Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Bloody Good Show

30 Days of Night

Release: 10/19/2007
Rated R
1 hour, 50 minutes

Matinee ($$$)

As the sun sets on Barrow, Alaska two-thirds of the population scurries from town to avoid the oncoming 30 days of night while Sherriff Eben Olesen, portrayed by Josh Hartnett (Lucky Number Slevin), becomes increasingly perplexed by the strange series of events he is investigating. When he arrives to the local diner to pick up a belligerent stranger, played Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma), he comes face to face with his estranged wife Stella, played by Melissa George. The stranger turns out to be a harbinger of doom for the small town as the remaining populace is descended upon by vampires. Over the course of the next month, the survivors huddle in attics and crawlspaces to survive until they can find salvation in the rising sun.

Before the mayhem ensues, the film provides a nice tour of the buffet, i.e., introduction of the supporting characters who may or may not survive. Director David Slade (Hard Candy) balances the citizens’ mundane lives with a few scenes that are both cruel and creepy. The townsfolk are portrayed as frightened, dull, and insipid. Aside from a few moments of bravado, they are just struggling to survive and the actors all wear that expression of overwhelming dread and near defeat convincingly. This film offers a much more refreshing take than the typical group of heroic survivors ready to kick ass and take names. Likewise, the vampires are shrouded in mystery; their origins, motivation, and the extent of their abilities unknown. There is none of the usual pretentious discourse from survivors about how to kill them and no subsequent run to the vampire supply over on Main and East Street. It is a simple story of survival using solely what you know. For some audiences this may come off a bit dull, but I personally thought it worked…mostly.

Dirty Undies
Though I found Slade’s direction to be somewhat bland and full of continuity issues, he gets mad kudos for making “30 Days” a gory extravaganza. Slade starts with off-camera deaths and congealing pools of blood and slowly intensifies the bloodshed and viciousness. By the end, the crunching of bone, severed body parts, and incalculable gallons of blood are visually unavoidable and gratifying. The snowy scenery only heightens the blood-soaked backbone of this story.

The Money Shot
Writer Steve Niles told me he always wanted this story to be a film, but it took publishing it in comic form before film studios realized its potential as a feature. Ironic then that somehow the studio still managed to subdue this story’s full potential. You may not leave thinking “30 Days” is the best vampire film you’ve ever seen but you’ll have to admit it is definitely the best attempt we’ve had at one in the last few years.

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