30 Days of Night Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
Anne Rice eat your heart out. The vampires of Steve Niles’ and Ben Templesmith’s graphic novel 30 Days of Night bring back the fangs and brutality of the vampire that was so lacking in your books. These vamps are vicious, mean, nasty, and hungry as hell.
30 Days of Night is without a doubt one of the best genre films to come out this year as well as hands down the scariest vampire movie ever. In recent years, vampires have become well…pussies. They’ve lost a lot of that killer edge they had and they really lost their bite and thus goes any scares in vampire movies. But, 30 Days, these vampires are actually scary.
30 Days of Night takes place in the isolated town of Barrow, Alaska. Situated above the Artic Circle, the small community undergoes thirty days of darkness every year. That’s usually no problem for these tough Alaskan folk, but this year a group of vampires coming to town for an all you can eat buffet.
The graphic novel which the film is based is one that is very bleak, bloody, hard and stylish. With a bluish, gray hue to the film, you expect that the only thing to survive the translation would be style and blood. Wrong. Instead of making a film that is style over substance, 30 Days packed both and instead of getting just a stylish movie, we are actually getting a stylish and scary horror show.
Hard Candy director David Slade got the director’s chair for the film. From such a small film to a fairly large production and it being Slade’s second film, the so called “sophomore slump” could have reared its ugly head and we coulda gotten a fairly dull piece. Slade skips this slump and makes a truly scary sight and the suspense and tension never lets go from the first time that the lights flicker in Barrow.
Though Barrow is shown to be a fairly sizeable town, most of the action takes place indoors, keeping the feeling of claustrophobia in the film. The outdoor scenes though are no less claustrophobic as there are points through the film where you can only see the white heads and hands of the vampires moving on the rooftops and behind buildings.
Slade keeps the tension high when you are with the human characters as every sound could spell the arrival of a hungry vampire. The tendency of some filmmakers to have loud music that bangs whenever you are supposed to jump or leading up to it, Slade thankfully keeps that to a bare minimum and so there is a lot less of “I know something is coming within the next 10 seconds.”
The vampires in this film have never heard of table manners or seduction. They pounce on you and start feeding from the point they get their hands on you and aren’t afraid of getting dirty. They are vicious and their attacks produce some wonderfully bloody and nasty results.
During the action sequences throughout the film, hyper-editing, aka MTV-editing, is brought into play to ratchet up the tension and the feeling of chaos in the battle. I am not a big fan of this sort of editing as more often than not it’s taken so far to the extreme you cannot tell what the heck is going on, case in point, The Bourne Ultimatum. Thankfully, Slade doesn’t take it that far. This is one of the few times where we get a very aggressive cutting, brining a great amount of adrenaline to the action, and it is comprehensible. You can actually tell what is going on and see what is happening instead of seeing some blurry shapes and next thing you know, someone is huffing and puffing and one person is dead.
The action in the film is very aggressive and there isn’t any time to breathe once it starts. It’s all close quarters and with vampires running around your town in the dead of winter, not many places to run. One of the most interesting shots in the film took me totally by surprise. Its an aerial view of the massacre of the residents of Barrow, down below there are numerous blood trails in the snow, humans running and shooting back with their guns, vampires pouncing and ripping into flesh. Jumping literally from one victim to the next. One of the most interesting things about the film is that there are quite a few off screen kills. Instead of just after the massacre concentrate on the survivor group we follow through the film, we do hear occasional gunshots, screams, victorious howls of vampires from another neighborhood in Barrow that we never see, still giving the feeling that there are other people out there trying to hold out.
Speaking of our vampire buddies, the film does spend a decent amount of time with them. The vampire elder Vincent is missing from the film, but the original leader Marlow is still there and takes over the role Vincent played in the graphic novel. I will say this though, the vampires do not speak English, or at least very little, they speak their own language so yes…you will have to read some subtitles. And if some of you are turned off the film because of this, Mr. Slade, I was the reason why your movie didn’t beat SAW IV at the box office because I squealed there were subtitles. I apologize.
Acting in horror flicks is a bit of a hit and miss situation, though 30 Days boats a rather strong cast. Josh Hartnett leads the humans as Sheriff Eben Oleson along with Melissa George who plays Eben’s estranged wife Stella. Both of them have a very good chemistry together and seem very natural as a separated husband and wife who have issues going on. Hartnett is a big surprise to me, showing he can rapidly change emotion to suit the circumstances in each scene and has a bit of an authority about him. George successfully back him up and as the film goes on she takes over not only as second in command of the group, but also the glue that keeps them together.
The human group is well supported and all the actors do a superb job in their roles. There isn’t a weak link anywhere and all the actors really do sell the horror going on around them, the vampires might look great, but without great acting, the effect won’t sell.
Ben Foster hands down is an easy winner for the “Slimiest Character” Award. Foster plays The Stranger, the man that the vampires sent ahead to cut off communication and escape routes. And ooh, is he all kinds of creepy on screen. He really brings the character, which only appeared for a few pages in the novel, some good life and does change during the course of the film.
Onto the vampires. Really the only vampire with anything more to do than hiss and feed is the vampire leader Marlow, played by Danny Huston. A quick factoid, Danny Huston’s father was the late John Huston, director of classics Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Danny Huston is evil on screen, cold, no humanity, and no nothing that will show that he is anything more than an evil bloodsucker. Huston is completely vicious and when he speaks, you really get the sense of he has been around for centuries and has the “top of the food chain” bit ingrained into his brain. Casting could not have been better and he does provide a perfect adversary for Hartnett.
Vampires in cinema have usually been portrayed as pale skinned with two fangs in their mouths. Recently, more fangs have been added or in some cases taken away and the vamps simply tear open the throat with their teeth or use some sort of sharp object to open up a victim. Of course, vampires are also supposed to be seductive, luring their prey into their grasp and making it a wonderful experience. Bull fritters.
These vampires, their mouths are full of fangs, they are pale, but they certainly are not romantic. Done by the talented folks at WETA Workshop, the vampires look very close to the original graphic novel, their mouths are full of sharp fangs, pale and drenched in blood once the fun starts. The vampires also have long fingernails that are more like claws and like the fangs in their mouths, looks very real.
Blood is spread around the film very liberally with numerous neck rippings and quite a few vampires getting their heads chopped off (only way to kill these suckers), heads exploding, a few getting sawed in half, blood all around. Certainly enough to satisfy the bloodlust of gorehounds everywhere.
The score by Brian Reitzell is an interesting one. A blend of percussions, various sounds, guitar, some string instruments and lord knows what else is mixed together to create a very interesting and almost otherworldly score. Where the town might as well be on Mars, it fits well with the feeling of isolation.
The sound of the film is also very crisp and clear, there isn’t a blood splat or snarl that doesn’t go unnoticed and there isn’t any uneven sound, very low on dialogue and very high on action.
Overall, 30 Days of Night is a solid vampire movie that gives vampires their fangs back and makes them scary again. It is also proof that David Slade wasn’t a one trick horse with Hard Candy and can deliver the goods when it comes to horror. Certainly a Master in the making. I highly recommend 30 Days of Night to any vampire fan or any horror fan, its one of the best to come out this year and hopefully will revive the vampire genre. This is tgs, signing off.