30 Days of Night
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir David Slade
scr Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson
with Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Rendall, Manu Bennett, Nathaniel Lees, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Amber Sainsbury, Megan Franich, Joel Tobeck
release US 19.Oct.07, UK 1.Nov.07
07/New Zealand Columbia 1h57
30 Days of Night
Bump in the dark: George and Hartnett

huston foster boone
30 Days of Night Atmospheric and intense although completely preposterous, this Arctic vampire thriller at least has enough energy to distract us from plot holes and wobbly production values. And the cast is extremely watchable.

Barrow, Alaska, is preparing for its annual month of darkness, and Sheriff Eben Oleson (Hartnett) is bemused that his estranged wife Stella (George) is trapped in town after the last flight leaves. Then a stranger (Foster) arrives in town, bad things start to happen, and computers, phones and the power all go out. As night falls, a gang of vicious blood-suckers descends for a 30-day feast. And it's up to a handful of tenacious survivors to stay alive until the sunrise.

Rather than use the actual 24-hour darkness phenomenon, it's as if sun just goes off on holiday (duh, it's a gradual slide). Yet the town is still mysteriously flood-lit, with light gleaming off the bloodstained snow. And so we can see them, the survivors seem to have spotlights in their hideouts, although not a glimmer escapes through peep-holes to alert the villains.

This lack of logic infuses the film, as do disaster movie clichés from the feuding central couple to the massive trash grinder shown pointedly at the beginning (gee, will we see that again?). The characters are ill-defined and uninteresting, so as things start getting nasty, director Slade must resort to tired scare tactics, including shrieking noises on the soundtrack.

Yet from this inauspicious set-up, the film still entertains, mainly because it goes for broke. A few characters emerge from the murk besides Hartnett's relentlessly brave hero and George's tough-minded heroine. Boone is lively and deliberately unpredictable, Rendall does a nice job as the stressed-out little brother, and Huston literally chomps on the scenery as the sharp-fanged leader of the vampires, barking his lines in a language made up for the film.

Overall, the film is freaky and gruesome enough to keep horror fans thrilled, especially as the monsters get stronger, faster, badder and nuttier. While the filmmakers completely waste their central premise and never display a single original idea, at least they recycle things with a bit of style.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, strong grisliness 29.Oct.07

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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall