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30 Days of Night (2007)

by on 2010/04/26

Cell phones are burned. Land lines cut. Sled dogs stabbed. Helicopter destroyed. Then the power goes out.

Oh yes, did we mention the sun is going down for 30 days in an Alaskan town in the middle of frosty nowhere?

Based on the horror comic book written by Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmith, the premise of 30 Days of Night filled me with shivery delight. Isolation, plodding, depressive Northerners, small-town intrigues, miles of white, white snow – and vampires. I thought to myself: this concept is chock full of can’t-lose goodness.

First a geography lesson: Barrow, Alaska is one northernmost cities in world, right up there in the Arctic circle. On November 18, the sun goes down, and remains below the horizon for 65 days – but for 30 days it is really, really dark.

Eben (Josh Hartnett), the town’s stone-faced sheriff, is tasked with investigating a string of bizarre crimes as the sun sinks down and under the horizon. Stella (Melissa George), Eben’s estranged wife, is trapped in Barrow after missing the last plane out. The couple has ISSUES and we learn, are more uncommunicative than Finnish morning commuters.

The plot thickens to a January-molasses level when a brown-toothed stranger crazies up the town diner by asking for a bowl of raw hamburger. This Renfield in a parka is subdued by Eben and Stella, and hauled off to the town’s jail.

There’s barely time to for the mysterious stranger to rant a warning when a vampire crew blitzkriegs the town – then its blood orgy time Woodland Critters-style.

A word or twelve about these vampires: these are black-eyed, lamprey-teethed monsters from the fast zombie school of monster-making.  The lead vampire Marlow (Danny Huston) looks like a Lexus car dealer or the bank manager who refused your loan application. All are messier than patrons of an all-you-can-eat spaghetti and Hawaiian Punch buffet.

The denizens who aren’t ripped to pieces (and we get to see a lot of ripping), hole up in an attic with canned food and flashlights and watch the carnage through a hole in the tar paper.  As the days tick off toward Day 30 when the sun rises again, the refugees begin to turn on one another.

Fortunately for this rag-tag crew of survivors, these vampires aren’t apparently possessed of the super senses many of their genre have because these townies rage at one another and thump around like stampeding elephants as the days wear on. Realizing they’ve been found by the vampires (and about time), the survivors make migrations to a series of town locations, and are taken out one by one.

The single best moment to the film belongs to Beau (Mark Boone Junior) and a snow plow in one of the attempted escapes. Large serrated snow plow blades, a crowd of vampires, Mark Boone Junior’s hair. It may well be worth the entire film.

The trouble however is none of it was particularly scary. Director David Slade delivered the gory yes, but scary no. It turns out that my precaution of having Hacker Renders watch this film with me was wholly unnecessary. The reveal happens to soon, there’s no slow build to the blood orgy. There’s no mystery, no suspense and therefore, no scary.

IMHO the scariest films leave something to the viewer’s imagination. Not so with 30 Days. You are dipped in gore right to the ear lobes before you have a chance clear to the first few handfuls of your popcorn.

A great looking movie, technically competent, wonderful ideas. But not scary and not, unfortunately great. As for the glorious, can’t-lose concept, I’m going straight out to buy the graphic novel.

* *

18A for gory scenes, extreme violence

113 minutes

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