Reviewers split on new vampire flick '30 Days of Night'
October 25, 2007
Even the best vampire flicks have this inherent cheesiness about them that comes as a result of having their antagonists prance around with their teeth jutting out and acting like they’re being paid by the snarl.
“30 Days of Night” is no exception, adding some occasional overacting to a sizable list of flaws that the flick proceeds to rack up. But for all its imperfections, it’s still often a very freaky tale, bringing to the screen a certain ferocity that you’re not going to get in horror flicks starring refugees from The WB.
Our story takes place in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. Due to its position on the planet, once a year Barrow undergoes a month of pure darkness — a fact that a roving gang of vicious vampires has taken note of. It’s not long after most of Barrow’s population has headed south and after the sun has gone down that the bloodsuckers proceed to swoop in, terrorizing and feasting on those townspeople unfortunate enough to have stayed behind.
The survivors are eventually whittled down to a scant few, including town sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) and his estranged wife (Melissa George), who resort to whatever means possible to fight off the encroaching vampire horde and make it through the 30 days until sunlight shines again upon their ravaged town.
“30 Days of Night” is based on one of the most time-tested of all horror formulas, that of the mixed group of individuals who have to contend with not only a seemingly unstoppable force of evil but also their own differences. George Romero kicked off this premise with his “Living Dead” movies, half of John Carpenter’s career consists of flicks like this, and now genre newbie David Slade enters the game with this blood-soaked graphic novel adaptation.
Slade maintains a consistently chilling atmosphere while showing off a flair for visuals, resulting in shots like a bird’s-eye view of Barrow’s bloodied main street that harken back to the film’s comic book roots. It also helps that Slade depicts the marauding vamps as merciless predators (led by a creepily convincing Danny Huston) instead of as a bunch of sad-sacks whining about how it sucks to be immortal.
Although “30 Days of Night” looks great and doesn’t skimp on the gore, it still lacks a human element that keeps it from being a genre classic. Viewers get stuck with the same stock survivors seen in every other horror movie ever made, and the attempts at dramatic tension (especially the uneasy relationship between Hartnett and George’s characters) are pretty weak.
Plus, at almost two hours, the story starts to wear out its welcome before the climax starts to unravel, somehow managing to sometimes drag along at a snail’s pace despite liberally jumping through the titular 30-day timeline whenever it pleases.
It may not end up reigning as 2007’s horror king, but “30 Days of Night” nevertheless serves up a bloody good show for both hardcore horror buffs and pretty much anyone shuddering at the mention of “Saw IV.”
A.J. Hakari is a student at UW-River Falls.