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DVD Review: 30 Days of Night

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30 Days of Night is a thriller film based on the comic book miniseries of the same name. At the top of the world, the town of Barrow, Alaska prepares for its annual 30 days of night. This is the period during the winter when the sun will not be seen. People who don't want to endure the darkness depart for more southern areas.

Unfortunately for the residents who stay, a clan of vampires has decided the isolated town with 30 days of darkness will be the perfect feeding ground. By the time anyone discovers the mass slaughter, they will be long gone and the deaths will be just a mystery.

30 Days of Night pits a small band of humans against bloodthirsty vampires in a frozen Alaskan town. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love. Director David Slade turns the pages of the disturbing graphic novel into a primeval experience of pure fright that represents the ultimate in survival horror.

The cast’s performances make you care about what happens to them and really make the movie succeed. If the performances were sub-par, you might start rooting for the vampires, which would mean the cast and crew haven't done their job.

Josh Hartnett does his best work in a long time as Sheriff Eben Oleson, who must take responsibility for his brother, estranged wife, and the rest of the survivors. Melissa George does a great job portraying a strong female character who can handle herself without cowering in fear when the vampires attack. This adds to the tension of the movie. Ben Foster shines in his creepy Stranger, and Danny Huston is terrifying as head vampire Marlow.

The DVD contains several special features, the most interesting was the audio commentary by stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and producer Rob Tapert. You could tell from the commentary that Hartnett, George and Tapert all enjoyed working together and would like to again if given the chance.

I also like the new genre I think Hartnett has coined. He says 30 Days of Night isn't a horror film; it's a western with supernatural overtones. He's kinda right, but the common filmgoer might not know what that is. Other extras on the disc include eight Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes which, when combined, create an almost hour-long documentary.

"Pre-Production" – This follows Director David Slade and Producer Rob Tapert as the script goes through development, and a team is assembled for the film. You get to sit in on story meetings with Writer Brian Nelson and you also get 30 Days of Night Graphic Novel writer discussing the beginnings of his idea for the story.

"Building Barrow" – The Production Designer, Paul Austerberry, shows what it took to bring Barrow to life on a New Zealand sound stage. This featurette also does side-by-side comparisons of Barrow as visualized in the comics and tracks the progress of the construction crew.

"The Look" – Discover what it took to bring the comic to life with Director David Slade and his Director of Photography Jo Willems. Watch as they go over all aspects of the look, including camera decisions, lighting techniques, and post-production tasks involved with creating the look of 30 Days of Night. See how they wrestle with the task of bringing the graphic novel into existence on the screen.

"Blood, Guts and the Nasty #@$&!" – This goes from prosthetic moldings to selecting the right consistency of blood. WETA and David Slade take us through what it took.

"Stunts" – Stunt coordinator Allan Poppleton takes us through the creation of four of the movie's stunts. Follow David Slade's vision of a scene, from stunt rehearsals and safety precautions to the final execution on the shoot day. You get to see vampires flying off of moving cars, crashing through windows, and wrestling a bulldozer.

"The Vampire" – Going from graphic novel to screen, WETA guides the view as the vampires are designed and brought to life. We also get to see Director David Slade meet with the vampire actors, coaching them on how to behave like bloodthirsty beasts.

"Night Shoots" – Follow the cast and crew as the production goes into five weeks of night shoots. Because of the night shoots, the cast and crew start to bear a resemblance to the creatures from the film. Director David Slade has a great zinger as he comments, "At this point, coffee is more important than film stock."

"Casting" – Director David Slade and company talk about casting choices. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George talk about what their characters mean to them, and the influences they've pulled from the graphic novel, while discussing the experience of shooting a high-tension action/horror film.

I was a fan of the original comic series and its sequels. Although the movie had to make some changes in order to work as a film, it does succeed. I hope the comic book sequels will translate into movie sequels.

Grade A

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