Director: David Slade (2007)
Director: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
Even before they started sparkling, vampires were in trouble. Unlike the humble zombie, going through a career resurrection at the time, our bloodsucking friends seemed to be stuck in a state of permanent thrombosis. Let the Right One In wouldn't come for another year, and it seemed that vampires had nothing but the occasional Blade flick and a neverending stream of Gothy emo nonsense to their IMDB credit. Don't get me wrong, I like dark romanticism and subtextual sexuality as much as the next person, but the recurrent themes are as old as Dracula hisself. Shake it up a bit, y'know?
Enter 30 Days of Night, which does away with any subtext, pathos or romance and simply has its vampires act like complete bastards. It's not as revisionist a movie as I might be making it sound - vampires have been portrayed like this many times before - but it's just refreshing to not have to see them making long, overwrought speeches and acting all lonely like. Based on the Steve Niles/Ben Templesmith comic book of the same name, 30 Days of Night has its vampires visit the small town of Barrow, Alaska, where the sun can stay set for a whole month. This gives the vamps a whole month to party hard. And hard they do party.
A noticeably unawful Josh Hartnett plays the humans' leader, Sheriff Eben Oleson. Looking at that name, and at Barrow's location, I really don't think Eben was a character concieved as a white American chap. Still, I don't suppose there are that many Inuit Leading Men out there that Hollywood would be happy marketing their movie around. Melissa George plays his estranged wife, Stella. I'd whine about her casting too, but I'm a little bit in love with Melissa George. And when I say 'a little bit', I mean 'a lot'. Ahem, anyway. The creepy Ben Foster kid from off've Pandorum shows up and breaks all of Barrow's phones and dogs. Because vampires are really scared of phones and dogs. Eben arrests him, but it's too little too late. The phones and dogs have already been trashed. And the vampires attack.
And they don't let up one bit. As soon as the vampires arrive in Barrow, the movie hits the accelerator and doesn't slow down until the end. In fact, the vampires are so effective in their killins' that you don't really buy that the slaughter could last a whole 30 days. The whole movie could just as easily take place in one night, and you wouldn't really notice. Although it would sacrifice that brilliant title. Really, the shonky handling of the timescale is my biggest problem with 30 Days of Night. Director Dave Slade does a better job of making you feel it than Niles/Templesmith did in the comic book, but it just doesn't feel like a full month of action. The characters get wearier and harier (although I could grow a better beard than Hartnett's in a week, let alone 30 days) but not to 30 days' extent. But that's just nitpicking.
The action is truly outstanding. Slade delivers the goods again and again - most notably in a fight with a little girl vampire, an explosive set piece with a truck, and finally with an axe and a wonky head chopping. The antagonists are scarier than vampires have been for a long time, whilst the protagonists have Melissa George to distract from the occasional bit of wooden acting. I'm no fan of Josh Hartnett, but he's better than you might expect here. It has its flaws, but 30 Days of Night is a blast of a movie. It delivers scares, action and gore likely to please most horrorhounds, and best of all - no whingeing or sparkling. I'm not gonna say that it bodes well for Slade's Eclipse - the source material is that shitty - but y'know, I might be inclined to hate it just that little bit less.*
* Well, no, probably not.