After an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires.
When man meets a force he cannot destroy he destroys himself. What a plague you are.
Directed by David Slade and adapted from the graphic novels by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, ‘30 Days of Night‘ is in stark contrast to ‘The Lost Boys’ lighter take on the vampire genre, it’s an unremittingly bleak horror film that takes an iconic creature, one that audiences have become too comfortable with. Slade reinvigorates the vampire here, portraying them as rabid, unstoppable killing machines unencumbered by emotion or pity.
The film is set in the Alaskan town of Barrow as it prepares for the winter ’30 Days of Night’. The population reduces significantly as people catch the last plane out of the isolated town, whilst unbeknownst to the remaining towns folk, a stranger played by Ben Foster has arrived intent on isolating the town even further, laying the groundwork for an imminent influx of bloodthirsty monsters. Josh Hartnett is Sheriff Olesen, a man struggling to come to terms with his wife’s decision to leave him, whilst gradually uncovering more and more acts of vandalism that are aimed at cutting off the remaining inhabitants, one of whom is his fire marshall wife (Melissa George) who misses the last plane out of town. The setting and characters call to mind classic westerns with the beleaguered sheriff facing off against marauding bandits, but in this case the villains cannot be reasoned with.
The vampires resemble something that’s straight from the set of one of Chris Cunningham’s more disturbing Aphex Twin videos – these aren’t the elegant, seductive vampires as seen in the likes of the teen friendly ‘Twilight‘ series, they are nihilistic, animalistic, frenzied killers with utter contempt for their human prey. Refreshingly the creature designs don’t rely on shonky CGI, instead we get black eyed, blood soaked fiends with shark like teeth. The leader of this vampire sect, Marlow, played by Danny Huston in hugely unsettling form, speaks in a subtitled dialect making grim pronouncements and mocking the inferior humans usually moments before brutally slaying them. From the onset of the murderous assault on the town it’s clear that no mercy will be shown as Marlow instructs his fellow creatures of the night that none of the townsfolk must be turned, with quite obvious and ominous implications for the victims.
Despite the pleasingly grim scenario, the film does trot out some of the usual horror tropes, from the time honoured characters being picked off one by one to the usual troubled hero with relationship issues and the poor decision making which makes you shout at the screen (when you’re not hiding behind the sofa!). But these cliches are easy to overlook because of the intensity of the story which is utterly absorbing, plus an excellent cast with a number of character actors.
Whereas ‘The Lost Boys‘ takes a more traditional approach to the methods of dispatching vampires (holy water, garlic, stakes through the heart), ‘30 Days of Night‘ is unsubtle to say the least with decapitations via heavy plant machinery, creative use of UV lights used to grow marijuana and judicious use of shotguns and axes. It’s a refreshingly horrifying take on the vampire genre and one that stays with you after the credits have rolled.
Review by Mark Thatcher
Directed By: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Rendall, Manu Bennett, Mark Boone Junior, Nathaniel Lees, Craig Hall and Chic Littlewood