The premise has been explored before: How crappy of a situation would it be if you were being assaulted by a mob of vampires and you had no access to sunlight, their greatest weakness? Very. And what if daylight took a vacation for 30 days? Very. Times 30. That’s the kind of situation Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and the townsfolk of a remote Alaskan town find themselves in as the sun goes on its annual 30-day sabbatical. Full of stingers, camera angles that reveal just enough and all of the other horror movie conventions, 30 Days of Night will not disappoint and does a great job of ushering in this Halloween season.
Writing about vampires is always tricky, because it’s a popular concept and people get touchy if one gets a little too creative with the license. Throughout the history of cinema, different movies have tried to throw in new takes, like a “master vampire” or “daywalker vampires.” Some vampires even suck blood through their tongues, that have a tiny mouth at their tips. 30 Days goes for more conventional vampires: pale skin, Eurotrash accents, black trench coats, etc. While seemingly as intelligent as you or I, these bloodsuckers don’t seem to care about anything other than savaging people. This was probably the one thing that bothered me the most. These bad guys had no character. Was this all they did? Kill people? If they’ve been alive for centuries, you’d think they would have evolved a better fashion sense. When you become a vampire, does the Nosferatu Union assign you a standard black uniform and prohibit you from trimming your nails? Sure, I’m being silly. After all, in a movie like this all we need to know is that the bad guys are bad, but if you go through the trouble of designing a look for a set of characters, I’d like there to be a reason behind it.
Despite their character development shortcomings, these vampires were a refreshing reprieve from the snooty, well dressed, sophisticated schlock we’ve seen lately. Here, the vamps are literally monsters. You will be in awe at their ferocity and horrified at their sadism. At one point, a young woman is used as bait to lure hiding survivors into betraying their havens. And the director, David Slade, isn’t shy about showing you the gore, either. Heads are impaled, lopped off, exploded and stepped on like melons. One wonderful camera angle is from above the town and we’re treated to a slowly scrolling panorama of savagery. If blood is what you seek, you will find it here.
The other half of the movie encompasses the dynamics of the survivors and the usual suspects make their appearances here. I’ve never been in a high-stress, life or death situation with other people (or alone, for that matter) before, so maybe people just fill these roles naturally, but there’s always the self-sacrificing leader, the level-headed number two person who usually backs the leader’s play and, of course, the dissenter who wants to do their own thing and who we’re all glad to see die. By and large, these archetypes stick to their roles, but there’s enough here to subvert the cliché and we even get to learn a little about these people before they die, invoking our pity, albeit just a little.
Solid performances all around from the entire cast. Everyone took their roles seriously and looked 100% committed. No one’s going to win any Oscars here, mind you, but it’s definitely a step up from your average horror flick.