30 Days of Night is based on the comic book miniseries of the same name. The film was directed by David Slade. Set in Barrow, Alaska, the film follows a group of men and women trying to survive till sunrise after their town is infested by vampires.
Before Twilight hit and shat all over our screens in 2008, a film that had actually scary vampires in it managed to sneak in before everyone was resigned to the fact that apparently vampires glow in the the sunlight. So for one of the last adaptations of a scary and menacing vampire here's 2007's 30 Days of Night
The small Alaskan town of Barrow is preparing for its annual 30 days of night, in which the majority of the population leaves because the sun will not be seen for a month. The Stranger (Ben Foster) arrives before the sun disappears, he kills all the dogs, and destroys any means the townsfolk have of calling or reaching the outside world. The Stranger is the herald for a band of savage vampires intending on feasting on the town’s people during the month of darkness.
The initial crimes committed by the Stranger seem random and violent. The Sherriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) investigates the crimes initially not realising that the Stranger committed them. Then he learns that his estranged wife Stella Oleson (Melissa George) has missed the last plane out of town and is now stuck in Barrow. Following the Stranger’s arrest and the sun falling from the sky the communications station is attacked.
The vampires have arrived.
What follows is a slaughter as the vampires feast on the majority of the people left. A few survivors manage to huddle together in the attic of a house hoping that they can last the month until the sun rises again.
The vampires are led by Marlowe (Danny Huston), they tend to utter inhuman screeches and when they do speak they talk to one another in an unknown language. During the film several people are attacked but manage to survive, only to slowly begin to turn into vampires over the next few days.
It soon becomes obvious that the vampires have no intention of letting anyone live till the sun comes up.
What is good about this film, well for starters the vampires themselves.
The vampires in this film are fast vicious, dangerous and unless they are shot in the head bullets do nothing. The screeches they make are ear splitting and terrifying. They move like lightening, their teeth are like needles and are capable of ripping people apart with their bare hands. The vampires are diabolical, they seem to be practically invulnerable, and the survivors struggle to stay hidden from them.
Unfortunately, the vampires just slaughter the majority of the town’s population within the first few minutes after the sun goes down. The audience might be left wondering why the vampires are killing almost everybody off so quickly, after all, they have 30 whole days of night before the sun will rise again. They could have slowly killed off the population over the month, instead of simply massacring everyone on the first night.
The vampire’s language also might have worked better if there were no subtitles. If the audience couldn’t even understand what they were saying then they might have been even more menacing.
The rest of the cast do a reasonable job, but they keep talking about making it to a more secure facility, and yet they spend most of their time hiding in an attic, so why don't they just stay there?? They have enough food and water to last them so just remain where you are and await the sun coming up.
After the initial slaughter the rest of the film does tend to slow to a bit of a crawl with the remaining humans hiding and being quiet. A few survivors go out into the snow only to get killed by the vampires, and the points of interest occour days or weeks apart from the perspective of the survivors.
Personally what I would have wanted to see would have been people slowly disappearing over the month, leaving the remaining survivors to struggle to uncover what is responsible. Paranoia could have run wild with the survivors turning one another and surely that would have made a more entertaining story. The tension could have been kept at breaking point if the audience, like the survivors, only started to realise what was actually lurking in the shadows towards the end rather than right at the beginning.
Vampire films seem to be a very hard thing to do well, and this is one of the examples of a film done well. The plot is simple, but the vampires are frightening. The human survivors struggle to cope with the horror of the situation they find themselves in and they slowly realise that not all of them will make it to the sunrise.
30 Days of Night manages to give vampires back some of the menace they have been lacking in recent years. They are not mindless killers driven by the relentless pursuit of blood, nor are they Europeans seducing their way around the world. They are vicious but they possess a dark intelligence which makes it harder for the survivors to stay alive.
Like I said, I would have liked it if the film had been done differently rather than just slaughtering the majority of the town's people in the first few minutes after the sun had gone down. But do you know what as a retrospective, and one of the last films to have the balls to show vampires as vicious killers I am willing to be a little more charitable than I might otherwise have been.
Therefore, I'm giving 30 Days of Night a Thumbs Up.
6/10 - The vampires look truly scary and their screeches are terrifying. Unfortunately, they should have taken their time killing everyone not just done it all in one night then spent 30 days wandering around looking for survivors.