30 Days of Night (2007): adapted from the Steve Niles/Ben Templesmith comic book by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, and Brian Nelson; directed by David Slade; starring Josh Hartnett (Eben), Melissa George (Stella), and Danny Huston (Marlow the Lead Vampire): The Steve Niles/Ben Templesmith comic book had a great concept that would have been a lot greater had the comic book been set in, say, 1930 rather than the late 1990’s.
That concept is that vampires show up in Barrow, Alaska once the sun goes down for its annual 30-day night and slaughter all the inhabitants. Of course, the real Barrow, Alaska isn’t much more isolated when the sun goes down that it is when the sun’s up — daily flights continue, and people continue to phone and email their friends and family who are not in Barrow, Alaska. In 30 Days of Night, nightfall brings an end to flights, a mass exodus from Barrow, and apparently a complete lack of people outside Barrow who would wonder why no one has heard from Barrow for weeks.
It just doesn’t work in the movie or the comic once one thinks about it for, say, 30 seconds. But we’ll give the film-makers their curiously isolated Northern town and look at how the movie works with the concept.
Um, not that well. 30 Days of Night was shot in New Zealand, and it shows — only rarely does it seem plausible that these people are stranded in the dark and cold with angry vampires. The film-makers only rarely bother showing people’s breath, compounding the problem. Giant fires erupt, burning everything around them… but not melting any snow. And so on, and so forth.
Josh Hartnett and Melissa George, as the estranged couple who are also the only law enforcement that survives the vampire clan’s first wild night, are dutiful but that’s about it. The townspeople under siege by the vampires are a pretty bloodless lot (Heh heh!), leaving the viewer with no one to care about. The vampires themselves, led by a very good Danny Huston, are somewhat interesting. They speak an invented vampire language all the time, shriek a lot, and have facial prosthetics that make most of them unsettlingly resemble sharks.
The plot lurches from set-piece to set-piece, leaving one to wonder how we got to Day 29 by the end, or how the vampires failed to search that attic or that building for the preceding 28 days. We also have to endure a number of Mythbusters moments, including crude oil that ignites easily by having a match thrown into it and a sun rising in the North. Good times. Not recommended.