With Hollywood realizing that they are quickly running out of ideas, it was only a matter of time that they moved from purchasing books to purchasing graphic novels. It was also only a matter of time until they started purchasing utter crap within the graphic novel genre. Luckily for audiences, 30 Days of Night happens to be not only one of the best horror graphic novels, but also translates into one of the best horror films in a long time.
In the small Alaskan town of Barrow, they go through an entire month of darkness once a year. 30 days of night, and no sunlight. A stranger (Ben Foster) comes into town, preparing it for the evil that awaits in the darkness. Destroying cell phones, utilities and any forms of transportation, the stranger is preparing the town for a gang of vampires that have no weaknesses in a place without sunlight. Eben (Josh Hartnett) and Stella (Melissa George) are the only forms of law in the town, and must help its survivors last the month.
This has been one of my most highly awaited films of the year. Written for the screen by Steve Niles, and directed by last year’s surprise newcomer David Slade (Hard Candy), 30 Days of Night shows us the new face of horror. I can’t help but compare it to 28 Days Later, and not too shabby of a comparison considering most people would call 28 Days one of the best horror films in the past fifteen years. When I make the comparison, I make it because both of the films fall into the genre of survival horror. They are not films that scare you with escalating soundtracks or computer generated crap, they scare you through the danger that looms throughout the film. It’s just as scary to be face to face with evil, as it is to know that evil is coming after you and you have no escape.
Not to say that 30 Days of Night doesn’t have any action, because it definitely does. The images seemed to have been plucked from Ben Templesmith’s brain, and slammed aggressively onto the screen by Slade. One of the coolest scenes was to see the vampires come out in full force, as the camera give you a bird’s eye view of the carnage and death throughout the town. One problem I have with most horror films, especially vampire films, is that vampires either look incredibly CG fake, or they look too pretty and clean. Slade and Niles’ vampires were perfect. Dark, haunting, evil, and definitely not human, these vampires are sure to set a standard for what is to come. The film’s visuals of blood and gore aren’t just used as filler as they are in most films, they are used as a catalyst in setting up the audience for fear. Another reason that horror films usually come up short, is also in the performances by the actors.
28 Days Later showed us a horror film with emotions and passion. Cilian Murhpy catapulted himself into stardom with a performance that most directors would kill for. Josh Hartnett would not have exactly been my first choice for Eben, but after speaking with Steve Niles I felt much more comfortable with the choice. Steve referenced Hartnett’s somewhat Inuit appearance, and his performance in Lucky Number Slevin. While I wouldn’t call anything that Hartnett has done spectacular, I would say that 30 Days of Night is the first time I have actually seen him act. This is Hartnett’s best performance yet. So with great direction, great writing and a great lead performance, where could you go wrong?
The Upside: The new face of horror, and Josh Hartnett’s best performance yet.
The Downside: A sluggish middle, the film’s near two hour runtime could have been reduced.
On the Side: Filming took 70 days, as scheduled.