After the unparalleled Hard Candy, I don’t think anyone could have guessed that David Slade would do a vampire movie next. Considering it’s based on the beautiful graphic novel illustrated by Ben Templesmith, it turns out to be quite an obvious choice for such a visual director. 30 Days of Night is almost as faithful to its source material as Sin City, and there are many frame for frame re-enactments. This film looks and sounds fantastic. The incidental music may be a little overwrought (and way too loud) but it’s an impressive visual and aural package.
It’s the narrative that lets the film down. Sure, the premise was always a good one, but Steve Niles’ original writing was less than brilliant and seems to have been duplicated here. Strangely enough, it starts out pretty well. Josh Hartnett plays Eben, a cop in the small, isolated town of Barrow, and is separated in theory but not geographically from his wife Stella (Melissa George). His grandmother uses marijuana for ‘medicinal purposes’ and he has no time for his brother Jake (Mark Rendall). It seems like a good setup for some drama to accompany all the spurting blood, but the writers fail to make any use out of the arrangement. There’s barely enough character development to cover 48 hours, let alone 30 days. This is the biggest flaw. We suddenly jump forward in time arbitrarily. Suddenly it’s Day 7 and nothing has happened in the interim. It seems the writers were determined to live up to the title, but didn’t have enough plotting to fill it out. Thus we’re expected to believe on several occasions that these characters simply sit in one room for days at a time.
The seemingly ubiquitous Danny Huston is the head vamp, and he must have had an awesome time. Made to look as ugly as possible – pale, with a shark-like maw and speaking in some arcane tongue, it’s certainly well removed from the rest of his work. Ben Foster also puts in a memorable performance as the creepily voiced Stranger.
Apart from the sound and vision, the only other thing this movie gets right is the prosthetics. This film features easily the best decapitations I’ve ever seen. On film or in person.
30 Days of night is enough of a spectacle to keep you entertained – the vamps are scary, the blood runs free – but is rather a hollow horror film.Rating: