Saturday, 19 September 2020
30 Days of Night
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 24 October 2007 00:00
Surprisingly few horror movies are being released this year and with the advent of Halloween – one of my favorite holidays – I’m always in the mood for a few chills and thrills. So when I saw the ink-splattered, black and red poster for 30 Days of Night it had me frothing at the mouth almost as much as the vampire it depicts. But despite some nice visuals and a lot of unrealized potential, what we end up with is another run of the mill bloodsucker movie.

The premise is interesting enough, taking place in the northernmost part of Alaska in a town where time seems to stand still every year for thirty days without sunlight. It’s tough for the residents, but to a vampire this is an all-inclusive vacation destination – all you can eat, all you can drink!

The first few scenes are striking and ominous… A black ship lingers on the ice flows and a lone stranger treks across the tundra into town. The stark imagery definitely denotes a feeling of dread. The stranger (Ben Foster - 3:10 to Yuma) turns out to be a harbinger for the vampires. Much like Renfield in Dracula, his job is to act crazy, spout prophesies and have really bad breath.

The town sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) isn’t about to put up with some snaggletooth stranger waltzing in and attacking the locals, but a series of gruesome killings make him realize there is more than meets the eye. Soon the town is overrun with creepy, fanged tourists who are damn near unstoppable.

Unfortunately this is where the movie takes a nosedive. A whole lot of characters are introduced; thinly developed stereotypes that are obviously lambs for the slaughter. There is the stubborn granny; the brash young kid; the town grouch with a heart of gold… all lined up on the buffet table with very few exceptions. The main characters, Eben and his ex-wife Stella (Melissa George), are involved in an annoying love-hate relationship and gaze at each other longingly throughout the entire film. But no one in the movie or the audience knows why they broke up, and by the end we still don’t know. I would have cared a lot more what happened to these townsfolk if I had known more about them.

The blood, violence and gore in this film at least are not disappointing! Plenty of throat ripping, flesh feasting and, yes, decapitations. In retrospect I wish I had counted the number of times a head gets hacked off, but once you pass that magic number three it’s all just bonus from there on out. The vamps are quite creepy to look at, strange and pale with distorted features and mouths full of dagger-like teeth. They speak in an odd stilted language that is unfortunately translated to English in subtitles. I think it would have been much creepier if they just spoke gibberish with no translations. Also, I just don’t find the shrieking and hissing of movie vampires to be particularly scary, just annoying. Who says that becoming the undead leads to underdeveloped vocal chords?

The performances are ok given what the actors are dealing with. Josh Hartnett has little to do except be stoic and heroic. The standout of the bunch is probably Danny Huston as Marlow, the leader of the vampires who likes to get philosophical before tearing someone to shreds.

I’m being hard on this film simply because it was predictable and repetitive, but truly it did have some really good points, mainly the cinematography and visual effects. There are some really beautifully done moments with great treatment of lighting and contrast, including a visually striking blizzard scene.

Overall 30 Days of Night can be a fun ride, but I was expecting more. After the visceral thrill of 28 Weeks Later this movie falls a little flat. I give it 6 out of 10.