found in the Archive.

(30 Days of Night UK quad and OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of bloody-disgusting.com.)

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