Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 17 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
30 Days Of Night
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Hell is not hot; it’s very, very cold. Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States, has a population that dwindles (from over 500 residents to fewer than 200) for thirty days each year. The town’s proximity to the North Pole gives it a month-long night Imagine the party possibilities! Only this year the vampires have discovered Barrow and these guys don’t need a beer run to have a good time.
Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) makes one last patrol of the tiny town while its inhabitants leave. He’s been through this before. The arrival of a disruptive Stranger (Ben Foster) draws Oleson’s attention in a disturbing-the-peace kind of way. The promptly incarcerated Stranger has nothing but ominous one-liners for anyone who’ll listen. “Death is coming with the cold; soon there’ll be nothing left; they promised to take me with them.” Things like that.
Oleson is in the process of separating from his wife and town Fire Marshall Stella (Melissa George) who missed her plane and must reluctantly stay in Barrow for the sunless period. In swift succession, there’s a blackout and numerous vicious murders, ending in beheadings. Animals, children and the elderly have no special saving grace here. All bets are off. Soon Eben and a small group of survivors must band together to strategize how they’ll survive, where they’ll hide, and how they’ll keep moving to avoid being discovered.
Meanwhile the dozen or so vampires that have descended on the town are like adolescents who have found the door to a convenience store unlocked and unattended. “We should have done this years ago,” one of them quips in a peculiar language punctuated by shrieks, snarls, hisses and guttural, alien syllables dripping with menace. The long Barrow night is punctuated (or should I say punctured) by the screams of the dying.
Blood flows so freely it may remind of another Alaskan substance: oil. The red splotches amid the stark white contrast of the omnipresent snow are horrendous reminders of the butchery and piranha-like fervor of these creatures. Aerial scenes of mass murder in the streets are disturbing, but give the viewer an idea of what mere mortals are up against with no sun to save them.
So convincing are the male and female lead vampires Barrow, (Danny Huston) and Iris, (Megan Franich) that you could easily forget that they are even human at all. I almost started to wonder how they were wrangled (set talk for special handling, usually reserved for extras and animals).
The vampires’ look is stylized; humanoid with distortions. You will know them by their teeth, uniformly long and every one shaped like a pointy incisor. Their eyes have no distinguishable iris and very little white area. Because they perpetually feast, all have a mustache, beard and virtual scarf of blood, lapping onto their shoulders. They are dripping with it, revel in it, and get savagely violent to the point of frenzy with its scent. Their eyes have an alien slant, and the overall look is part insect, part Slavic, like Bulgarians crossbred with Praying Mantises.
This is a new, visceral, raw species of vampire: cruel, turned on by pain, fierce in their pursuit of victims, utterly devoid of any emotion but bloodlust. You won’t find a tuxedo or a flowing gown among them, just torrents of the human life force adorning them like another kind of cape. They are not your grandparents’ vampires. There’s no elegant Bela Lugosi offering guests refreshments in his castle, but refusing a cup for himself with the words, “I never drink…wine.” Here, you’ll be lucky to keep the jugular vein in your throat. These creatures shred and tear, making the classic puncture marks from other films seem as harmless as a kiss.
The tiny band of would-be survivors gets smaller as one by one they are discovered and captured. Someone finds a way that will disable the vampires and it’s discovered through an association with marijuana. This victory, like most of the humans in town, is short-lived.
There’s weak love story that has a twist and is more grim than warm. It’s necessary to harvest the sacrificial element that will lead to a type of salvation by the next sunrise. There are no winners or heroes here, just survivors who must face it all again in exactly one year. I see a sequel looming on that bright, white Alaskan horizon.
Adapted from the Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith graphic novel, Niles was one of three screenwriters, (along with Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson). Dialogue is spare and action is plentiful more often than not.
Director David Slade (Hard Candy) does not shy away from gore or unpleasant
consequences and tries to illustrate the mindset of both predator and prey. Making brave and unconventional cinematic choices, the ruthless, no-holds-barred violence and unexpected developments kept me interested and in discovery mode much more than many recent films (any genre).
Josh Hartnett is effective and intense as the Sheriff in the middle of a nightmare. Ben Foster is perfect as the Stranger, his peculiar way of speaking adding to the chill of his surroundings. Melissa George is blonde and heroic because you can’t have a film like this without one. Danny Huston and Megan Franich will rip you to pieces with their sinister, gleeful performances.
If you can get past the devastation to appreciate the innovation, you won’t be disappointed.
The vampires may bite, but this film doesn’t.