30 Days of Night (2007) Dir. David Slade
A terrific and terrifying movie. A great horror and a brilliant vampire production. What more can you ask for? Watch, experience, and be afraid.
This movie is brilliant from the very first shot: a vast stretch of snow, a freighter in the middle of a frozen sea, and a man “distracting” the whiteness. We don’t know the story yet, but we can sense something is wrong. Once the story develops, it is dynamic, sometimes dramatic with a few comic reliefs (or tragicomic, I should write). The action takes place in a small God-forgotten town in Alaska. Every year the sun doesn’t come up for 30 days, and the long night comes. This one year the citizens fall victim to a brutal attack of bloodthirsty vampires who will stop at nothing to drain the town dry.
We have a small group of interesting characters. There’s the Sheriff Oben (Josh Hartnett), who is, of course, expected to save the day, or night for that matter. Beside him, or along with him, his wife Stella (Melissa George), his brother (Mark Rendall), and a few other survivors struggle to make it thru these 30 days hiding from the vampires in different places in town. Most of them die or are killed eventually. However, the most important issue is the survival (of the fittest). What does it take to survive – strength, being smart, endurance? For Eben it is becoming his enemy – the prey becomes the hunter. Once he changes into a vampire, he proves he is ready to sacrifice himself to save others. Even the leader of the vampires (Danny Huston) is impressed by his bravery.
A huge advantage of the movie is its atmosphere. The feel of isolation and solitude are overwhelming. The movie is dark and sinister. The darkness of the night and the cold of the winter dominate persistently. The visual side is crucial, as well. The look of snow is both soothing and unsettling. It’s mixed with blood and oil from the refinery. It’s interesting how the vampires are created. They’re not neatly-dressed passionate lovers who drink your blood in a civilized way. Instead, they’re like animals: they will rip your throat apart, and drink your blood to the last drop. There’s nothing romantic about them. The romanticism is stripped to the bare instinct of blood thirst. It’s expressed in the way they look like – they’re pale with blood smeared on their twisted, ugly faces. And what’s even more terrifying – they have a human mind. (The vision of the vampires and the dark, cold surrounding is taken from the comic book the movie is based on. After reading it, I appreciated the movie more. The screaming contours and blurred images – it’s all in the movie.)
I can’t leave out the acting. It’s emotional on the part of humans (from fear thru panic to anger) and vicious, ruthless, and brutal on the part of vampires. Both Hartnett and Huston give a performance that is great to watch. There even seems to be chemistry between them, especially when they fight at the end. Similarly, Melissa George gives her best, as always. Last but definitely not least, I still can’t shake off the impression Ben Foster made on me. He portrays the Stranger, the one who is presented in the first scene. There is enormous remoteness and strangeness about him. When I want to pity him, he turns out repulsive. When I want to hate him, he appears lost. The way he acts is amazing.
One more thing before the end. “30 Days” is a beautiful tribute to John Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982). Everything about it reminded me of the old classic horror – the atmosphere, the isolation, the struggle to survive, the snow, and a few direct scenes, e.g the slay dogs, or the Deputy Billy’s beheading. The inspiration taken from that great horror movie is perfectly incorporated here.
I love this movie. It scares me, but it also provides me with a wonderful visual experience. The story is absorbing, the characters interesting, and the ending just the way it’s supposed to be – great! If only we could have more vampire movies like that!
Long days, pleasant nights,