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Movie Review: 30 Days of Night

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I award the movie two and a half stars because it is well-made,
well-photographed and plausibly acted, and is better than it needs to be…Otherwise, this would be a radio play. I have pretty much reached my quota for vampire movies, but I shouldn't hold that against this one. If you haven't seen too many, you might like it. If you are a horror fan, you will love it
…–Roger Ebert

Dear Roger,

I must take umbrage to your potentially snarky comment regarding horror fans. Not all of us automatically gush in delight — like Undeadmin over at Dreadcentral — at the sight of crimson fountains of blood spewing from severed jugular veins, torn open by shark-toothed vampires ripping into screaming victims. To the contrary, many of us are quite demanding in our never-ending search for skillfully crafted storylines that merge terror and drama competently, above and beyond the usual frights.

Right off the bat I can tell you weren't paying close attention to the movie: it's Barrow, Alaska, not Barlow. The only Barlow I know is in Ohio, and they certainly don't have to worry about 30 days of night – or ravenous vampires for that matter. On the other hand–

"You're getting a little off topic," said Zombos, peering over my shoulder.

"You're right." I stopped typing and collected my thoughts. "Maybe I should start over."

Dear Mr. Ebert,

I take exception to your cavalier comment regarding horror fans liking 30 Days of Night just because it's a horror film; especially after you begrudgingly gave it two and a half stars. Not all of us children-of-the-night critics pile on the hyperbole when a highly anticipated vampire film hits the big screen, even if it does contain an interesting premise. I can't believe no one thought of it before Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith grabbed it for their graphic novel. Speaking of the graphic novel, originally conceived as a three-issue series containing very evocative illustrations that grab each panel and–

"Ahem." Zombos cleared his throat.

3003But I digress. I agree that the story becomes the usual struggle for survival against murderous fiends, but what did you expect? It's a horror movie, where victims usually struggle against nightmarish fiends, and try their best not to be eaten, bitten, hack-sawed, disemboweled, tortured, and, generally speaking, grievously harmed in any way.

I'll grant you the Sheriff doesn't do too good a job of it — saving townspeople, that is — but at least he gives it his best shot. It's nice, too, that his estranged wife can finally find something they both can share in, like staying alive.

The opening events, with the mysterious burning of all the mobile phones, and the butchering of all the huskies in town should have alerted Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett) that trouble was brewing. And when Renfield's cousin (Ben Foster) shows up to chill us with his icy words heralding approaching doom, I'd be hauling my ass out of town right quick. But then we wouldn't have much of a horror film than, would we?

Granted, when the vampires do arrive, they're the usual Goth-looking, shark-toothed, black-eyed night-crawlers with just a hint of fashion. And like you said, they are "a miserable lot." One thing you didn't mention, however, is the odd way they spill copious pools of blood.

It never ceases to amaze me when scriptwriters turn vampires into werewolves – having them rip out throats in geyser-like sprays of arterial blood, wasting their food source in an orgy of sadistic destruction. More blood winds up in the snow than in the stomachs of these guys. Go figure. Sure, as you said, they shwoosh around a lot, teasingly just out of sight, but they aren't zombies you know. Zombies dawdle; vampires shwoosh. It's the nature of the beast.

I agree with you on that whole non-Hammer speaking thing; bad call here. If there's anything worse than vampires ripping out your throat in large chunks, it's having to listen to their really tedious pontifications before they do it. The dialog here is not a keeper, and the subtitles to translate their click-clack-clucking speech is irritating. For some odd reason, I kept imagining they came from Russia, though I can't fathom why.

"I thought you were writing this review to refute Ebert's two and a half stars, not agree with him," commented Zombos. "Maybe you should focus on that?"

"Oh, right. Let me think this through again. You're right. I'll start over."

Dear Roger,

I don't think it fair to award only two and a half stars to 30 Days of Night. The acting is earnest and effective, and the cinematography captures the setting sunset and onset of darkness beautifully, exemplifying the isolation of Barrow in the cold Alaskan winter. The action sequences are handled well and move the story at a brisk pace, holding the tension well as vampires descend on the town and systematically wreak havoc, breaking into homes in search of prey, and snatching people in fast shwooshes of action across the snow banks.

After awhile, it does all seem to blur into the same old vampire-stalking, victim-dying pattern, but while the story becomes the usual struggle for survival, the interplay between Sheriff Eben and his estranged wife (Melissa George), a law-enforcement type herself, adds depth to the storyline, and more involvement from us: there's nothing like a couple getting back together to bring out our concern for their safety. Horror films could use more romance.

That interlude with the little vampire girl in the general store is worth noting. So what do you do with a blood-thirsty little vampire girl anyway? Cute kid? No, but still a kid. It's nice to see some good old ax-swinging, vampire head-chopping, here and there. The film could have used more of that. There's nothing like romance and heads flying to spice up a horror film.


I must admit I was a tad disappointed after Sheriff Eben's inspiring speech about the townspeople being natives, and using their experience with the cold and darkness to fight the interlopers. Not much in the way of that experience shone through, and everyone pretty much froze their asses off in the dark. After that dangerous foray to the general store to get supplies and potential weapons, not much was done with that stuff, either.

Speaking of that 30 days of full moon lighting that permeates the streets and buildings of the supposedly darkness-enshrouded town, you do have a point. I found it odd, too. The film starts off with things going dark after the blood-thirsty cretins disable the generator, but interiors and streets suddenly become brightly lit, with light coming from somewhere. So much for that 30 days of darkness thing. More murkiness in the town would have shaken things up better.

"Damn, I did it again, didn't I?" I said. Zombos nodded, rolling his eyes. "Oh, hell."

Dear Roger,

I agree; the film is a solid two and a half stars, and horror fans should love it in spite of its few inconsistencies.

Yours truly,
Iloz Zoc (or just plain IL to my friends)

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About ILoz Zoc

  • El Bicho

    “[Barlow, Ohio doesn’t] have to worry about…ravenous vampires for that matter.”

    Or so IL would like us to believe.

  • Che

    “We’re natives of this chill and brutal wasteland. Lets use our natural skills of withstanding the cold and the darkness to deal with these foul fiends!”

    “What skills? You mean like making popcorn and surfing the net for porn?”

    “Erm… yeah those.”

    Fun review!