By Vic Holtreman
30 Days of Night is one of those movies that’s hard to assign a star rating to when reviewing it. There are some movies that I just don’t examine too closely because they’re basically just designed to provide a thrill. You could argue the point that this only deserves and I really wouldn’t argue with you about it too much. Also, you need to know that I have not read the graphic novel the movie was based on.
The film opens promisingly enough with a number of very cool shots: From closeups on the face of a man who looks like he’s been through hell to vistas of the desolate icy wilderness surrounding the little Alaskan town where the movie takes place. The Stranger (Ben Foster) has obviously come a very long way and heads out on foot towards the town of Barrow. Barrow is the northernmost town in Alaska and we arrive to see it’s final afternoon of sunshine before it is plunged into 30 full days of night.
Josh Hartnett plays Eben, the town sheriff. Although he looks like the in-control leading man, for some reason a decision was made to have him suffer from asthma. Why, I don’t know, and it seemed kind of odd to me especially when there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it. Maybe they just wanted to make him seem less than perfect… who know? Anyway, his wife Stella (Melissa George) has moved out and is trying to get out of town before the airport closes down for the month.
Meanwhile, a number of crimes are occuring in town, ranging from the robbery and destruction of a bunch of cell phones found burnt outside of town to the murder of sled dogs. The Stranger is the logical suspect and gets locked up after an altercation with the sheriff. Once he’s locked up he starts mumbling about how they’re all dead and other typical crazy-guy-who-knows-what’s-going-to-happen stuff.
Finally we get to see the vampires, and I’ll say they’re some creepy buggers. Moreso than I’ve seen in vampire movies in a while. They weren’t all pretty like in Underworld but they also weren’t over the top like in Blade III. I liked the fact that they walked around with the lower half of their faces drenched in blood – makes sense that a vampire wouldn’t take the time to tidy up after a meal. I also liked how zombie-like some of them seemed to be. They are after all, undead so I think it makes sense for them to share some of the traits of traditional zombies.
So I did like the look of the vampires, and I thought the ending was interesting (although I would have ignored the advice of my wife right at the end, I won’t spoil it for you). There were in fact a few pretty creepy moments in the film, and the scene with the big bearded guy literally tearing through the vampires in the middle of town was a hoot.
What didn’t I like? The lead vampires constant exposition: It was almost like he was turning towards the camera in a Ferris Bueller-like explanation of their philosophies of life. Very cheesy after a while. The cheap “jump scares” early on in the movie bugged me as well – that’s such a cheap way to make the audience jump: A loud noise and something leaping past the camera… BAM! Also, there’s a garbage-grinder sort of thing at the local power plant that they go way, WAY out of their way to show us. More than once even in case we missed it the first time. Hmm… I wonder if a vampire or two will end up being killed by that. Duh. Also, the fact that the vampires tore through almost the entire population of the town all at once. They’re going to be there for 30 days… you’d think they’d spread out their feeding a bit.
On the whole, the movie started out a heck of a lot more promising than it turned out to be. At first I thought it might turn out to be something really different, but by the end it was the usual “survivors get picked off one at a time” story. Sure, they did throw in a couple of little things that I liked, and that’s why I’m rating it as high as I did.
It wasn’t awful, and despite a few gory scenes probably makes for a good date movie and a little escapism.