The vampire has been done to death, so unless you’re willing to rewrite a new history (Underworld) or take a different approach (the intolerable Bloodrayne), why bother? 30 Days of Night is far too cliché-ridden and doesn’t offer the audience enough backstory to fill in the blanks. While the action is fun, the overwhelming feeling of déjà vu is impossible to escape.
Josh Hartnett plays the usual small town sheriff in an Alaskan town drowned in darkness for 30 days every year. As with every American small movie town, it’s populated by a number of likable and unlikeable characters all trapped in the same situation. The vampires who have descended for a feast during this period of night randomly show up and start munching on the locals.
The problem is that the description isn’t that far off. The vampires literally are just there one moment when they weren’t a second ago. 30 Days plays off the usual slow build in which random crimes send out authorities to investigate, and the slow realization comes that the entire town is under dire circumstances. Everything plays out like a B-movie creature feature, and the vampires add little to the mix.
30 Days does succeed when it comes to the action. It’s a constant race for survival as the townsfolk are cut off (of course), and their means of defeating the vampire horde are exciting. Action takes on a hard-edged, violent feel, especially during a car chase and all out slaughter (done in a unique, well done overhead pan shot). Gore is not a rare commodity here.
It’s impressive that with such little make up, the vampires are genuinely scary. Their deep, black eyes and rows of sharp teeth are effective at eliciting a scare. However, except for one line spoken in subtitles which explains they’ve been around for centuries, there’s nothing else to them. They’re run of the mill movie bloodsuckers, and the audience is left to wonder how they got there, how they found the town, where they go when daylight hits, or how they managed to miss one of the longest darkness streaks on the planet since they came into existence. A little back story goes a long way.
For its energetic action and over the top gore, 30 Days of Night is an appealing horror movie when viewed as a typical genre piece. However, there’s potential to become more and it doesn’t capitalize on any of it. This is a made for TV horror movie with an A list cast and budget.
Sharp and almost flawless, 30 Days is a stunning piece of Blu-ray video. The few daylight shots reproduce gorgeous color. Some of the long shots of the town are remarkable. The rest of the film, although shot in limited lighting situations, shines. Details are never lost to the wonderfully contrasting black levels. Though the color dims into various blue tones intentionally, there’s still enough of that HD pop to carry this transfer. A few shots end up somewhat noisy or overly grainy, though the overall presentation remains strong.
The TrueHD track included here should come with a warning. This mix is ridiculously loud when the action hits, going well over the acceptable level for a scare. Bass is simply brutal. Sadly, even with added punch, the mix stays mostly in the front speakers. A few tracking shots follow basic yelps of the vampires as they circle the victim, but heavy action is sadly subdued or overwhelmed by the overall volume level.
A commentary begins a decent set of extras, this one coming from Hartnett, Melissa George, and producer Rob Tapert. 30 Images of Night is a Blu-ray exclusive combining photos from the movie to the original graphic novel. Making of 30 Days of Night combines eight featurettes into a nearly hour long documentary, and without the usual promotional babble associated with these extras. There are plenty of raw behind the scenes looks. Some trailers are the only remaining bonuses.
Originally, when the first draft was written, Sam Raimi was scheduled to direct. Eventually, the veteran director chose to produce instead, giving the reins to relative newcomer David Slade.