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30 Days of Night (2007) Review

Published 4/8/2024

Rating : 9/10 A Classic

I've watched David Slade's 30 Days of Night at least three times now. Each viewing brings fresh and disturbing imagery I didn't catch the previous re-watch. As the name implies, 30 Days of Night is dark - literally and thematically - and a dystopian tale that introduces a group of strangers to the far-flung town of Barrow, Alaska as the town prepares for it's annual polar night of thirty days.

Right off the bat I found this natural event vastly interesting. Thirty days of night - you can crank out a slew of horror/thriller films based on that backdrop alone. Nevermind the fact audiences are treated to one of the most visceral depictions of vampires this side of Christopher Lee. Based on the comic book of the same name by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith 30 Days of Night is the unholy trifecta of skilled photography, narration and practical effects. Other than the lackluster score by Brian Reitzell 30 Days of Night is the best vampire depiction in the last twenty years, easy.

Films shot in far-off, snow-covered, remote towns piques my interest due to the level of survival needed to simply to exist there. Everything has to be done with the consideration to basic human needs. While I have driven in snow, built snowmen, tossed snowballs at my kids, I have not lived in snow, and wish to continue that streak. It's a tough way of life, and not for everyone. When night descends many townsfolk leave while other remain. So the people of Barrow, Alaska are a hardy folk. David Slade previous film Hard Candy ( 2005) showed audiences he can craft meaningful characters whom viewers can identify with and root for.

We are introduced to Eben Olseson, played by Josh Hartnett, a local sheriff trying to keep the peace, and every now and then remind citizens like Beau Bower played by Mark Boone Junior of Batman Begins (2005) fame they are part of the community too. Eben's estranged wife Stella , played by Melissa George is trying to leave town via the last plane out before it's too late. Fun fact: it was too late. They're just going to have to kill and make up.

Strange occurrences begin to happen in Barrow. Sled dogs are slain, transports and communications are sabotaged, and nerves are set on edge. A raggedy man dubbed The Stranger, played by Ben Foster, is arrested at a diner but gloats about his friends and their impending arrival, and his ascension to their ranks. Ben Foster gives a chilling performance as what we might call a vampire server: humans that are promised immortality if they do their masters bidding - no 2024 MAGA political pun there! We don't have to wait long for the blood to spill, courtesy of the vampire leader, played exquisitely by Danny Huston with strong performances by Andrew Stehlin and Megan Franich.

One kill turns into two kills, turns into a house invasions which opens up the floodgates to a brief, one-sided battle in the streets. The photography of Jo Willems (who would later do the Hunger Games franchise) captures scale and futility of the human's desperately trying to fend off these otherworld creatures in dramatic overhead shots. The fight for survival turns into a deadly cat and mouse game where humans are used as bait to flush out those still breathing. Things come to a head when Eden and the vampire leader guide their cohorts to a satisfying and heart-breaking conclusion.

While ravenous, violent and largely uncaring, the vampires are not without a plan. They make concerted efforts not to "turn" anyone else, and they have a strategy to conceal their deeds for when sunlight returns. The vampires have a hierarchy, and this frameworks suits Danny Huston well as the actor is cast in roles typically asking him to exude cruel, white-collar leadership. It's a shame the follow-up to 30 Days of Night was a clunker otherwise this could have been a long-running franchise.

Who will enjoy 30 Days of Night? Fans of vampires, practical effects, character-driven narratives, really cold places.

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