I am sorry to say the status of modern western horror is really disappointing, but once in a while something catches my eye. In this case, it was the name of Sam Raimi, producer of this 2007 flick directed by David Slade and featuring Josh Hartnett, whose performance I really enjoyed in The Black Dahlia. Well, although I can't scream for a miracle, 30 Days of Night is a pretty decent horror movie that will satisfy most of the genre's fans.
Based on a comic book, the movie tells the story of Barrow, Alaska, northernmost point in the state that suffers 30 days of night every winter. While the citizens are getting ready to face the upcoming month of obscurity — some fleeing for more southern destinations, some stocking up piles of supplies — a stranger comes into town and starts making a mess behind the scenes. As soon as Eben (Hartnett), the local sheriff, starts investigating, and the last sunlight to be seen for a month is slowly creeping away from the skyline, a pack of ghastly creatures will unleash their fury on the villagers, turning the landscape from snow white to blood red.
The idea behind the movie is pretty good, and there are quite a few high moments of tension and gore. Vampires have been a much-abused topic in horror films, but somehow the director manages to keep everything together, maintaining a solid storyline. The movie is all centered around an inside/outside perspective, and the photography aptly gives most of the scenes an authentic, creepy, and dynamic rhythm. The vampires are some of the fastest, most athletic, and hungriest I've seen in years, and this is probably one of the aspects of the film that gets funnier after a while. I always thought a vampire was a different kind of creature, the most effective being those decadent, erotic, and ambiguous characters we can find in most of the European movie and literary tradition, but I might be wrong. I just think that, after a while, all of this jumping from roof to roof, chasing victims, super fast attacks, and tenacious bites get a little too much into the super-heroic side of things, making the vampires look too much like a tinier version of Predator.
30 Days of Night is well produced and directed, keeps the audience entertained, and has a few moments where the gore is abundant (and this is hard to get in horror these days), but in a certain way it seems like it forgets a few important things. First of all, and I'll let this go for the sake of entertainment value, is the fact that there is NO place on Earth where you can have darkness for such a long time. A full day of light followed by a full day of night is not possible around the poles, because there always will be some sunrise, although very briefly, but again, I'll let this go because the idea itself is pretty charming.
What really put me off a little is how the characters seem to be able to survive with no heating, barely no food supplies, and no electricity for a month, and this is not a detail that can be forgotten. A movie like Romero's Dawn Of The Dead, for example, worked around this detail and possibly is even scarier just because they thought about it. I know this is not the way it seems to go in modern horror, but it left me kind of puzzled. I had this idea the whole time while watching: "How can they survive, where is the food?"
Overall, I'd give 30 Days Of Night a go because it's energic, fast, has a good photography, and Hartnett plays a good leading character. Altough the vampires are a little too much over the top, the action scenes are good enough and there are quite a few moments where you'll get the feeling of "what if this happened to me?", but of course, the future of horror has to be looked for elsewhere. Sorry, guys.