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DVD Review: 30 Days of Night

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Being nearly as old as motion pictures themselves, vampire movies seem to always try and do something new and different in order to win over an audience. Filmmakers always seem to be on the lookout for a new hook to attract people to these movies. Enter 30 Days of Night, a vampire movie based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.

The story's hook is that vampires come to destroy a town in northern Alaska, a town so far north that every winter it experiences 30 full days without the sun. Thus, the vampires have free rein of the town without having to worry about any pesky sunlight raining down on them.

Directed by David Slade (Hard Candy) and starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George, 30 Days of Night, while an interesting concept, fails to truly deliver on excitement. Outside of its new and different hook, the film is nothing more than a series of clichéd storylines and lacks a villain of any depth or substance.

Hartnett is at the movie's center, as Eben Oleson, sheriff of the town of Barrow, and George is his estranged wife, Stella, who has moved away. Due to her job, Stella ends up returning to Barrow and then, due to bad luck, misses the last plane out before the place shuts down for the month without daylight.

Eben, Stella, and a rag-tag group manage to survive the initial vampire onslaught and end up trying to find creative ways to save other townsfolk and themselves over the course of the next 30 days.

Again, it's a decent enough, if generic, idea, but the film seems to lack any internal sense of logic. Cell phones are stolen and destroyed prior to the takeover (by a man who is aiding and abetting the vamps), but the power is cut anyway, rendering the cell phones useless even if they did exist. Why the plane in and out of the town stops flying during the 30 days of night is also never explained (planes seem to do okay in the dark), and why our heroes simply can't drive the 80 miles to the next outpost of humanity is also never discussed. Presumably a reason does exist, but said reason never makes it into the film.

Additionally, all too often the film eschews the need for darkness. The attic that the group of survivors spend much of their time in is so bright (despite the lack of power) that I was convinced that the vampires ought to know where the survivors were. It took a great deal of time to figure out that it wasn't really that bright, that the filmmakers simply hadn't bothered to film it at a light level closer to what it ought to have been.

These quibbles, however, pale in comparison to the fact that the vampires themselves are never truly explored. Some of them seem little more than zombie-like in intelligence, while others are, at times (but not always), shockingly smart. These differences are never delved into and leave the viewer wondering whether the differences are a conscious choice on the part of the filmmakers or the result of not thinking out the script.

Several vampires are even given names in the credits, but the names are not used during the film itself, which only heightens one's sense that that there is more taking place than what the viewer can possibly understand.

The DVD release of the film includes an audio commentary with Hartnett, George, and producer Rob Tapert as well as run of the mill behind-the-scenes featurettes explaining what went into making the film. It also includes the first episode of Blood +, a Japanese anime series revolving around a girl with amnesia which is to be released on DVD.

30 Days of Night is not without exciting moments and certainly contains enough viscera to keep genre fans amused. However, by choosing not to follow its own logic and choosing not to explore the villains in any but the most superficial way it ends up largely missing the mark. Watching the DVD one gets the feeling that all the elements exist to have made a far better film than the one that the audience is given. There is the sense that a vastly more interesting story is taking place than what ends up in the film.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.