Monday, October 29, 2007

Review: 30 Days of Night

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
Director: David Slade
Release Date: October 19, 2007
Running time: 113 min

MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Columbia Pictures





“You are a vampire who never knew what life was until it ran out in a big gush over your lips.” - Lestat, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles

“God? No God.” -
Marlow, 30 Days of Night


The Skinny:
Vampires descend on Barrow, Alaska as they enter a month of prolonged darkness during the winter solstice.


The Review:
Somewhere, some time I read that Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects almost 25% of Alaskan residents to some degree. It would stand to reason that residents of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost settlement on the North American mainland and in the United States, would make up the largest portion of that percentage. With just over 4,000 residents in the town, 25% would put us at right about 1,000 people impacted. Christ, don’t these people have enough to worry about? Now there are vampires attacking?

First things first. What a wicked idea for the setting of a vampire movie. A snow covered Alaskan town on the verge of reclusion, cloaked in darkness for weeks at a time in the dead of winter. Even the writers understand the novelty behind this as one of the vampires actually says at one point, “Why didn’t we think of this ages ago?” 30 Days of Night is a movie based on the graphic novels of the same name. There isn’t much in the way of a hidden meaning. It is, well, exactly what you would expect when you hear the premise behind it. Vampires can’t be in the sun, so they decide to go to the one spot on Earth during the one time of year when there is no sun. From there, they can go on an uninterrupted feeding frenzy. Pretty simple.

Josh Hartnett plays Eben Oleson, the sheriff of Barrow where seemingly little else happens besides this newest rash of things for him to do. It is too easy to jump all over Hartnett for being too wooden, stiff, dull, expressionless, or any other adjective we can think of to classify his acting ability. He is all these things in this movie too, but he wasn’t bad, per se, he was just… there. In the end, he wasn’t what the movie was about in the first place. This isn’t a movie about performances or even plot, necessarily.

You can have the coolest premise in the world (and they do) but it’s still a movie about vampires. Which makes it a horror movie. Which means there are certain conventions that are going to be present. There is still a group that is traveling together. Someone gets infected. Someone sacrifices himself for the greater good of the group. The annoying guy is met with an untimely death that no one really feels all that bad about. I would label these spoilers but they happen in every horror movie so I’m not really giving anything away. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here folks - it’s a vampire movie.

Speaking of… I found these vampires to be a bit Dawn of the Dead-esque. They are a fast moving, cutthroat group that actually exudes a bit of personality. At least the main few of them. In particular, Marlow (Danny Huston), the leader of the group, is quite convincing.

David Slade’s direction is tight without too many wasted shots. He gave the movie a grainy, gritty look to it that works well for the film. There is a contrast between the bloody carnage of the violence happening around them and the snow of the locale that lends itself well to the nature of the picture.

There is one shot, my favorite of the movie, that shows us everything we need to know about it. It is a slow moving aerial shot that pans up the road leading through town. There are vampires killing and maiming in just about every corner of the screen. It really shows the scope of the carnage the town is going through. Bones breaking, blood splattering, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.


The Rub:
In case you didn’t pick up the subtlety of the message so far - this is a movie about vampires. It wont redefine the genre, but it surely didn’t ruin it either. It’s bloody and violent but above all; well made. An insanely simple and wicked premise, slick direction, and cool effects make this a good little popcorn horror flick. Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, but this is a far cry better than the majority of horror out there today.

And there’s the rub.


*** out of ****

2 comments:

Christopher Stephen said...

Nice review, I loved this movie too. Best Vampire flick in recent memory.

tari said...

An insightful review. Perhaps your readers would like to check out this short essay I published on 30 Days of Night.

As much as these thematic ramblings may seem unwarranted if you haven't seen the film, perhaps it will implore you to see the film with a guiding light. Perhaps, to see 30 Days of Night as more than just another vampire flick.

The full review is published at this link:
www.associatedcontent.com/jasoncangialosi