Jaq's Review: 30 Days of Night - Satisfying a Certain Hunger

October 29, 2007

What can I say? I like monster movies! I like films with evil, scary things going bump in the night. I like films that cause girls to grab me, terrified, in the darkness. So let me start by saying the new vampire film 30 Days of Night delivers those things in spades. Sure, it has some problems, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and today, I find that a rare thing indeed.

The plot, based on the Dark Horse graphic novel by Ben Templesmith and Steve Niles (who also co-wrote the screenplay), offers a wonderfully original concept and one which should have been thought of years ago. The vampires attack the far northern town of Barrow, Alaska, well above the Arctic Circle, where when the sun goes down for winter, it stays down for a full month. This gives the monsters plenty of time to hunt down their prey. And hunt they do. In the first few days these vampires, led by the beautifully dark-eyed Marlow (Danny Huston), take out most of the town, leaving only a handful of survivors. And, because they can, they do it in full view of God and the camera.

The vampires take to the rooftops in search of the survivors in 30 Days of Night.30 Days of Night Review

In director David Slade's sophomore feature effort, he wastes little time hiding the creatures of the night. The first two or three attacks are done with lightening speed, then once that's been established, Slade begins to take his time, letting the vampires become the calculating killing machines we know they can be. They hunt with precision, strength, speed and, most impressively, cooperation. They work as a pack. This is not the revisionist suave monster of Tod Browning's Dracula, the debonair, sexy killer with cape and widow's peak. No, this is a return to the Nosferatu, the monster representing the animalistic lust and blood passion which filled mythology until Bela Legosi stepped out of his coffin. It's a credit to writers Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson that they can combine this ferocity with a vampiric philosophy (told in subtitles since the vampires don't speak English) which allow us, as viewers, a glimpse into the inner psyche of the monster's motivation.

Oddly enough, though, this competence in hunting is also one of the films major flaws. They are so efficient you are left wondering why it takes so long for the vampires to find the survivors. There are huge gaps in the story line, filled by screen text explaining "Day 7" and then we jump a week and two weeks until we somehow arrive at "Day 27." We're never given a satisfactory explanation for the survival of the band of misfits and reunited lovers. And even if we were tossed that particular bon mot, there are other pockets of survivors (one in particular) whose very existence threatens to push our suspension of disbelief well over the edge.

Josh Hartnett and his love interest Melissa George hide underneath a house in 30 Days of Night.30 Days of Night Review

The end, though, no matter how we got there, takes another big risk. The sheriff of this little town, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett, who really can, sort of, act), who has been the driving force in keeping the survivors alive (as the small town sheriff must always do in these situations) makes the ultimate sacrifice (again, a slight cliché, but done with such aplomb you forgive the act in deference to the nature of the act).

All in all, this is the kind of film which pulls no punches in its depiction of violence, is willing to hack a small child to bits to make its point and uses creative filmmaking to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Perfect for a perennial Halloween treat.

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Ok...its those huge gaps in the story which wouldnt let me give this an 8/10 Also...just an odd question....these vamps are hungry....and they come to this town....plenty to eat. BUT they waste so much! Damn....there was at least 10 people worth of blood on the ground. Vamps gotta be more careful when feeding.

Heckle on Oct 29, 2007


Hey, Jaq, I enjoyed it, too, but I don't think it's quite accurate to call this movie terrifying. Sure, it was startling at certain times thanks to jarring sounds or scenes... but not scary, per se. When I saw it on opening night, people were actually laughing at the vampires and their ridiculous Klingon-ish language. Also, what point exactly were the filmmakers trying to make in the hacking of a small child to bits? Let's not read too much into things. A multi-layered morality story, this isn't. It was violence for entertainment's sake, and that's all you should hope and expect from a movie like this. Here's my full take, if you're interested:

Great White Snark on Oct 29, 2007


The plot hole of the efficient predators not being able to track their pray is actually explained in the comic: They hunt by smell, and even though it's vastly superior to human senses, it's still based human senses, so the vampires complain that the cold is "wreaking havoc on our sense of smell".

Angurvaki on Nov 1, 2007


Angurvaki, This is one of the major problems faced when adapting something for the screen. There is far more information available to you in the written form and the screenwriter/filmmaker must be able to figure out which of those pieces of information are required for the plot to move forward and which, while possibly fascinating, are merely window dressing for the plot. The reverse is also true. When adapting a screenplay into a novel, the writer had the leisure of adding whatever material he feels necessary to enhance what he is trying to do. Unfortunately, when reviewing a film, even if I know the source material (which, in this case, I did not), I cannot take it into account. I can only review what's on the screen and comment accordingly.

Jaq on Nov 1, 2007

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