Monday, July 13, 2009

30 Days of Night Review

I was reorganizing my Netflix queue, and I noticed that 30 Days of Night expires from the Instant View catalog at the end of the month. Since my wife's been on sort of a vampire kick since watching the short-lived CBS show Moonlight, I figured I'd get her to watch it with me.

The film is set in the town of Barrow, Alaska. Barrow happens to be the northernmost town in the United States. Because it's actually above the Arctic Circle, there's a period in the film where the sun sets and doesn't rise again for 30 days (in reality, it's actually 65 days!).

As the residents are getting ready for this period, many of them by leaving, a man is seen getting off of some cargo ship. The man sets about stealing cell phones, cutting phone lines, and killing sled dogs... essentially all he can do to make sure that after the last plane leaves it will be nearly impossible to leave town or to contact the world outside Barrow.

After the sun goes down, Eben Oleson, Barrow's sheriff, discovers a grisly murder. When his investigation causes him to realize the danger the town is in, he tries to gather as many residents as he can in a safe hiding place. But with limited supplies and sunrise a month away, time isn't on their side.

I'm not sure how the original graphic novel the film is based on is different from the film, but let's be clear on something. Yes, the villains in the film are vampires, but 30 Days of Night is actually a zombie movie. After the initial zombie/vampire outbreak, the film really focuses on a small band of people trying to hole up long enough to survive. Hiding in an abandoned house? Check. Raiding the local store for supplies? Check. Chopping up monsters with heavy machinery? Check. Having to kill one of the band because they were bit back when they were raiding the store, but didn't tell anyone until he started to turn? Check. One survivor heroically sacrifices himself so the others can escape? Check. If it wasn't for the vampires having an occasional spoken line (most of the time they just sort of scream, which is sort of analogous to a zombie's moan) and the film's comic book ending, the film could have just as easily been 30 Days of the Dead.

That isn't necessarily a bad thing; when zombie movies are good (like the original Night of the Living Dead or Shaun of the Dead), they're good. Too often, though, they're reduced to a plotless two hours of people getting eaten by zombies (alá the Dawn of the Dead remake). For most of the film's 113 minutes, 30 Days of Night is more of the latter. Not until the comic book-style ending does the film really come together, and even then a lot is left unexplained.

I will say one thing... after watching Twilight, 30 Days of Night is almost therapeutic. You won't find any of the "sexy" pale loners sparkling in the sunshine while they drink animal blood from a cup and fall in love with their classmates here. The vampires of 30 Days of Night are REAL vampires... cunning, feral monsters, pale likes corpses with black eyes and long yellow nails, ruthless killers that don't just puncture their victims' throats with pointy incisors, but rip their victim's throats out with a mouth full of fangs. I wish I could show 30 Days of Night to every teeny-bopper girl with a poster of Edward on her wall, then ask them if they still think vampires are hot.

But I digress. If you like zombie-style horror movies, there's a lot better to watch than 30 Days of Night. But there's also a lot worse, so give it a rental if you're bored.

Final Score: C-

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