Wednesday, November 7, 2007
30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007) - David Slade
The current Hollywood trend of translating comic books into movies shows no sign of slowing up with this month’s latest adaptation, 30 Days Of Night. The comic book in question doesn’t come from one of the two big publishers, Marvel and DC, instead it comes from smaller publisher, Dark Horse Comics. There are no superheroes in this film. Instead, the subject of this film are those pesky bloodsuckers who have seen plenty of screen time, vampires. Director David Slade, who previously brought the excellent Hard Candy to the screen, skilfully directs Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic with incredibly gory results!
The film is set in Barrow, Alaska, the northern most town in the United States. The thirty days of night in question are one month a year where the town is plunged into perpetual darkness, with no sunlight at all. As the sun begins to disappear behind the horizon, strange things start happening in the town of Barrow. On the case is Eben Oleson, the recently separated Sheriff of Barrow. While investigating the recent crimes, Sheriff Oleson comes across a trouble causing man who warns the Sheriff of impending doom for the residents of Barrow. The sun dips behind the horizon and hell is unleashed on Barrow as a group of vampires begin to devour the helpless residents. The struggle to withstand the thirty days begins for the survivors who have to rely on their wits to survive.
Comic book movies can be hit or miss. Horror can be very difficult to execute effectively. So it stands to reason that a horror comic should be extremely difficult and a near disaster. Certainly, since it’s release, 30 Days of Night has had it’s detractors. And admittedly, it isn’t perfect. The source material was pretty scant in terms of story. Sun goes down, vampires turn up, town is eaten, survivors struggle to survive. And in the hands of a director with less talent than Slade, the film could have suffered a helluva lot. As it is, 30 Days Of Night is one of the most entertaining horror movies of recent times. Slade’s previous film, Hard Candy consisted almost entirely of dialogue, which had to drive the narrative. The opposite is the case here, with dialogue taking back seat to spectacle. And Spade delivers with gusto.
The vampires in this movie are quite unlike the charming, poetic and graceful vampires from the likes of Interview with the Vampire. These vampires are horrific monsters. Vicious, blood-thirsty ghouls, hell-bent on devouring every last human in Barrow. And it’s the vampires that are the most interesting thing about 30 Days Of Night. When they’re not on-screen, you find yourself wishing they’d pop up again. When they do arrive, you find your skin crawling. And this is the success of the movie. The performances from all involved are pretty sound. Josh Hartnett, who usually makes a plank seem compelling actually puts in a solid performance as Sheriff Oleson. He and his estranged wife, Stella (played by Melissa George) have to rely on each other for survival and their relationship, while limited by the story is still interesting enough. The bad guys are the stars though, with Danny Huston chewing up the scenery (as well as the extras) as Marlowe, the lead vampire. Ben Foster puts in another deranged character performance as the stranger who heralds the arrival of the vampire horde.
30 Days of Night isn’t an incredibly taxing film. Nor should it be. It’s a film about a bunch of monsters eating the inhabitants of a small town. There doesn’t need to be much in the way of character development, except for setting the smorgasbord for the monsters. And this is how the film treats it’s characters. There’s plenty of violence and gore. And man alive, is it graphic. No punches are pulled, and the blood flows freely. In fact, there’s one scene that could qualify for one of the most gory in recent times. Those slightly squeamish should stay away!
David Slade did remarkably well with his first feature, and his sophomore effort is a very decent and highly entertaining horror. A genre that has suffered in recent times, it’s great to see something of quality on the big screen again. Don’t eat for an hour beforehand, disengage your brain, sit back and enjoy the spectacle. 30 Days of Night is a horror worthy of seeing.