Writers: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson
Director: David Slade
My overwhelming feeling on watching 30 Days of Night was one of disappointment. Apart from the setting, there’s absolutely nothing here we haven’t seen done many times before – and done better.
The film is based on a comic book (which I haven’t read) by Steve Niles and is set in Barrow, Alaska, the Northernmost US town. In the movie it’s so far North that every winter the sun sets for a whole month – in reality it’s more like twice that long. We join the action on the last day of sun when most of the town’s inhabitants are quite sensibly leaving to fly South.
The first clue that this year will be different is when the lawmen find the burnt remains of the town’s cellphones. This is a neat way of getting round one of the difficulties modern technology has created for the horror genre, however it’s inexcusable that two police officers don’t at least consider the implications. It’s not until the town’s only helicopter is destroyed that they realise they’re completely cut off.
Once the sun has set and those remaining in town are totally cut off, the creatures come out. I don’t think it’s any great spoiler to say that the baddies are vampires, and very nicely done they are too. Forget suave noblemen, these are as much animal as human and reminiscent of Nosferatu. They speak some tongue that sounds vaguely central European.
At this stage all is looking good. We have an isolated town facing a month of night and some potentially interesting vampires. Unfortunately 30 Days of Night then proceeds to waste this potential. The film unfolds with almost clockwork predictability as the remaining humans try to hide from then confront the vampires. The very final scene is refreshingly different however it’s too little innovation, far too late.
What’s missing is atmosphere. Maybe it’s the direction, however I suspect that having three writers may well have contributed to the lack of any definite feel to the movie.
The really annoying thing is that the scenario isn’t just wasted, it’s untouched. The whole story is so simple that it could have been written into a single ordinary winter night. There’s no real sense of time passing and the tension that would build up having to evade death for that long. I’d have liked to see more of the psychological effect of the situation rather than a formulaic humans vs monsters tale.
30 Days of Night isn’t a bad film, it’s competent and watchable. It’s just that it’s not a particularly good film. It’s rather a waste of what could have been a very tense and claustrophobic situation.
As I said at the beginning: disappointing.