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Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 307: 30 Days Of Night

30 Days Of Night
They could reuse this poster for the Red Dawn remake

Comic book movie adaptations are all the rage nowadays. Thanks to the success of movies like Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and X-Men, you can barely go two months without another comic book movie popping up. Flying under the radar, though, are movies based on horror comic books. While not as popular as they were in the EC comics days, there is a steady stream of horror-centric comic books. At the forefront of these stories is Steve Niles, whose work I've previously reviewed in “Remains”. Niles has come out with a string of enjoyable comic books, most notable Criminal Macabre, Bad Planet, and his most famous mini-series, 30 Days Of Night. 30 Days Of Night proved to be so popular that it was only a matter of time before it made it to the big screen.

30 Days Of Night is a vampire movie based on the comic book of the same name written by Steve Niles. The movie stars Josh Hartnett (The Faculty, Pearl Harbor) as Sheriff Eben Oleson and Melissa George (Turistas, The Amityville Horror) as his estranged wife Stella. Eben is the sheriff of the small Alaskan town of Barrow, famous for having no sunlight for a full 30 days. As the town prepares for the month of darkness, a stranger (Ben Foster, 3:10 To Yuma, Pandorum) arrives via boat and begins sabotaging the town's phones and power supply. Eben receives a call from Stella, asking for him to pick her up after she misses the final plane to Anchorage. Still angry at her for their pending divorce, Eben sends his deputy Billy (Manu Bennett, The Marine, The Condemned) to get her while he investigates a call about sled dogs being killed. Eventually, Eben comes across the stranger in the town diner and arrests him. In jail, the stranger taunts Eben and Stella, telling them that death is coming. Just then, the power goes out and a group of unknown creatures viciously attack people around town. The assailants are vampires that have come to Barrow to feast during the month of darkness. Led by Marlow (Danny Huston, The Constant Gardener, Clash Of The Titans), the feral vampires cut a bloody swath through town, using both the brains and brawn to feed. Eben and Stella hold up in an attic with a few other survivors, trying to figure out what they can do. Weeks pass and still they cannot come up with a solution. With food running low and time running out, how will Eben and Stella kill the vampires before it is too late?

The dreaded "Circle of Vampires and Flames" death match

The biggest thing 30 Days Of Night has going for it is the fairly original idea of the setting. The unique combination of frozen tundra and seemingly never-ending darkness makes for a fun and interesting background that most other vampire movies lack. The vast emptiness and the black abyss create a hopeless atmosphere which feeds into the overall despair and helplessness from the vampire attack. These are not your weepy, sparkly vampire either. These vampires are shown as vicious, remorseless blood-thirsty animals, complete with extra sharp teeth. They speak in their own vampiric language, which is a fun touch, though the sounds they make do get a little grating. There was one scene where a little vampire girl spoke in perfect English, which I found strange, considering the movie went to great lengths showing these vampires didn't really speak it. They even make it a point to mention that the girl isn't from the town. It's a very minor point, so it doesn't really matter, it just kind of bugged me. If anyone has an explanation, please let me know. The vampires look very similar to the illustrations in the comic book and I give the filmmakers credit for trying to stay true to the comic.

The story itself follows the comic fairly well with some changes here and there. There is plenty of action and lots and lots of blood and gore. The camerawork during the action is all over the place and while it does help increase the frantic nature of the violence, it does become nauseating. Certain action sequences, like when a vampire jumps onto Eben's truck, looks very cartoonish. That would have been fine if the movie went in that direction, but that wasn't the case. After the initial attack, the movie loses it's direction and can't seem to find itself until the last 15 minutes or so. Part of the problem is that the movie runs just a little too long for no particular reason. Both Josh Hartnett and Melissa George play their parts well, but Ben Foster steals the show with his excellent performance as the stranger. Without even saying a word, Foster is able to convey a sense of discomfort and fear in the audience. Despite having a relatively small role, Foster makes it incredibly entertaining.

Oh, (neck) snap!

30 Days Of Night is a good horror movie and a good comic book movie. The story is fairly unique and the action is fast-paced. There is plenty of blood and enough gory scenes to satiate the true horror fan. The movie slows down after the initial excitement and has trouble finding it's footing. It's a little too long and doesn't know how to bring everything together. The camerawork is all over the place, causing the action to be hard to focus on. The acting is good with Ben Foster putting in the best performance. You don't have to know the comic book or even like comics to enjoy 30 Days Of Night. It's a fun horror movie with great action, good suspense, and a few scares.


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