30 Days Of Night: Dark Days - Blu-ray Review

'predictable but at least never dull and eventually has the good grace not to totally ruin the franchise'

Arguably the best vampire film since From Dusk Till Dawn (and yes, I'm including Let The Right One In in this), the original 30 Days Of Night had a great premise, a fast pace, some gorgeous visuals and a general vampiric aesthetic to die for. Three years later and its sequel, 30 Days Of Night: Dark Days is all set to rather limp out to a direct-to-DVD release with a different director, the distinct absence of Sam Raimi in a producer credit and an all new cast. If the purpose of sequels is generally to build a franchise up then one has to question what the point of releasing second-hand knock-ups like this is; it's unlikely to make much money, doesn't add to the reputation of the series and will hardly have unbelievers scurrying to buy the original. But anyway... I digress.

The good news is that Dark Days isn't a bad film. It's nowhere near the heights of the original (it was never going to be) but new director Ben Ketai along with cinematographer Eric Maddison and production designer Geoff Wallace do maintain a lot of the look and feel of the first iteration - no mean feat considering the action moves from the whites, blacks and reds of Alaska to the multi-coloured palette of Los Angeles. Ketai and Maddison are particularly successful in their shot choice, replicating a lot of the claustrophobia the original film created so well and really excelling (particularly on Blu-ray) in the scenes where the darkness is penetrated by small sources of light. It's pretty advanced stuff to shoot scenes like this properly and the composition in certain moments is befitting of a much bigger budget film than this.

Story-wise though, Dark Days proves a bit of a let down. When we're dealing with Stella Olsen's (Kiele Sanchez, replacing Melissa George) character development, anyone who's seen the first film will no doubt be hooked; she's leaner, meaner and badder and Sanchez does a good job of adapting the character to her new vigilante-esque reality, following the horrific events she witnessed in Barrow.

Without the unique premise of that film though, Dark Days struggles to find something to do with our heroine apart from giving her a generic, videogame-like plot involving Mia Kirshner's anonymous head vampire who can only be got to by fighting through hordes of even more anonymous extras. It's predictable but at least never dull - the fight scenes remain tense and well directed and Ketai is obviously aware that this sort of thing needs variety to work well. As long as Stella's involved then, generally, there's interest to be had but the introduction of a band of vampire hunters hinders rather than helps her progress - after how attached we were to Stella and Eben and many other characters from the first film it's just rather difficult to care about this new group of blood banks.

What this basically means is that Sanchez really deserves a lot of credit for Dark Days' triumphs: if you couldn't believe in her as Stella then the whole thing falls down but believe in her you do and her role occasionally meanders into fairly deep territory. 'Support' - to use the term loosely - is best provided by a mumbling Rhys Coiro who proves the only other character it's possible to give a smidgen of thought to. No matter though. This is at least as good as any of the Resident Evils and has a proper back story to boot. Having said that it's still an un-needed, perfunctory, sequel, which at least has the good grace not to totally ruin the franchise.

30 Days Of Night: Dark Days is released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 11th October.

Look further...

'There are some pretty brutal scenes in Dark Days — their violence, though, stands out in sharp contrast to the rest of the film’s tameness' - Inside Pulse, 1/4

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