30 Days of Night - DVD Review



30 Days of Night presents a rather obvious take on the vampire flick which will quite possibly leave studios everywhere scratching their heads and saying, ‘why didn’t we think of that?’ By setting the action in Barrow, Alaska, the authors of the comic book source material (Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith) guaranteed themselves the titular 30 Days of Night, a period where, due to its extreme North location, Barrow finds itself hidden from the sun. The final part of what is ostensibly a high-concept flick is of course the vampire arrival where a band of vicious brutes led by a rather terrifying Danny Huston attempt to massacre the entire remaining population of the town, led in their survival attempts by Josh Hartnett’s typically out-of-his-depth Sheriff, Eben Olsen and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George).

Visually 30 Days of Night is one the most astoundingly brave films since Sin City and it is Robert Rodriguez’ film which immediately comes to mind as soon as darkness descends. Director David Slade and Cinematographer Jo Willems craft a blackness which has a personality of its own, set against white snowdrifts and ambiguous grey shadows. It’s perhaps unusual to see a pairing whose history includes the distinctly un-inspired Hard Candy re-inventing themselves in such an outlandish, dare you say it, stunning, fashion but the pilfered stylings of the comic book transfer on a picture-perfect level to the screen. Slade shows he is brave enough to let the vistas do the talking and some truly fantastic framing shots throughout the film provide the proof. In the end the film could have come across as Sin City-lite but actually transpires as a more realistic version of Frank Miller’s vision. The black and white and red here is one of realistic necessity rather than artistic indulgence and the mood it creates sets the tone at a judicious level.

It’s a tone that is well maintained by the action Slade cultivates throughout and Buffy this certainly isn’t. There is copious amounts of blood and gore, pouring forth on a near constant level. Certainly when Hartnett’s battered sheriff finds himself in possession of an axe part-way through proceedings it soon becomes clear that he isn’t simply planning to chop wood with it. Some brutal attacks later and certain characters find themselves missing rather important parts of their body. It’s key too that the vampires themselves appear relatively realistic. They do move with exaggerated, animalistic, movements but when they’re hit with something significant (say, a truck with a massive snowplough attached) they fly through the air with the greatest of ease, similar to if you were to do the same with a human (this is not recommended). Slade keeps a tangible amount of dread every time a confrontation is imminent but occasionally struggles to build tension, something stemming from the fact that the vampires on screen presence is often as terrifying as their off-screen one.

Where the film falls down slightly is in its slavish devotion to the source material. Had it been changed to ‘One Day of Night’ or even ‘A Few Days of Night’ the pacing and plotting would certainly have been a lot more believable. As it is long periods of time are simply omitted and passed over by the narrative, creating holes larger than Melissa George’s nicely rounded… eyes. One character, for example, appears to manage to survive under a house for twelve days while the survivors struggle for food and warmth inside houses and various other buildings. This time-line also serves to eliminate some of the threat and detaches the audience from the peril we witness on-screen.

Despite this however, 30 Days of Night stands strong as both an excellent comic book adaptation and a really decent stab in the right direction of the vampire-horror film. The visuals are stylised and almost unique in their own right while the violence is realistic and often daring. Mention should also be reserved for Hartnett and George whose poise on screen is admirable. Viewers will certainly be hooked until the end where the inevitable confrontation does not disappoint and the conclusion provides simultaneously a nicely rounded closure and the faintest hint of a possible follow-on.


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