Vampire films are two-a-penny nowadays. With the offending monsters ranging from weak, romantic neck nibblers to the sword swinging neck slashers, it’s hard to find a vampire film with the right balance and that is, well, any good at all.
30 Days of Night is one of those rare gems that manages to hit the cinematic sweet spot.
Josh Hartnett (The Faculty, Halloween H20) plays Eben, a sheriff that lives in a small remote Alaskan town and is part of the two man police force that is responsible for keeping order. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and secrets are hard to keep. Therefore Eben’s split with his wife Stella (Melissa George) is public knowledge, and when she comes back to the area on business everyone is aware of how awkward it is.
Being so far north of the equater, rather than having the usual 12 hours of day and 12 of night the locals have to endure weeks of continuous daylight, followed by a month of darkness. As a result, many locals leave for the mainland during the period and return when things brighten up again.
This time round, as many get on a plane to somewhere lighter, a ship arrives containing a nasty bunch who prefer things to be dark… You’ve guessed it, vampires.
And with the help of a foolish mortal, their plan is the cut the town’s communications then happily feed on the people that live there without having to worry about the sun spoiling their fun.
Eben, Stella and a handful of townspeople are all that stands in their way.
So, what makes 30 Days of Night so good? Well, the pace picks up immediately. Little time is wasted on introductions and after being made aware of the town and its forthcoming dark period preparations are already in place for the impending bloody feast.
And its a tense experience. As a viewer with a vague idea of what’s on the horizon it’s difficult to watch the local folk preparing for their hibernation, oblivious to the danger around them. In the safety of the front room, teeth clench, nails get bitten, eyes widen and you can almost feel the icy wind as it sweeps through the Alaskan landscape.
Okay, it’s not an entirely original formula – group of surivors pulls together to fight a superior supernatural foe whilst trying to avoid being ‘turned’ in the process. But the absolute isolation of the constant dark, the unforgiving environment and the lack of resources make the situation feel ever so desperate, in a similar fashion to John Carpenters version of The Thing.
The shark-like features of the vampires are disturbing, they have black soul-less eyes and are far from human in appearance. And it’s not just their looks that terrify. They’re deadly predators with long slashing claws, super strength, speed and a far more menacing arsenal of teeth than the common vampire.
They even have their own language which is a nice element. There’s no reasoning with these guys.
Josh Hartnett and Melissa George are faultless in their roles and put their extensive horror experience to good use, compelling the audience to absorb itself in the snowy black landscape before them.
If you somehow missed this the first time round and are in need of a bit of vampire action, you’d be hard pressed to find anything else of this calibre.
Now to sample the sequel, 30 Days of Night Dark Days…