Saturday, October 18, 2008

Movie mini-review: 30 Days of Night

I have a hard enough time coping with the reducing sunlight this time of year, as it gets dark at 6 p.m. right now and soon will be dark around 4 in the afternoon - during Maine winters it sometimes seems as though we never see the sun; I can't imagine living up above the Arctic Circle where they get weeks upon weeks where the sun never lifts above the horizon. That's horrific enough. Throw in some decidedly unromantic vampires reveling in the month-long darkness and you got yourself a pretty good horror movie, you betcha.

30 Days of Night is set in isolated Barrow, Alaska, during the one month out of the year that the sun don't shine. Many residents have left for lighter climes, dropping the small town's population to 152. That's more than enough for the score of vampires who have arrived at the last sunset, ready to feed and lay waste. It is up to the young sheriff, Eben (Josh Hartnett - who has never looked so good as he does here, scruffy and haggard and silly hair covered in a watch cap), to gather what survivors he can and try to wait it out until the sun rises again. That's your basic plot, right there: it's a cat-and-mouse game, with the humans trying to survive for thirty days and the vampires trying to eat them all because dead people tell no tales.

These are not pretty vampires like Lestat, Angel or Bill Compton. These are scary, scary beasties with mouths full of shark teeth and smooth, alien features. They don't talk - except for Marlow, their leader, and he speaks some subtitled nonsense that actually slows the movie down as what he says doesn't make any difference - but screech and wail eerily. These vampires are very brutal, shredding their victims' throats with those teeth, and the streets of Barrow (well, there's really just one street) soon runs red with blood. Were the citizens of the town not quite such hardy Alaskans, this would have been a very short movie indeed.

I liked 30 Days of Night quite a bit, aside from my quibble with the subtitles. The bad guys are bad; there's plenty of blood, but director David Slade (who also directed the incredible Hard Candy) doesn't overwhelm his audience with gore, preferring to show just a portion of the horror and letting our imaginations fill in the rest. The casting and acting is believable. And it looks damn cold there in that movie, despite having been filmed in New Zealand with faux snow for the most part.

The movie was adapted from the graphic novel of the same name and, like 300, I'm guessing that there were some shots that were taken verbatim (is there a word like "verbatim" but referring to visuals as opposed to words?) from the book. The featurettes showed enough of the artwork from the graphic novel that I think I'd like to check it out.

Final verdict: if you're looking to snuggle down under a blanket on a chilly winter night and watch a bloody, jumpy horror film with vampires that are actually scary, 30 Days of Night should fit the bill just fine.

1 comment:

  1. I liked 30 Days too. Steve Niles's vampires story is a new series to reckon with. I own the first two of the trade's for 30 Days and liked them both.

    They contain more vampire backstory as well as a third arc. Worth the read, esp the second one which Steve told me is being film-fitted as we speak.