Adapted from the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days Of Night whisks us to Barrow, the most northern town in Alaska. Bleak, barren and freezing, only the hardiest of souls can survive in such an environment. As the sun falls below the horizon for the last time for 30 days, the first of many brutal killings alert the townsfolk that they’re not alone.
Eben (Josh Hartnett), the town sheriff, is handed the task of protecting his own and in the middle of the mayhem he manages to get as many as possible holed up in a hidden attic from where they view a killing spree initiated by a large group of particularly brutal Nosferatu hell-bent on the town’s complete annihilation. “Their heads must be separated from their bodies. Do not turn them”, drawls head-vamp Marlow (Danny Huston).
The director, David Slade, has made a good attempt at translating the grim novel from page to screen and employs some clever camerawork in places. The overhead pan as the vampires attack their victims is particularly effective; a bird's-eye view of bright-red blood stains on pure-white snow, gun shots fired aimlessly, and dark figures fleeing and chasing; an eerie detached way of viewing the carnage. Unfortunately, he subsequently allows the continual doom and gloom to suffocate the film without respite.
There are some particularly gruesome effects and, in places, the make-up work is terrifying. Danny Huston’s is particularly effective as he’s transformed from everyman into the worst kind of walking nightmare. Barrow's isolation from the world certainly comes across well as it slowly becomes a ghost-town, resembling scenes from a Western only with snow in place of dust.
The casting of Josh Hartnett is both a blessing and a curse. He’s particularly adept at depicting the off-camera horror in his face but, in general, having a well-known actor for the lead detracts from the impact of the film. Ben Foster, bringing a particularly nasty evilness to his role as The Stranger, and Mark Boone Junior (Beau Brower) were both deserving of more screen-time.
It’s, at first, a particularly intense and effective vampire chiller, but eventually it ends up overwrought, wallowing in its own bleakness, and lacking in innovation. The final nail in the coffin is the ending which is both rushed and inconsistent. Those 30 days have passed and I still haven’t seen the light.
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