30 Days of Night
'That cold ain't the weather. That's death approaching.' So says a stranger Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) has locked up after he got into a dispute down at the bar. All the man wanted was a plate of fresh hamburger meat, nice and juicy and raw. No crime in that surely?
But this stranger - another vividly ratty performance by Ben Foster, who stole all his scenes as Russell Crowe's second in command in 3.10 to Yuma - it's obvious he's no good. Something's going on, and Eben needs to find out what it is, fast. First someone has made a bonfire from mobile phones. Then the town's huskies have been butchered. Now the power is going out.
All this, just after the last flight has left Barrow, Alaska, taking with it most of the townfolk and all hope of outside help. Only those hardy souls who can withstand the deep, dark arctic winter - 30 days without sunlight - have remained. But nobody was expecting an influx of visitors: a clan of bloodthirsty vampires walking in from the wasteland.
The townspeople are no match for these superhuman adversaries. Led by Marlow (Danny Huston), the vampires strike with lightning speed. They withstand anything the humans throw at them (presumably garlic is in short supply) and feast on the carcasses.
Eben and a handful of survivors, including his estranged ex-wife Stella (Melissa George), his kid brother and four or five others wisely decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and hide out in a hidden attic room. Even if they can't sit out the whole winter without venturing out to forage for supplies occasionally, the vampires are spread too thinly to cover the whole town. Even so, they're in for a long, dark month of the soul.
This adaptation of a graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith makes the most of its high concept premise and strikingly original locale.
It's true you have to take it with a pinch of salt (nobody noticed their mobiles going AWOL? There's no other communication with the outside world?? There are no more supply flights just because it's dark???). But hey, this is a vampire movie, not a slice of kitchen sink realism.
As Marlow, chief of the vampires, Danny Huston quite properly chews on the scenery (and most of the cast). A veteran of John Carpenter's Vampires, Mark Boone Jr is another standout as a formerly antisocial citizen who comes through big time when he carves through a swathe of bloodsuckers with his snowplow.
Director David Slade is a Brit who made videos for Aphex Twin, Stone Temple Pilots and The Stereophonics before his attention-grabbing but borderline exploitative Hard Candy. He's does a great job setting the scene, correctly assuming that the curious location will hold our attention as the ominous mood begins to build. When the carnage starts several God's-eye-view shots are unusually eloquent for an action film; there's something of Kurosawa about the blood splattered across the snow.
Slade is good with actors too, although there's only so much you can do with Josh Hartnett, who is blatantly too young to be playing town sheriff. In his stolid way Hartnett does okay. Melissa George is no Meryl Streep either, but the supporting characters are filled out with real actors doing good work.
The dialogue is serviceable at best - a film like this could really use more jokes - and it's very clear that Slade's priority is to string together the inventive action set pieces, not to milk the dramatic possibilities of half a dozen folk holed up in an attic together. The 30-day period probably worked better for the comic book than the movie; the chronology here feels a bit choppy, though I liked the way you could follow how much time has elapsed by the state of Josh Hartnett's facial hair. (And they say he can't act!)
30 Days Of Night has been a big hit in the US, and if you're into vampire movies this is a welcome injection of new blood. I've got to say, though, with a body count in the hundreds they're have their work cut out for them to squeeze a sequel out of this.
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