Review: 30 Days of Night
PLOT: As the sun sets on a small Alaskan town, the citizens plan for a month of darkness. Many leave for the thirty days of night, but a few of them stay behind, those who can handle the cold. What they didn’t plan on was a nasty bunch of vampires to feast while they desperately try and not become an undead snack. As the days pass, the remaining survivors attempt to make it though until the sun shines again.
There is an relentless feeling that I had watching 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. It started early on in the opening moments, as the sun goes down on a small Alaskan town. Many leave, while others, including Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) stay. The sheriff’s soon to be ex-wife Stella (Melissa George) makes plans to get out of dodge. But as she is driving off into the sunset, by fate, she is in an accident leaving her unharmed, but missing the last flight out. What could have been quality make-up time, ends abruptly when several strange crimes seem to happen across town. Cell phones have been destroyed, a farmer’s cattle is butchered , all before the setting sun. Sheriff Oleson soon finds a suspect, a man known only as The Stranger, played by Ben Foster who continues to steal the spotlight by playing some really twisted crazies brilliantly. He is locked in a cell, and the only words he speaks are of a oncoming doom. Anyone familiar with the many incarnations of DRACULA will see the Renfield nature of him. And as darkness falls, the townsfolk soon realize he speaks the truth.
Thus, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT sets up for one of the most intense and creepy flicks I’ve seen in awhile. And guess what…? It’s time to be afraid of vampires again because this is scary as hell. The baddies are the most vicious I’ve seen in years. There is no humor, they are not suave and romanticized, the are monstrous animals that feed on anything they can get their hands on. And they can even play a record with their fingernails. There is a ferociousness in the way they move, the way they talk with a strange accent, they are just evil beings with no sense but to survive and feed. In one of the best moments of the film, a young woman is calling on God… while Marlow (Danny Huston), the head undead, responds with… “No God.” while shaking his head, mocking her prayers. A lesser actor might not have been able to make this work, but Danny’s delivery brought a smile to my sick mind.
Director David Slade who did wonders for the sly psychological thrills of HARD CANDY, also shows flair for the grim here. He paints a cold, colorless world with shades of blue, occasionally adding the orange spark of fire . Thanks to him and Cinematographer Jo Willems, you can feel the chill and the claustrophobic tension as the days pass. The few remaining survivors trying to find ways to survive attack after attack. In one slick moment we see the town from above as the beasts attack indiscriminately at everyone they can. Other times, they hover like vultures on the rooftops, waiting for meal time.
I did have a few issues with the film, and one of them may have been fixed since I saw it a few weeks ago. And that problem was the volume of the score. When the music began to go for the creep factor, it got really loud. I actually felt uncomfortable as the pounding of the soundtrack poured through the speakers. It was a jolting experience and not in a good way. I am not a huge fan of “boo scares” but this wasn’t really one of those. It was just this unnerving feeling as the score grew louder and louder. It made me uncomfortable and slightly annoyed. But at the same time, a horror movie should affect you in a literal and emotional way I guess, but it did grow tiresome.
My other problem with the film was Josh Hartnett. Don’t start thinking this guy sucks and he shouldn’t have been cast… that’s not what I’m saying (whether you may personally think that or not)… Come on, I know some of you are thinking it. He is actually fine in the role, but the character is written in such a way that he kind of feels a bit on the whimpy side. This is a Sheriff? He cried too much and he also made some fairly selfish decisions early on. But that may have been the writers intention, to show him grow throughout. Although I didn’t get a strong sense of his growth. Even though I did buy his final decision that lead to the films climax. It seemed like the right moment and Josh pulled it off as well as he could. It might have worked better if he had taken a different approach to the character early on, and then moved into the final frames of film Would it have been better with another actor? Possibly. But that is not the case and he is Oden. I accept that and thought he gave a noble attempt, I just didn’t think he was as strong as he should have been, whoever’s fault that may be.
Even though I had issues with 30 DAYS, I still was so enthralled in the violence and the horror. It is really refreshing to see vampires brought back to life in a fresh and horrific way. It wasn’t the acting, it wasn’t the writing… it was the movie as a whole. Early on, before the sun went down, I loved the scenery and the dark, somber skies. I loved the bloody and ravenous ways that the vampires would take their victims, and the gory goodness of when the victims would fight back. This is a perfect Halloween movie for those who want something different this year. And truthfully, I had never read any of the graphic novels before seeing the film so I wasn‘t able to compare the two. But after seeing 30 DAYS, I’d love to revisit the vampire clan and see what the stories have to offer. And whether you’ve read the graphic novels or not, if you like the children of the night, try them on a 30 day feeding frenzy. It’s a tasty treat.
My rating 8/10 -- JimmyO