30 Days of Night Review
Written by: jmh314
Vampires have been roaming the silver screen for about as long as horror films have been in existence. With it being a very old concept in the horror genre, there seemingly needs to be new ways to make each new film stand out from the pack. With vampires films, it is limited as to what they can accomplish due to half the day being filled with sunlight, which as viewers know kills vampires. But what if the sunlight was gone for a month and the vampires have free-range of time to kill and hunt their victims? This is what 30 Days of Night explores in an ambitious but somewhat predictable style.
30 Days of Night opens in Barrow, Alaska as they prepare for their yearly month light night. At this time, over half the towns population leaves Barrow because they cants take being in total darkness for 30 days straight. As everyone scurries to get their stuff and get out of town, Sheriff Eben Oleson begins to get several strange crimes to investigate. First, someone stole everyones cellphone and burned them all in a big pile in the snow outside of town. Then he is called to check on a local citizens house where his entire pack of Husky sled-dogs were brutally killed. And finally he is called to the local garbage refinery where another citizens helicopter was stripped into pieces and left there for recycling. Something strange is happening as everyone begins to leave town and Eben isn't quite sure what.
While Sheriff Oleson is investigating these strange occurrences, his wife Stella who recently left him is in town doing Fire Marshall inspections before the darkness hits. She finishes but on the way to catch the last plane out of town, she gets into a car accident. She calls Eben for a ride, and he send another Sheriff to pick her up. They meet up in town at a diner where Sheriff Eben Oleson was getting into an argument with a strange fellow. Stella is there to help Eben out just as the unknown male tries to attack him. Eben and Stella take this man to jail where he soon tells them "they" will soon be here and everyone is going to die. The power soon goes out in the town and Eben rushes out to see why.
Eben soon realizes that something is wrong as the power station has been destroyed and the worker there was killed in grisly fashion. As other citizens begin to get slaughtered in the street by some sort of creatures, Eben decides he needs to get as many people to safety as he possibly can. He soon get a group of people and they struggle to find places where they will be safe. The take refuse Anne Frank style in an attic that is very concealed. After it is no longer safe there and supplies are low they look new places to go and ways to get by the vampires. With the rest of the town seemingly dead Eben and the group must do all they can to find refuge and stay alive as the 30 days of darkness nears it's end.
The thing I liked about 30 Days of Night was the premise of the story. Never have vampires had a free reign of terror for 30 days straight without having to worry about sunlight to stop them. They are given all the time in the world to hunt and kill everyone they possible can, which is more than enough blood for them to feast on. it is relentless non-stop
The other thing I liked was the vampires themselves. Gone are the old fashioned vampires that were all about the seduction they receive from the blood and the stalking to pick out their prey. These vampires just downright pick and slaughter their victims if they see them. They do it without remorse to feed their thirst for blood and thats it. They are more menacing this way because no one is safe from their wrath. They were also interesting because they weren't there to build an army. They stated that they needed to sever the head completely off their victims in the end to make sure they don't change. This was a great twist as it wasn't just biting the neck and turning them into a bigger vampire army.
The one thing I am undecided about with the vampires is when they talked. The vampires did have their own sub-titled language which was an interesting concept. But they got too preachy with this and turned a lot of it into "this is why humans are the way they are" type of philosophies. Just seemed a little too unnecessary to make the vampires actions so preachy.
A few things I would have liked to seen in this film was a little more depth to the human characters. There isn't much to them, and since there are times when they are all stuck in a small space together, they could have used more story to them. I found myself not caring much about them, and even a few that I didn't remember were in the group until they died. Also, a little more back story as to how the vampires found Barrow, Alaska as their feeding grounds would have been nice. And maybe a little more into how they came to be in search of such a massacre could have been a good addition too.
Also I know this isn't the biggest deal but there is one plot hole that bothers me. At multiple times we had vampires state that they could smell someones blood or scenes where they are sniffing the air trying to find people. But then when the vampire entires the house with everyone hiding in the attic, it for whatever reason don't smell them. Maybe I am nit-picking a bit but this is one of those small things that reall irks me in movies.
The acting was pretty standard for a horror flick Josh Hartnett actualyl carries this film which I didn't expect as I haven't enjoyed many of his previous films. Mark Boone Junior gets the roll of the tough bad ass loner citizen who is happy to kick some vampire teeth in. Danny Huston is the lead vampire and does a great job in making him the leader of a group who isn't going to stand to see anyone left alive.
The cinematography was pretty good. It is tricky to film in all darkness and snow covered areas as it almost has a crappy black and white feel. 30 Days of Night was able to avoid this with LOTS of blood to color the white barren snow, and using the falling snow to create a shield between the vampires finding the citizens.
The special effects were top notch. There was plenty of gore throughout this one, so any gorehound will love that. There are some very well done kills as well. The two that stick out were the one on the playground one gruesome decapitation near the end. The vampires makeup was awesome too. They were some of the coolest looking vampires I have seen in a long time and they really had a great menacing look that matched their personalities.
I think the film really failed to capitalize on it's true potential despite being a very gripping film. If they would have been able to give us some insight into the vampires past or made some of the human characters more intriguing, I think this could have been one of the all-time greats in the vampire genre. Instead I am left to wonder a lot about these relentless beasts who I think could have redefined what we think about vampires in general. Nonetheless, the film is by far one of the better vampire films to come out in a long time and does plenty to find it's own place in the genre. I assume many wont find the flaws in it that I did as it can truly be a really edge of your seat horror. I just think that in the end the potential was there to really take this film to the next level but instead decided to take the easy way out and keep the non-stop action going to keep you distracted from the lack of depth. Hopefully if the much talked about sequel does end up happening than they can take the time to explore much more of the story with these vampires and how they became such merciless creatures. I for one would love to learn how this fiendish creatures came to be and would not object to a sequel.