Adapted from the beloved graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, the vampire flick 30 Days of Night breathes new life into a stale genre with a twist so ingenious you wonder why no one had ever thought of it before.
The movie's inspiration stems from its novel setting: Barrow, Alaska, an isolated town forced to endure an entire month without sunlight each year on account of its close proximity to the North Pole. Thus relieved of their primary weakness -- sunlight -- the nocturnal bloodsuckers of 30 Days of Night are instantly rendered that much more terrifying when they arrive to feast upon Barrow's unsuspecting residents.
Josh Hartnett stars as Eben Oleson, the plucky town sheriff tasked with figuring out how to deal with the unwanted guests. His mission quickly shifts to one of survival, however, when it becomes evident that the pasty-faced adversaries are virtually invulnerable to standard methods of self-defense. This gang of vampires, led by a particularly sinister-looking Danny Huston, clearly descends from a strain infinitely more vicious than the standard Count Chocula variety. They're not content to merely feast on the blood of their victims; they want the whole body, guts and all. As the superhuman predators gorge indiscriminately on the town's largely defenseless population, Eben and a handful of comrades search desperately for a way to survive until the darkness is lifted.
Part of what makes 30 Days of Night superior to recent horror flicks is the quality of the writing, which is a cut above the admittedly low standards of the genre. The script, courtesy of screenwriters Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson, features remarkably little exposition. For the most part, they're content to allow us viewers to figure things out for ourselves, making for a much more satisfying -- and far more frightening -- experience.
30 Days of Night lags considerably in the middle, as the repetitive pattern of "We can't stay here; we gotta keep moving" grows increasingly tiresome. Problems with pacing are evident throughout the film, which suffers considerably from excessive lulls in the action. I also could have done without the superfluous romantic subplot Hartnett's character and his estranged wife, played by Melissa George.
Director David Slade (Hard Candy) packs 30 Days of Night with more than enough gore to satisfy the genre fanboys, while paying just enough attention to story and character to make the film appealing to the rest of us who don't subscribe to Fangoria.
As far is the cast is concerned, the only real standout performance comes from Ben Foster. In the role of The Stranger, a mysterious outsider who helps pave the way for the vampire invasion, Foster is in many ways scarier than his bloodsucking counterparts. Though The Stranger appears to die in the film, expect him to return for a sequel.
30 Days of Night may not be on par with horror classics like The Shining or The Exorcist, but it ranks well ahead of the Saws and Hostels of the world, and is far superior to recent vampire flicks like Blade and Bloodrayne.
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