How many vampires does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
Trick question; vampires don’t like the light. You can only imagine how pleased they were when they found out about Barrow, Alaska and its month of night.
30 Days Of Night is the feature film adaptation of the popular graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. The small town of Barrow is closing down for the winter, with only the few people necessary to keep the town running staying behind for the impending month without daylight.
Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnet) is amongst those staying, along with his Grandmother and younger brother. Whilst he’d like to be preparing for the month ahead, Eben’s attention is called to a series of strange vandalisations, including the theft and destruction of every mobile phone in the town, and also to a surly stranger causing a disruption at the local bar. As if this wasn’t enough, his ex-wife Stella (Melissa George) is stranded in town.
Before things have a chance to get too awkward between the two, a hoard of vampires descend upon the town. Cutting off the power, the vampires are free to indulge in a feeding frenzy. Eben, Stella and a few other survivors manage to hide themselves, although with no way of contacting anyone and a full month before they can expect help, they’re a long way from safety.
As a fan of the original graphic novel, I was excited to see the story in its cinematic incarnation. It’s a great concept with all the necessary ingredients for a truly memorable horror film. Unfortunately, what we’re served is nothing more than a very average and very forgettable popcorn horror flick.
The cast is fine; Josh Hartnet’s okay as Eben, Melissa George has a little trouble with her accent (though why the character had to be American I don’t know) but is otherwise on reasonable form. There are some strong turns from some of the supporting cast, particularly from Ben Foster as the stranger who has sold the town out and is killed off far too soon.
The film’s snowy location also works well for it. It’s unfortunate that the concept of the story dictates that the fantastic scenery can’t be better displayed. Especially as this is one of the few visually interesting things about the film. Ben Templesmith’s excellent artwork played a massive part in the success of the graphic novel. By contrast, director David Slade has used a very conventional and very uninspiring shaky-cam style for this film.
The vampires themselves look pretty good for the most part, but their jerky movements look ridiculous. Similarly, they regularly communicate through high-pitched, shrill screams that are painfully annoying.
Even with these gripes forgiven, the film still has several major problems. The script is begging for some kind of structure. The film is a good twenty minutes too long. Much like the rest of the output from Sam Raimi’s increasingly disappointing Ghost House Productions, it’s all very glossy but there’s nothing beneath the shine. There’s nothing to this film but a wasted concept, a bit of blood and lots of cheap ‘loud noise’ scares.
So with all of these things wrong, why would anyone want to watch 30 Days Of Night? Well, fans of gore will enjoy a couple of decent beheadings. And whilst much of the visual style of the comics is gone, some of the vampires look really cool. A couple of decent creepy moments are thrown in for good measure too.
I couldn’t really recommend buying 30 Days Of Night (although if you are going to, pre-order from HMV to get the decent ‘exclusive’ cover art and free comic sampler), but if you haven’t seen it and are interested it’s certainly worth a rent. Just make sure that after you’ve rented it you check out the far supperior graphic novels.