Rating: R (strong horror violence and language)
Length: 113 minutes
Release Date: October 19, 2007
Directed by: David Slade
Genre: Horror / Thriller
Stars: 3 out of 5
Time is an important theme in any vampire movie. Even if you can’t destroy the monster with holy water or a stake through the heart, you’re never more than twelve hours away from the sunrise, the ultimate weapon and defense against these creatures of the night. But what if the sun won’t rise for weeks? That’s the central theme of “30 Days of Night,” a horror film by director David Slade.
“30 Days of Night” is based on the comic miniseries of the same name, written by Steve Niles. The story takes place in the town of Barrow, Alaska, which is a town so far north that the seasonal wobble of the Earth produces one month every year without a sunrise. As if a month of darkness wasn’t depressing enough, a pack of vampires has decided to take advantage of the extended night to turn the town into their own personal hunting preserve. After a brutal initial attack that takes out most of the town’s residents, the survivors must find a place to hide from their supernatural predators until salvation arrives.
Josh Hartnett plays Sheriff Eben Oleson, the leader of the human survivors and a fearless warrior against the undead. Faced with a problem far beyond his training and experience, Eben must learn the weaknesses of his supernatural opponents and teach the remaining townspeople how to protect themselves against the vampires. Melissa George is his ex-wife Stella, who was on her way out of the tiny town for good until the vampires’ initial assault trapped her with the rest of the survivors. Ben Foster plays the vampires’ nameless human agent, sent into town to prepare the settlement for the attack. Danny Huston is Marlow, the leader of the vampire pack and a ruthless warlord capable of exploiting every weakness he finds among his prey.
Normally, vampire stores are cat-and-mouse games with a single powerful adversary, with the humans and undead making moves against each other alternately during day and night. The setting of “30 Days of Night” changes this dynamic significantly, making this more of a zombie movie. Here, the humans must hide and fortify their defenses against a relentless, ever-present enemy that outclasses them in almost every way. One of the opening shots of the assault helps establish this theme, showing the vampire horde engaged in a murderous sweep through the town, cutting down the unprotected and unaware humans in a sustained, brutal assault and driving the few survivors into hiding.
The vampires in “30 Days of Night” are not elegant, romantic creatures. They are deformed Nosferatu monsters that feed without care and rely on speed and strength rather than guile. The vampires have no hint of sexual undertone, just ferocity and brutality. They also can’t be warded off with icons of the church, forcing the humans to rely on axes, fire, and the occasional improvised deathtrap to fend off their undead hunters.
The action is relentless and brutal, and it should satisfy any fan of gory films. Slade pulls no punches with the story, killing off young and old alike to reinforce the horror of the situation the townsfolk face, and Brian Reitzel’s score helps amp up the intensity in the film’s more frantic moments. The humans have to face the true horror of their situation when former friends and allies turn, taken by the vampires to join their ranks. The film’s most disturbing moment comes when Eben discovers that not even Barrow’s children are immune to the vampiric plague. Ultimately, the sheriff realizes he has only one way of saving his remaining people, and he faces a decision that could cost him his humanity. The final confrontation between the leader of the humans and the leader of the vampires is brutal and satisfying, and it punctuates the tale in a memorable fashion.
“30 Days of Night” does have its flaws. The story is occasionally predictable, with some of the character archetypes coming right out of the standard horror movie playbook. Early on, the film introduces the audience to a particularly menacing machine in the town’s power station, and it’s no real surprise when that machine becomes central to one of the film’s later action sequences. Nevertheless, the movie does well with violence and gore. “30 Days of Night” is definitely not for the faint of heart, but fans of relentless and brutal horror films will find it well worth checking out for its new take on the venerable vampire tale.