A dark and nasty force descends on the isolated town of Barrow, Alaska, in 30 Days of Night, and if you thought it was a horde of bloodthirsty vampires you’d only be half right in this paint-by-numbers denture drama that’s heavy on the red corn syrup and devoid of much else. Heralded by some as the movie that puts the fright factor back in vampires after TV shows like Buffy and Angel turned them into lounge singers, crime fighters and less-than-threatening freaks of the week, 30 Days of Night did little more than vamp my ire at the Hollywood hype machine for marketing a fairly pedestrian big budget B movie as a new and innovative twist on a somewhat forlorn horror genre.
Harnett stars as the uni-browed sheriff of this small Alaskan outpost, isolated from the rest of the state by a lack of roads and inaccessible by sea or (inexplicably) air during the winter months when the northern sun dips below the horizon throwing the town into the titular month-long darkness. Thus the stage is set for an all-night buffet as a boatload of vampires arrive at sundown and begin draining the town dry. Based on the graphic novel miniseries by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night teeters dangerously close to comic absurdity at times, particularly whenever the vampires communicate using a subtitled language that makes them sound like Slavic Chewbaccas with cleft palates. It’s pretty hard to be scared when you’re holding back the giggles as the lead baddie (Huston) barks out something that sounds like “ack wack bubba-duck bokay”.
Director Slade does a good job trying to keep the story moving; however ,somewhere along the way, maybe in the screenplay or editing stage, what little that was interesting ends up being given short shrift in the quest to infuse the plot with action. The enigmatic and talented Foster, last seen chewing up the screen as psycho gunslinger Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma, is wasted here as a mysterious stranger (seemingly the vampire ship’s human captain — it’s never explained) who wanders into Barrow with the bloodsuckers on his trail.
The result is a film that coalesces into a sort of Northern Exposure meets Night of the Living Dead, with little of what made the latter so terrifying, unless you consider three inch fingernails, bad dentures and blood smeared faces terrifying. In fact, this film contains none of the inventiveness, terror and interesting characters of Near Dark, the brutal 1987 Kathryn Bigelow vampire movie to which some are saying it shares the mantle of genuinely terrifying vampire films. Yes, a pale “horse” truly does ride into Barrow, Alaska. But in this case, the pallor is that of boredom and a poorly realised story, and nothing more.
SECOND OPINION | Stuart O'Connor ** I went into the preview screening really, really wanting to like this film. I just love a good vampire flick, and sadly, there hasn't been one of those for a very long time now. And 30 Days of Night continues that trend. A brilliant premise — a month of complete darkness that vampires can use to their advantage — is ultimately wasted here and the film ends up simply a mess. Character development seems to be forgotten in place of action. It lacks suspense, and there is no real sense of claustrophobia as there was with John Carpenter's 1982 classic The Thing, or Ridley Scott's Alien. There a giant plot holes, and big gaps in the storyline — due, I fear, to poor editing. The filmmakers seem to have relied heavily on an overabundance of gore to cover up the problems. Sorry guys, that doesn't work. The only real highlight for me was Melissa George, who turns in a stunningly good performance — she's come a long way since her early days on the trashy Australian soap Home & Away, and is the one saving grace in an otherwise drab affair.