30 Days of Night DVD Review
Written by: jay_wigger
The Film:It's pretty safe to assume that vampires don't actually exist, right? But if they did, do you really think they would be anything like the romanticized version we've been fed throught literary and filmic history? I didn't think so. No, they would be primal creatures, out for one thing and one thing only: blood, as much of it as they could get. 30 Days of Night takes this notion and flies with it. And boy, does it ever work!
The town of Barrow, Alaska (population: 500) is completely isolated and goes through a thirty-day period once a year where the sun doesn't come up in the morning. A large chunk of the population can't deal with it and gets out of Dodge for the month without sun, but a minority stays behind in order to keep the town running. Naturally, this is a perfect opportunity for vampires to waltz on in and pick off victims as if from a $10 all-you-can-eat buffet. The preparation work is performed by a character known as The Stranger, a low-life wannabe vampire perfectly played by Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog). He burns all the cellphones in town, murders a bunch of dogs, and renders the town helicopter inoperable, essentially cutting off any means of escape and communication with the outside world. Enter Marlow (an eerie and totally believable Danny Huston, The Number 23, Children of Men) and his band of savage bloodsuckers, who quickly go about ripping apart every human they can find. Barrow is a town under siege and it's left up to Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett, The Black Dahlia, Pearl Harbor) and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George, Turistas, the recent Amityville Horror remake) to rally those left behind in order to survive the next thirty days.
This is a premise that worked extremely well in its original graphic novel format, and it works almost as well on film if you can refrain from wondering, during the few slow parts, about what exactly the people of Barrow do for a living in the middle of nowhere and why there are no flights in or out of town just because it's dark outside. Director David Slade (Hard Candy) succeeds in capturing the look and feel of the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith and it's enough to make the viewer forgive the plot holes. The acting is as solid as can be in a horror film, especially on the part of Huston and his gang of vampires. The cold, calculating air Marlow gives off is menacing (and somehow quite charming as well).
What's really impressive, especially for horror fans, is Slade's depiction of the carnage caused by the vampires. This movie was rated R for a reason, and there are plenty of scenes of throats being torn out by hungry vampires, as well as scenes showing the townsfolk fighting back. People (and vampires) are beheaded, cut in half, thrown through industrial mulchers and threshers, and all of this is gloriously depicted without cameras cutting away at the last second, as is usually the case in big-budget so-called horror movies. Hats off to the producers and Columbia Pictures for not butting in and demanding a PG-13 rating from the director. The film is definitely better off for its extreme violence. After all, what fun is a vampire flick without buckets of blood and plenty of gore? About as fun as an Anne Rice novel, I guess.
The DVD: This has to be one of the most gorgeous DVDs ever released. The cinematography is top-notch, and in its 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, the dull tones and gray shades of the film are nothing short of beautiful, especially once the red stuff starts to fly and provides some color to contrast them. The soundtrack is minimal and practically atonal, making for some utterly eerie moments. The special features included in this release are:
8 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes that run about 45 minutes when put together. They cover pretty much every aspect in the making of the film, from pre- to post-production. Essential viewing for any fan of horror films and how they are made and what sorts of obstacles directors must confront when making them.
"Blood +" Episode 1 is the first episode of an anime series about vampire-like creatures and a girl who is either supposed to be fighting them or is being sought out by them so she can join them (I don't know which, as it is only one episode and it's a little confusing). This is more-or-less apromotional gimmick for the DVD release of the entire "Blood +" series, which came out a week after 30 Days of Night.
The audio commentary with Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and producer Rob Tapert is a fun way to watch the movie a second time, as they relate some fun anecdotes about making the film, but the commentary suffers from the absence of Slade, who could have added aome insight into how he achieved certain shots and how determined he was to convey the dread and also the goriness of the whole situation. Summary:
30 Days of Night is probably the scariest vampire movie of recent years, if not all time. It's definetely the goriest. If this is up your alley, this is a must-see film. Even if it's not, you should still watch it for the beautiful scenery and use of color, as well as the excellent performance of Danny Huston as Marlow. Just remember to turn your head away at the appropriate moments, because the camera certainly doesn't do it for you. Originally reviewed at ioncinema.com