19 November 2007

30 Days of Night Review

Vampire movies are an interesting bunch; no matter how many times the exact same thing is done, people will almost certainly fork up the dollars for the next one, regardless of it's quality. Thing is, with that in mind, 30 Days of Night is actually surprisingly good.

So, in the tradition of my previous reviews, let's begin with plot. Barrow, northern Alaska, and town Sherrif Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) is coming across all kinds of strange goings on. First, someone steals all the satelite and cell phones from the area and promptly burns them; then kills all of the town's sled-dogs and finally destroys the town's only helicopter. As it turns out, this was the ploy of The Stranger, who acts as a harbringer of 'Them'. And 'They' turn out to be, you guessed it, vampires, and when the town is plunged into thirty days of night, they begin their feasting.

David Slade, in only his second feature, is quickly becoming one of the most interesting directors working today. His first feature - Hard Candy - was a gem of a thriller that this very reviewer cited as an 'engrossing experience', and 30 Days of Night is just as interesting. The first thing that Slade does is use the setting to his advantage; ramping down the colours so that everything is in shades of grey. Except, of course, the reds; and this provides an astonishing contrast when the claret does start a-flowing, with blood spraying across the pitch white snow with astonishing ferocity.

The visualisation of the vampires, too, is quite brilliant, and though it is indeed mostly down to the graphic novel upon which the film is based, it's still a refreshing change from the standard extended canines and shocking blue eyes. And Danny Huston is a fascinating screen presence as the lead vampire Marlowe; delivering the strange, guttaral language of the vamps with a mesmerising gravity.

That's not to say that the film is devoid of other decent performances; Josh Hartnett is an intriguing mess of fuzzy motivations and brown-eyed intensity, and much of the supporting cast is suitably scared and violent in equal measures.

There are some great horror moments too; the little girl who’s turned into a toothy vampire is astonishingly unnerving in its execution, and the scenes of the survivors huddled in various attics and stores keep the tension piled up high. And whilst the story does seem to bounce from totally unpredictable to ‘saw that coming’ at the drop of a hat – including the standard ‘he’s behind you!’ moments and a ending that I honestly never saw coming - it’s easy enough to follow and interesting enough to give the horror scenes that extra oomph.

There is one thing that I’d point out; and that’s that the movie is at the very highest end of the 15 certificate. There are some really quite unpleasant moments – both in terms of gore detail and in terms of amount thereof – that may have some viewers writhing with discomfort, or even forced to leave the cinema.

But if you can bring yourself to stomach that, the 30 Days of Night is a really quite good – though a little short of brilliant – addition to the Vampire-movie canon.

Ross' Rating: 7/10

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