Review: 30 Days of Night

Is this the movie that makes vampires scary again?

Because they’re not. Scary. Not scary. At all.

Vampires have been EVERYWHERE for the past 10 years, and Hollywood hasn’t seemed to catch on to the fact that familiarity destroys fear. Kills it. Dead.

So does 30 Days of Night change all that?

It tries, and it comes close to succeeding in a number of ways.

First off, I have never read the comic book upon which this film is based, so I can’t comment on how faithful it adheres to the original work. I can only judge it on its own merits. 30 Days of Night has a higher hurdle to clear in order to be successfully scary because, duh, it is a vampire movie and bloodsuckers haven’t been frightening since Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That being said, the plot does make a few deviations from the “standard” vampire lore and makes a very nice attempt at being a great horror flick. It doesn’t actually succeed, but it comes very close.

So… vampires. What’s new and different here?

The setting, for one. Small, isolated town+30 days without sunlight+vampires= a nice setup if you ask me. The whole “30 Days Without Sunlight” angle DOES, in fact, HAPPEN when you go far enough north, so it makes perfect sense that if there are people up there then vampires would have a field day. And that’s what this movie is about. Vampires invade the town and kill most of the population in short order, and the rest of the movie is the handful of survivors trying to… ummm… survive.

These vampires aren’t “cool” or “slick”… they are ugly, vicious, nasty monsters. They don’t have a standard set of fangs… every fucking tooth in their MOUTH is a fang, which looks awesome. They don’t do a lot of blood drinking, either, although I’m sure a lot of it takes place off camera. Most of what you see them doing is ripping people’s throats out, which is much better than just puncturing jugulars. There is the whole “bitten by a vampire=turn into a vampire” thing that becomes a major plot point in a few places, but in a refreshing twist, these vamps are practicing population control. They don’t WANT to make more vamps, they just want to eat. Weaknesses? Sunlight and decapitation. There were apparently no wooden stakes or crosses in the entire town, apparently… and in the case of crosses it actually makes sense, since these vamps were smart enough to prepare things ahead of time. Too bad their caretaker didn’t think to gather up all the guns as well, because large caliber bullets to the head work pretty well against these vamps too.

The main thing this movie has going for it is the tension that runs from beginning to end. We’ve all seen vampire carnage before, and in THIS case the vampire carnage seems more like fast-zombie carnage. Nothing really ground-breaking in that. But here they’ve added a slick concept (sunlight-sensitive vampires invade for 30 days of sun-free fun), vampires that actually attempt to look and act frightening, and a pretty good story to go with it. The production quality and FX were good, but the ending was not enough of a payoff for all they made us sit through.

Don’t get me wrong, the WAY the story ended was perfect. But the climax of the movie… just wasn’t. Sure, it ended the story, but it did nothing about the dramatic tension they’d been building up for the last hour and a half. Plus, one of the golden rules of writing is that nothing happens by accident. But here, after the hero takes probably the most unexpected action I’ve seen in a vamp and/or zombie flick, he vanquishes the lead vampire with what looks to me like a lucky shot. Yeah, I guess it could be argued that the lead vampire underestimated his opponent at a crucial moment, but from where I was sitting it looked like the hero just got lucky and that’s just not supposed to happen. And when the hero took that unexpected action, I was wondering if he, as a character, had the… I guess “balls” is the only way to say it… to carry it through. He doesn’t, but he had his lucky rabbit’s foot so it turns out okay either way.

So overall, what do I think:

+5: Vampires+30 Days of Darkness. Cool!
+5: Vampires that are actual monsters like they’re supposed to be.
+2: Vampires vs. Heavy Machinery.
+1: Best line in the movie: “They don’t fall when you shoot ’em!” “…hell, neither do I!”
+1: They had the balls to end the movie the way it should have ended.

but

-6: Disappointing climax. Blink and you’ll miss it entirely. No lie.
-5: Vampires. I mean… vampires. C’mon.
-3: Otherwise intelligent characters doing incredibly stupid things. Not a lot, but once is all it takes.

Bottom line?
If you’re one of those people who like vampire movies (despite the fact that there hasn’t been a good one in 20 years) then you’ll love this one. Go see it now. Don’t worry about if it might suck; it doesn’t.

If you’re like everyone else and can’t possibly see how vamps can be scary, then wait until this one comes out on DVD. But when it does, definitely go see it. You’ll be surprised at how good it is, you just don’t want to pay full movie price.


12 Comments

  1. Loki, October 27, 2007:

    I probably shouldn’t say this around DI, but my favorite vamp movie was The Interview of the Vampire. It followed the book decently enough and I thought most of the actors were fucking excellent.

    My opinion. Don’t kick me out of ebil club. (Purposely spelled error there.)

  2. DarkIcon, October 27, 2007:

    Interview was decent, but I didn’t read the book. It was a good story, but at no point did I feel like they were actually trying to frighten or horrify me. Okay, I take that back… the parts with the little girl vampire were disturbing. Oddly enough, there’s a little girl vampire in 30 Days of Night that was pretty damn disturbing, too.

  3. Loki, October 27, 2007:

    Gonna have to watch 30 Days of Night to comment on that one.

    The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice are one of the few series that I reread pretty regularly. Memnoch the Devil especially.

    Speaking of horror movies, what did you think of Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects?

  4. DarkIcon, October 27, 2007:

    BTW, my favorite vampire movie was Near Dark. Not scary in the least. But a good story. Here, in 30 Days of Night, they were actually trying to scare you with vampires, something that hasn’t seriously been attempted in since… when? John Carpenter’s Vampires? How long ago was THAT?

  5. Loki, October 27, 2007:

    J.C’s. Vampires was a good one…the sequel sorta sucked. Can’t remember Near Dark.

  6. nate, October 28, 2007:

    I’ll see it on DVD eventually. Vampires are one of my favorites.

    Carpenter’s Vampires was excellent, but I agree with the comments on the sequal.

    I also really like both the Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman versions of the movie Dracula. Neither one was really frightening, but the story is excellent. I’ve never read the book though.

    Anne Rice’s Interview I tried to read, but I just couldn’t stand her writing style. The movie wasn’t anything special, but I agree about the little girl. I believ she grew up to be Mary Jane Parker. Oddly enough, I did read Anne’s book Christ the child and liked it. I’m not catholic, but am Christian, and while the book is a work of historical fantasy I still found it interesting and much easier to read than Interview was.

    DI should do a vampire some time. I’ll bet he could make them scary again.

  7. Loki, October 30, 2007:

    Nate- Never seen Bela Lugosi’s version but Gary Oldman’s was decent (must be the romantic coming out in me). I have yet to seen a ‘scary’ vampire movie that has even sent a shiver down my spine.

    I started a vampire story bout a year ago and wrote shitloads of notes and about 50 pages worth of words yet never finished it (surprise surprise). Maybe I will get back into it after all this talk.

    I had a hard time reading Anne Rice at first (i was 12 when i first read Interview of the Vampire) but the more I read the more I began to like it. Christ, Our Lord was good I guess, never really got into it though.

    And yes, DI should do a vampire story.

  8. nate, October 31, 2007:

    Loki – If you get a chance to see the Lugosi version, do so. It’s not frightening, but it is pretty interesting and considering the time period it was filmed in it’s quite good. The guy who plays Renfield really does a good job.

    I also like Boris Karloff version of Frankenstein from the same period of time. I haven’t yet seen the Mummy or Wolfman, but they’re on my list.

  9. udgang99, November 3, 2007:

    Haven’t seen 30 Days yet, but I’m kinda looking forward to it. I tried reading the comic a few years back, but I couldn’t get past the first 20 pages or so … maybe it was because of the art.

    I really liked Interview – both the book and the movie. And I think it’s a mistake to say that they weren’t scary – not because they WERE scary, but more because they weren’t suppose to be scary … at least not in the shock-scream kinda way. I see it more as a fasinating/psycological “thriller”. The vamps in Rice’s books aren’t monsters … they are “beautiful killers”, that has the same appeal has modernday serial killers aso … whatever that means.

  10. DarkIcon, November 4, 2007:

    I agree, udgang… and that’s exactly my point. Very few people even TRY to make vampires scary these days. Now its all about how “cool” they are. As a result, it is near impossible to even CONCEIVE of a frightening vampire any more. They’re all just goths with superpowers now. That’s why a movie like 30 Days of Night has such a long, steep, uphill battle. I’m glad they tried, though. I hope they make a lot of money so they’ll try again.

  11. udgang99, December 6, 2007:

    I finally saw it last night … and I greatly enjoyed it! It wasn’t really scary, but the tension was great, and I thought the actors did a really good job.

  12. DarkIcon, February 29, 2008:

    This movie is out on DVD now. Worth a rent or download if you haven’t seen it already.

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