November 12, 2007

Vampires Are Constantly Thirsty

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Not as overly stylized as more recent Frank Miller graphic novel adaptations to the screen, 30 Days of Night has its own style that makes for a gruesome adaptation. The story is simple: Bloodthirsty vampires come to Barrow, Alaska for a blood orgy of a feast at a time where night lasts for one whole month. It’s up to Sheriff Eban Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and his wife Stella (Melissa George) to thwart the destruction of their town and ensure the survivors make it until day break.

30 Days of Night follows the same set of three rules that apply to most vampire movies: 1) Vampires are constantly thirsty, 2) They can only survive in darkness, and 3) Guns don’t kill them, but merely annoy them. Oh, and apparently they’re lightning quick. These vampires had quite the makeup job as they were pasty white-skinned, bald, with irregular shaped heads. Staining their faces with blood constantly paralleled the red blood contrasting the mix with the white floor of snow. The vampires are depicted as creatures, not as human at all, as they shriek and even have battle cries.

One thing I never got was how vampires were always hungry even after consuming massive amounts of victims. They must have some speedy metabolisms. So my intuition led me to question the entire concept of the film. Why would constantly hungry vampires venture to a small isolated town with a very small population? Wouldn’t they just be better off staying on the streets of New York City and feasting at night? They’d have more to eat and a certainly a greater variety. Having said that, the concept of having a month’s long worth of darkness provides a great hunting ground for vampires. At times it seemed like the vampires wouldn’t walk, but instead glide and this inconsistency in the story bothered me. Either walk all the time or glide, or explain why their movement mode switches back and forth.

In the beginning, a stranger is introduced who foretells the coming of this pack of vampires in so many words. However, like him and the vampires themselves, there was no real back story for them. It seemed that they were just placed there without any recollection of where they came from. This was just another minor distraction throughout the course of the movie as there’s no rhyme or reason for most of the action. Also, Eban and Stella’s marriage is on the rocks and we’re not given any insight as to why this is. So when it comes time to wrap things up and have them fall back in each others’ arms, we just sit there and are forced to accept that a traumatic life threatening event brought them back full circle in their everlasting covenant of love.

Overall, 30 Days of Night was repetitious compared to others of its genre. At no point was it at all scary or suspenseful and for a horror flick, one would expect those elements to be present. It didn’t expand upon its predecessors like the Blade series, or even Rage Virus victims gone mad in 28 Days Later. Blade contained some humor in addition to well executed action scenes. 28 Days Later, although not quite vampires, was thought provoking and very unique.

The film definitely lacked originality. There wasn’t anything really drawn out, which avoids dwelling on standoff moments, but also it suffered because the action scenes were cut short. 30 Days of Night’s version of horror is just having these vampires jump fangs first into the frame right for the victim’s throat. It didn’t really provoke any startling moments. However, I will say the music was perfectly selected during these feasting scenes. It was heart pounding and really drew you into the scene (as much as one could be).
With practically a no name cast, Josh Hartnet carried everyone from start to finish. This marks his second graphic novel adaptation appearance, the first being Sin City. In this one, he plays a much bigger role, given he’s the star. He and the locals get more face time than the vampires as they display classic behaviors found in horror films (just not actually scary to the viewer). Usually I hate Josh Hartnett, well not hate, rather just a dislike for, but in 30 Days of Night, he seems genuine and does a good job. Better than being in Ben Affleck’s shadow in Pearl Harbor.

In a more concentrated aspect of the horror genre, 30 Days of Night brings nothing new to the table. The vampires would have been better off being zombies or Rage Virus victims of 28 Days Later; that way they wouldn’t have to trek all the way to snowy Alaska, a dead man’s town, especially once they get done with it. You should probably just wait until I am Legend. It’s Will Smith, c’mon.