30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007)
DIRECTOR: David Slade.
STARRING: Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down 2001), Danny Huston (X-men Origins: Wolverine 2009) and Ben Foster (The Mechanic 2011).
Stephen King once wrote that the macabre can generally be broken down into three categories:
1) TERROR - Thinking maybe there's a monster on the other side of the door.
2) HORROR - Opening the door and seeing the monster.
3) GROSS OUT EFFECT - Opening the door and seeing that the monster is holding a severed, bloody head with one eyeball hanging out.
Over the years, that formula has stayed with me when viewing any film about things that go bump in the night. And the track record has shown that without a balance of all three, things usually go very wrong. More often than not, a film that is supposed to make my skin crawl usually ends up leaving me laughing.
This is not the case with 30 Days of Night, for it has the perfect blend of all three elements.
"There is no escape. No hope. Only hunger and pain."
A small town in Northern Alaska shuts down for a month every year because of a complete absence of sunlight. The majority of the residents leave for other climes, while a few stout-minded individuals stay...only this time, they regret that decision.
For a clan of the undead have realized that four weeks of darkness means optimal feeding conditions.
This is not a "slasher, have a bunch of friends over, scream/laugh fest" movie. Its primary goal is atmosphere and stunning cinematography, better suited for solitary viewing, or maybe while on the couch, under a blanket, next to someone warm for your form. Minimally, the only people who should be in the room are ones that know how to be silent and have an attention span.
- As mentioned above, it is the perfect blend of terror, horror and gross-out effect.
- I'd classify myself as a "visual bliss junkie" and this film delivers a healthy fix. The director of photography was exceptionally creative. A good majority of the frames shot could easily be hung on a wall as art. Disturbing art, but still...
"That cold ain't the weather. That's death approaching."
- Overall, the actors are solid, but Ben Foster as "The Stranger" executes an exceptionally convincing creepy performance. Very disturbing and unsettling. Might give you second thoughts on the supposed hipness of beards.
- Throughout European history, vampires were not sexy, sparkling creatures. They were higher-functioning undead intent on one thing and one thing only: feeding. Their hair wasn't conditioned, their clothing had mold and they reeked of death. Although Bram Stoker's novel Dracula modernized the myth, vampires in the 20th century became more about sex than fear. I think the only sexy vampires I ever cared for were theBut in this film? We see and experience vampires as they should be seen: agents of evil intent on blood and carnage.
This is NOT a vampire...
- From the opening image of the Columbia logo to the final frame, an atmosphere of terror pervades, almost leading to a sense of suffocation (in the good Halloween kind of way.) This isn't meant to be 90 minutes of shocking imagery merely intended for gross-out effect (although there is much of that in the film.) It's meant to be a horror experience, not just an emotional roller coaster ride.
- This is the horror genre, so much suspension of disbelief is required. Even though this is an excellent film on many levels, there are some plot holes. Plot holes big enough to drive several hearses through.
- Although there is some hauntingly intense dialogue that will echo in your mind while trying to sleep later in your bed, there are also certain things said that would've better been left unspoken. Have a box of crackers on hand, for there is some cheese.- If you're intent on a fast paced, 30-camera-angles-per-second movie with tons of action, this might not be optimal for you. There is much of what I'd classify as "action awesomeness" in the flick, but it's very much tempered with silence and suspense.
- Josh Hartnett is ok in the lead role, but it might have been better served with an unknown actor that could've gone a bit more gritty.
ACTIONAGOGO OR ACTIONANONO?
If you're looking for a solid horror film, intent on visuals and atmosphere, that still in no way is afraid of holding back on the gross out effect, 30 Days of Night is something you should definitely check out, especially on Blu-ray.
However, if you're looking for fun and fast paced, may be best to move on.
Saw this film when it first came out in 2007 and it really left its mark. Watched it twice again this past week in prep for this review. And because of that staying power, and again, because I'm a visual bliss junkie, this film gets:
4 OUT OF 5 ARNOLDS!
Find a person who's hand you want to hold, nuke some popcorn, turn off the lights and I guarantee a solid Halloween movie experience.
Here's an original trailer for the film to get a taste.
is the science fiction columnist for Action A Go Go. His favorite sci-fi series include Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. He can be followed on Twitter at or on the Tumblr machine at .
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