Vampires. Once they were blood thirsty beasts to be feared, predators at the top of the food chain. But things change over time, and though they are immortal, so did vampires. Over the years, various authors and filmmakers, through numerous attempts to make vampires appeal to a wider audience, softened vampires up. Turned them from terrifying creatures of the night to brooding characters who spend less time craving blood and more time pining for the love of mortal women. Before you jump on me for swinging at low-hanging fruit, I’m not just talking about Twilight, here. There have been many offenders committing this crime long before your average Twi-Hard was even born.
In 2002, comic book writer and horror aficionado Steve Niles, along with artist and known baby eater Ben Templesmith, released a comic book that had hopes to change all of that, to help return the vampire to it’s more noble, if primitive and beastly, past. In 2007, this comic book was adapted into a film and I’m glad it was, because it’s tonight’s feature: 30 Days of Night
Year Released: 2007
Written By: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson
Directed By: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
With a population of just over four thousand people, the sleepy town of Barrow, Alaska doesn’t normally see much action throughout the year. Though every year, they experience a phenomenon known as a “Polar Night”, where the entire town is plunged into darkness for exactly one month. They experience 30 days of night.
While preparing for this annual event, sheriff Eben Oleson and his soon-to-be ex-wife Stella come across a stranger from out of town who has destroyed all means of communication with the outside world upon his arrival, effectively stranding the entire town for the next thirty days. The Olesons haul the stranger to jail and work on restoring communications with the outside world, but the stranger warns them that it’s far too late for that.
He tells them that death is coming and that the next month will be hell. As an unspeakable evil descends on Barrow, the stranger is proven right and few will get out alive.
Let me just say, thank god for Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. I’ve never met either of them, but if I ever do, I’m not sure I’ll be able to withstand the urge to hug them for making what is one of my favorite comics and for helping to restore my faith, and fear, in vampires.
The vampires in 30 Days of Night are vicious killing machines that have no desire to be loved by humans. Their intelligence is not presented in the form of wisdom or being at all cerebral, but rather as the sort of raw and brutal instinct of a predator. The shark is so good at killing because it has been killing for so long that it has become engineered to do so, a process of evolution that is made clear to also be in effect for these vampires.
That said, the effects department on this film did a fantastic job of capturing the fearsome beasts on the comic book page.
This is also a gorgeous movie to look at. I mean, it’s so dark and bloody and terrifying, but it also pulls you in and makes you feel like you’re a part of that world, like you’re trapped in Barrow, Alaska with everyone else. David Slade has directed three feature films: The artfully disturbing Hard Candy, released in 2005. This film, in 2007. And the third entry into the Twilight franchise, entitled Eclipse, in 2010.
You did not read that wrong. David Slade went from a film that stands as one of the most brutal depictions of vampires on screen, to the third film in a franchise about a young girl falling in love with a brooding vampire with poofy hair. I do not judge Slade for this choice, mind you. I’m merely pointing it out.
Full disclosure: I have begrudgingly seen all of the Twilight films so far (they are so much easier to handle than the books, I promise) and of all of them, Eclipse is by far the best. Granted, some of you may be thinking “Saying something is the best Twilight movie is not exactly a shining endorsement” and you’re right, really. But that does not detract from Slade’s talent as a filmmaker or his ability to tell a story that genuinely frightens you and makes you think.
The acting in 30 Days of Night (miles ahead of that in any of the Twilight films, okay now I am grabbing at low-hanging fruit) is super, as the performances of both Ben Foster and Danny Huston steal the film. Ben Foster playing The Stranger who brings warnings of death to Barrow is creepy and foreboding, while Danny Huston portraying Marlow, the leader of the attacking vampires as well as representing the death of which The Stranger spoke, is deliciously evil and rightfully blood thirsty.
Should You See It:
If you like vampires, but find yourself getting tired of the same old depictions of them as anti-heroes or brooding love puppies, this is the film for you.
There is a sequel to this film, released in 2010 and directed by Ben Ketai, who is very much not David Slade, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days was a bit of fun straight-to-DVD fare that was relatively decent. My main issues with it are the lack of returning cast members from the original film, as well as the obviously smaller budget. While there’s no way to tell which parts of the film were written by Steve Niles and which parts were co-written by Ben Ketai, I’m confident that most of the scenes in 30 Days of Night: Dark Days that I enjoyed were probably the work of Niles himself.