30 Days of Night
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Film Commentary – Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and Producer Rob Tapert; Icon Trailer Reel; 8 Making of Documentary Featurettes.
AT A time when horror buffs seem to be getting their kicks from the recent zombie revival, David Slade (director of controversial paedophile flick Hard Candy) attempts to stake a claim for vampires at the box office with 30 Days of Night, a stylish but ultimately forgettable attempt at genre rebooting.
Based on Steve Niles’ original graphic novels, the film boasts a cracking premise and some genuinely creepy bloodsuckers, but ultimately fails to make good on its potential and feels relatively anaemic in terms of really big scares.
The film begins as the residents of Barrow, Alaska, prepare for their annual winter shutdown when they are plunged into darkness for 30 days and nights.
Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) is called to investigate a sequence of strange incidents, including the burning of mobile phones and the slaughter of the town’s huskies, but the arrest of a prime suspect (Ben Foster) brings with it a prophetic warning of the horrors to follow at the hands of a bloodthirsty group of vampires ready to take advantage of the town’s prolonged darkness.
And, as the townsfolk start to drop like flies, Eben desperately attempts to protect the survivors while keeping a special eye on his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) and a terrified younger brother.
Slade’s film begins promisingly thanks to the striking locations and some tantalising early glimpses of the vampires. But the director then fails to go for the jugular, appearing content to rely on one set piece after another that quickly becomes repetitive.
There’s no attempt to explain where the vampires have come from or provide them with a back-story, while most of Barrow’s human occupants exist to bicker among themselves and make increasingly silly decisions. The timeline is also poorly executed with viewers left to judge how far it’s moved on solely by the growth of Eben’s beard.
There’s even a curious lack of sustained tension that deprives proceedings of any real sense of dread – a failing heightened by the nerve-shredding relentlessness of films like 28 Weeks Later or the inherent claustrophobia of The Descent.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t succeed on some levels. It consistently looks good and there are some nice moments, including a bloody nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing and a terrific sequence involving a vampire girl in a supermarket. Hartnett also proves a capable leading man and Danny Huston a genuinely menacing vampire leader.
But fans of the graphic novels are certain to feel cheated by some of the liberties that have taken with the original story even though some extra bite has been added thanks to the slightly extended 18-certificate cut that is being released on DVD.
But by the time the film reaches its rushed and somewhat unsatisfying climax, 30 Days of Night has still failed to emerge as the vampire classic it really ought to have become. And that’s just a pain in the neck!
Running time: 1hr 53mins
UK DVD Release: April 14, 2008