Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#249. 30 Days of Night (2007)

Directed By: David Slade

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster

Tag line: "They're Coming!"

Trivia:  Sam Raimi was originally going to direct this film, but decided to produce it instead.

I admit I was intrigued when I first heard the premise for 30 Days of Night. Based on a series of graphic novels published in 2002, 30 Days of Night tells the story of an Alaskan town besieged by a band of vampires just as the sun goes down. Unfortunately, being so far north and in the middle of winter, this particular town won't see the sun rise again for another 30 days, giving their new visitors plenty of time to drain the blood from every man, woman and child they come across. As I said, it's an intriguing premise, and in the hands of director David Slade, what was a solid idea for a comic book transforms into an exceptionally entertaining horror film.

Barrow, a small town situated near the Arctic circle, is preparing for its annual “30 Days of Night”, during which time the sun will disappear from the sky for a solid month. Many who are unable to handle the prolonged darkness will leave town before sunset, but this year, those who remain behind have more to contend with than a longing for the sun. Once darkness descends on Barrow, so does a band of ancient vampires, intent on feasting upon anyone they encounter. The leader of the vampires (Danny Huston) instructs his followers to kill everybody, but Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), the sheriff of Barrow, has other plans. With the help of his estranged wife, Stella (Melissa George), Eben leads a small band of survivors to an attic in an isolated house, where they hope to remain hidden until the sun returns again in 30 days.

The feeling of isolation that director Slade introduces early on in 30 Days of Night is unsettling, to say the least (at one point, we're given a birds-eye view of Barrow, where we see for ourselves the nothingness surrounding it on all sides), yet it pales in comparison to the sheer terror generated by the vampires themselves. These creatures are a far cry from the regal Count created by Bela Lugosi for 1931's Dracula. Unable to talk, the vampires in 30 Days of Night shriek instead, and take great pleasure not only in drinking blood, but spilling it as violently as possible. In an early scene, three pipeline workers (Amber Sainsbury, Jared Turner and Kelson Henderson) have just finished their shift, and are trying to decide whose house to go back to for the evening. Before they can make up their minds, one is snatched away into the darkness, and as the other two are trying to figure out what happened, their friend's body drops out of the sky, his neck sliced completely open. The leader of the vampires, played wonderfully by the oft-underrated Danny Huston, does speak, but in an archaic language, leading us to believe these monsters have been around for a very, very long time. Even still, they're giddy with excitement over the smorgasbord about to be served up in Barrow, which is surely more impressive than any they've encountered before. “We should have come here ages ago”, the lead vampire says to his minions, and from the smiles on their faces it's obvious they agree with him.

This line is about as close to a humorous moment as you're going to find in 30 Days of Night. There are no facetious asides or witty one-liners like those you find in many modern horror movies, nothing at all thrown in to relieve the audience's tension. From star to finish, 30 Days of Night is a bleak film, loaded with lots of darkness, lots of blood, and a hell of a lot of screams.


Film Intel said...

Great film. Really like this and get a lot out of it every time I go back to it. One of my first purchases on Blu-ray where the blacks, reds and whites really look fantastic. Glad you enjoyed it.

Dave Becker said...

@Film Intel: Thanks for stopping by.

I agree: this is a very good film, and is extremely "re-watchable". I actually don't own this on Blu-Ray, but I'll definitely be picking it up as soon as possible.

Thanks again!

Klaus said...

I really liked the premise of this film which led me to think about vampire lore - which should further consider the fact that vampires, if they were to exist, would have taken advantage of the long winter nights and become arctic adapted creatures. The book/film "Let Me In" makes another good case for cold-weather vampires.

Dave Becker said...

Klaus: That really is an excellent point! The extremely cold climates afford vampires the most "up time". I haven't seen LET ME IN yet, but I did love the original (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN), which has a similar setting to the remake (and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT).

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of vampire films nothing against your review sir, avoiding this one.

Puppet show was enjoyable and well executed sir.

Excellent DVD picks and prices by all the critics.

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for stopping by.

No offense taken...there have been a number of vampire films in recent years, so I can understand where you're coming from. That said, I feel 30 DAYS OF NIGHT does stand out from the crowd.

Thanks for the kind words regarding the podcast, and please be sure to stop back and let me know what you think of the movies after you watch them!

Thanks again, and thanks for listening to Planet Macabre.

Klaus said...

"LET THE RIGHT ONE IN" -- of course that was the movie/book I meant when referring to "Let me In" in my previous post. I haven't see "Let Me In" 2010) yet either.

Movie Guy Steve said...

Sadly, we're going to split the dog on this one. The film had such a magnificent premise and I felt it failed to deliver on almost every level. The only way I could have been more disappointed in this is if it had been a musical.

I reviewed this on my old blog. The link is here so I don't have to retype all the reasons this film disappointed me.


Dave Becker said...

@Klaus: I figured you may have meant the original :). That said, I have heard good things about the remake, though admittedly I haven't seen it myself.

@Steve: I can see where you're coming from with some of your points, but can't say I agree with all of them. For one, the way the film handled the passage of time didn't bother me; I've seen it done MUCH more poorly in other films (a recent example is the dreadful PSYCH:9).

Also, the scene you're referring to (with the vehicle and explosion) as having "no real purpose" does, in fact, serve a purpose. Without going too far into "spoiler" territory, the character who does this is trying to create a diversion so that a key member can re-join the group (he even says before doing so "It's my turn"). As for it being a suicide mission, I can't say I wouldn't have thought of doing something similar if I were in his shoes!

Your other points are well-taken. Staying in that store longer than necessary (meaning they should've grabbed the food and gotten out) should have been a fatal error, and nobody identifying the "turned" citizen of Barrow was a little far-fetched (although I must say, I myself live in a very small community, possibly as small as Barrow, if not smaller, and aside from my immediate neighbors and a few families on my street, most are strangers. Being in that situation I may have been equally as confused. Still, it's less believable that the SHERIFF OF THE TOWN wouldn't have known the person).

And I also agree that the vampires are handled magnificently, and look every bit the part. This is how vampires SHOULD look!

All in all, the pluses definitely outweighed the minuses for me, so as you said, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Thanks for sharing your review. I enjoyed reading it.