30 Days of Night (2-disc DVD)

If 28 Weeks Later reinvented the zombie genre, then 30 Days of Night takes the vampire film by the scruff of the neck and rewrites the rulebook. Even more impressively it is (for the first hour at least) one of the best horror films around. When it reaches the slightly weaker second half it is never anything less than entertaining.

The small town of Barrow in Alaska is preparing for the winter where due to its geographical location the sun does not rise for 30 days. Most of the town’s folk have left and a handful of hardy souls a preparing themselves for the month ahead. As Sheriff Eben Oleson (Hartnett) does his rounds he encounters a strange babbling individual who warns of impending doom. He’s not wrong as hoards of vampires descend on the town and savage the few survivors left behind. The sheriff finds himself locked in an attic with a few frightened individuals with only a few days passing into the 30 days, and so decides to confront the beasts outside. As premises go this is pretty darn perfect. Sunlight, the undoing of so many cinematic bloodsuckers is not an option, so we are left in the unknown. Hartnett although never really that convincing, still manages to convey the stoicism that is needed for such a role. Its Foster and in particular George that impress, and the latter proves to be much more than just a scream queen in distress.

The film’s comic-book sensibilities to show from time to time, and there are huge gaps which although not crucial to the plot, would have been helpful in terms of the story and characters. The ending also feels forced and underdeveloped, but doesn’t undo the good work that went before it. The film has received a mixed reception on its cinematic release, and fans of the graphic novel may want to miss this. Sam Raimi, on producer duties here, has created a satisfying and inventive move in the genre. It runs out of steam too soon, but still works on the small screen.

EXTRAS *** First things first, along with the 2-disc DVD you get a nifty little 48-page graphic novel. On disc one, as well as the movie itself, you get a commentary featuring stars Hartnett and George, and producer Rob Tapert (what, were Niles and Slade unavailable?) On the second disc is a whole heap of featurettes that go behind-the-scens of the making of the movie: Pre-Production (adapting the graphic novel for the screen, and assembling the crew); The Vampire (designing the look of the monsters); Building Barrow (what it says on the tin — constructing the sets); The Cast (yep, how they decided who would play whom); The Look; Blood, Guts & Nasty #@$&! (we think they mean "shit"); Night Shoots (all the fun and games in the dark); and Stunts (a look at how they pulled off a few of the film's big action set-pieces). As a package, the whole thing is pretty darn slick. But it still would have been nice to have the writer and director on the commentary.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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