30 Days of Night unleashes dark gruesome terror.
30 Days of Night is a supernatural vampire horror film that is very dark and gruesome. The focus lies on the siege of the vampires that attack a town when a polar night has fallen for 30 days. Without any comic relief or any relief or turning the siege into a cat and mouse game and without the suffering people also have to fight each other, this is a film of pure action and reaction, making the people more victims of the plot than of the vampires by keeping them too passive players. Without changes of pace or exciting turns this is a straightforward film, but with solid vampires.
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In the town of Barrow in the most northern place in Alaska it will be dark for the next 30 days. Many people are preparing to leave for Anchorage, while some stay behind. When Stella, a firefighter is driving to the little airport her car is hit and she’s forced to stay in Barrow with her ex Eben, the sheriff. But someone has preparing something else. A stranger has come to town and stole most cell phones, he killed the huskies and cut off the power when the dark settles in. So that now a group of vampires, led by Marlow, has taken over the town to feed on the people who are left behind. Stella, Eben and a few others brought themselves to safety but can they stay safe for 30 days?
Why you should watch it
30 Days of Night is a vampire movie with well-designed vampires. They look scary and animalistic, they hunt in packs but with great intelligence. They utter strange screams and sounds and the production even has made up a new language for them. When they first enter the town and start their killing spree, it’s at first subtle but gruesome, to eventually attack everyone in sight. That big attack is filmed in a gruesome way with a camera hovering above the town showing all the blood stained snow and dead bodies, while chaos rules. Meanwhile the small group hides.
Although there is tension between Eben and Stella and they have unspoken issues, we never learn what happened between them. Nor does it play an important part. Until the ending when Eben shows that he still loves her. While the tension between the group rises, it never comes to a psychological level in which dark and difficult choices have to be made. The problem of a demented old man fixes itself and the problematic attitude of a man who wants to sacrifice others in order to save himself also solves itself.
The horror comes therefore entirely from the hunting vampires and not from the inhumane choices the group of survivors have to make, either willingly or with reluctance. The vampire kills are gruesome and bloody and there’s lots of gore. Only at the end some horrible choices have to be made that are necessary. Which leads to a very gruesome scene. Other than that the focus is purely on the vampires who are pure evil.
Although the group’s situation is dire, the claustrophobic sense of dread or relentless tension is missing. It takes place over a span of 30 days but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like a couple of days. The days are not being counted and they don’t look thirsty or dirty or famished or weak without heat or enough food. The total darkness only serves as a nice plot device for the vampires, but doesn’t increase the dire circumstances of the surviving group in any way.
Once they make a trip to the store, but this change of scenery only provides for more scares and is more functional to the plot than for the characters. They act out a script and it therefore doesn’t feel too realistic. It often feels hurried to get to the end battle. It doesn’t show the tension of being locked up with nowhere to go but to wait it out, trying to survive in the meantime in horrible circumstances. A few moments of action are shown when they go to the store, when they find another survivor and a few other situations that makes them leave the house where they are hiding, while the vampires seem to not be present in the town all the time. In real-time it feels confusing and not realistic.
It’s all about those few actions the group undertakes. There’s few dialogue. Although Eben and Stella need to talk, they don’t, while they have plenty of time. Overall there’s hardly any conversation only the necessarily dialoge that is meant for the viewer, but even some actions go without being explained. The premiss is simple, and the storyline doesn’t spice things up to make it more interesting or thrilling.
30 Days of Night is a film of action, but ironically for almost a two-hour movie, nothing really happens. The atmosphere feels too even. Without sudden extreme thrills or moments that take it slow to deepen the characters. The characters feel too passive. While they are people who are used to extreme circumstances and who know how to survive and fend for themselves, this is something else entirely.
Still, it’s a nice vampire film that takes a fresh approach and has a smart idea, but underuses this concept. It does offer some gruesomeness and gore and the way the kills are shot and shown is very brutal and harsh. Without any relief it’s a brutal siege for 30 days that works well, but could have been better.
My favorite part
The best part was when Beau creates a distraction with his snow plow operator with a heavy drill on the front. He’s able to kill a lot of vampires and does some serious damage that was very creative and fun to watch. That was an awesome scene and it showed that the group could have been more inventive to battle the vampires, creating a game of cat and mouse with some thrilling and epic scenes.
Gore factor: ★★★★★
Popcorn factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★☆☆
Cast and crew
30 Days of Night is directed David Slade and written by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson. It is based on the graphic novel 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. It stars Josh Hartnett (Eben Oleson), Melissa George (Stella Oleson), Danny Huston (Marlow), Mark Boone Junior (Beau Brower), Mark Rendall (Jake Oleson), Amber Sainsbury (Denise) and Manu Bennett (Deputy Billy Kitka).
Duration: 113 minutes. Music: Brian Reitzell. Cinematography: Jo Willems. Edited by: Art Jones. Produced by: Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert. Production companies: Columbia Pictures, Dark Horse Entertainment, Ghost House Pictures. Distributed by: Sony Pictures.