It takes something really special for a vampire film to invoke much emotion from me. Ironic when you conder the powerfully personal layers within the vampire mythos and my deep obseson for the genre as a whole. All the same, I’m naturally a tad cold (you'll get the pun soon) in reception and hetant in advance when it comes to the sub-genre.
Comedy has the potential to work quite well when paired with bloodsuckers, and action is a perfect companion, if the cinematography and choreography at work is executed with perfection. Atmosphere is always a big winner, but there aren’t all too many vampire films being released that are self-aware enough to recognize the appropriate mood and setting required to glimpse the prospect of greatness. There are plenty of tools at the disposal of filmmakers, and if the proper instruments are chosen, we tend to find ourselves delivered masterful works like, Let the Right One In, Near Dark, Shadow of the Vampire and Lost Boys.
The problem is, all too often the pieces of the puzzle are misassembled. You can almost nail a vampire movie, but almost doesn’t cut it for me in regards to these blood thirsty beasts. It has to be near-perfection to win me over.
Why the rant you ask?
Because it perturbs me to see vamp flicks that get it right, go universally unheralded.
For four years I’ve been waiting for American audiences to acknowledge the beauty of David Slade’s highly disturbing sub-genre offering, 30 Days of Night. Original comic scribe Steve Niles steps in to accompany fellow writers Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson in their attempts at getting the story right, and believe me when I tell you the maneuver pays off in a major way.
Fear not comic fans (who may have thus far missed this enthralling film transfer) the major moments of impreson offered by the source literature aren’t overlooked in the least bit. “The Stranger” and his sabotaging of the small towns communication systems is still a vital piece of the story, as is the pivotal showdown between Sheriff Eben Oleson and uber bad guy, Marlow, and, ultimately, the unnerving finale. On film these sequences mirror the comic, and in a few instances (particularly the antics and nister persona of The Stranger) actually pack a more dramatic punch.
Beyond the faithfulness of this story lie some fantastic goodies for fans of anything horror related, namely, some truly transfixing surroundings unlike what we're accustomed to from Vampire features (which I won't get too into as I'll begin to gush) and heaps of absolutely superb gore. The decapitation sequences are undeniably remarkable, and rank amongst some of the most convincing gore you’ll spot in any film, be it a supposed “realistic” approach a la Saving Private Ryan, or an over-the-top raunch fest the likes of which, Herschell Gordon Lewis may offer forth. You just don’t spot gore articulated in this fashion very often, and for that, I’ve got to really applaud special effects crew, the WETA Workshop; very, very well done!
For all the visceral madness on hand, there’s a controlled method to Slade’s bleak direction. The story never gets ahead of itself, and despite decelerating during the second act in order to breathe genuine life into the primary characters, doesn’t allow for too much downtime. A fantastic climax tops a few absolutely mesmerizing chapters of film; delivered in the form of a violent showdown, directly followed by a sorrowful closure that sees the inevitable (I don’t want to completely spoil it for those unfamiliar with the tale) fate of a few survivors unravel in heart breaking fashion.I’ve read many a tirade aimed at the film’s cast, and I can’t lie to you: when I initially learned of Josh Hartnett’s casting as lead, Eben Oleson, I was terribly worried. Hartnett however, puts his teenie bopper image on the shelf, and willingly offers himself to the darkness of the story. He never tries to be the hero, he just is, and that’s a feat I didn’t believe Hartnett capable of making. A story such as this requires a believable lead, and amazingly, Josh is almost too believable; he’s downright haunting at times while projecting just enough alpha-male charisma to carry the flicks few survivors through their petrifying plight.
In short, 30 Days of Night gets it right. The picture didn’t produce spectacular box office numbers, and is generally condered a fair film, but that assessment itself isn’t exactly fair. 30 Days of Night is an excellent vampire feature. Not fair, excellent, and it’s about damn time genre fans broke their lence and recognized it for the work of beauty that is truly is.