30 Days of Night
directed by David Slade
(Columbia/Sony, 2007)

It turns out Steve Niles spent years pitching the story behind 30 Days of Night to Hollywood before, tired of rejections, he turned it instead into a highly successful graphic novel with the help of artist Ben Templesmith. Hollywood, of course, goes frequently to the comic-book well for inspiration, so it's ironic that Niles found himself adapting his graphic novel into a screenplay, where it had started.

It worked out pretty well for everyone involved, since the big-screen adaptation was greatly dependent on Templesmith's vision -- although, let's be honest here, it would be pretty hard to reproduce Templesmith's frantic style in a movie studio.

The basic story here involves a band of vampires who decide to feast on the winter residents of Barrow, Alaska, where -- in Niles' story, if not in reality -- the skies go dark for 30 days each year. Without the threat of sunlight to discourage them, the vamps have a pretty free rein to plunder and prey on the helpless population.

Soon, only a few survivors -- including town sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), his estranged wife Stella Oleson (Melissa George) and survivalist loner Beau Brower (Mark Boone Jr.) -- are holed up, trying to keep their continued existence a secret from the vampire gang who roams the streets. But 30 days is a long time to keep quiet and still.

These vampires, led by Marlow (Danny Huston), are nothing like the Bela Legosi mold of bloodsucking fiend, nor are they quite so urbane as authors like Rice and Hamilton would have us believe. Although they dress nattily enough, these vampires speak in a gutteral, demonic tongue and boast mouths full of needle-like teeth, and they rend and feed in a frenzy that sprays blood in liberal quantities in every direction. They wear their victims' blood like a mask and howl at the sky to set the survivors' -- and viewers' -- nerves on edge. They are strong and swift and relentless (although I did find myself wondering what they did with their time when not actively hunting, killing and feeding).

Top marks go to the team that devised the look of this film. Shot largely in daylight and recomposed to appear like it's night, 30 Days makes great use of a visual palette dominated by black, white and shades of gray -- accented by splashes and sprays of vivid red. Granted, the sky apparently had a big moon hanging overhead each day of the otherwise dark month, but I guess that's just so we, the audience, could see what's going on. That aside, 30 Days of Night is a visual success; Barrow -- built in a massive studio in New Zealand -- is a living, breathing town that's buried in darkness, snow and blood. One scene in particular, which shows a portion of the initial mayhem from above, is stunningly well produced.

30 Days of Night is not the end-all of vampire cinema, but it is a refreshing change from the norm. Niles has mined this story's potential on several occasions for the printed page, and I wouldn't mind seeing Hollywood take another crack at it as well.

review by
Tom Knapp

24 May 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new