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30 Days of Night (2007) - Movie Review

30 Days of Night movie poster

I wonder why we’re so fascinated with monsters? Zombies, vampires, werewolves...the thing under the bed waiting to grab our leg as we get in it at night…

I guess it all starts when we’re kids, and we read, or are told stories. Children’s imaginations are so powerful, and I’m sure that as much as we let go of certain beliefs and fears as we get older, there are some we still like to indulge no matter how old we get.

For me, vampires have always been an obsession, as has horror in general. From books I read as a kid to films I’ve watched over the years, few monsters fascinate me as much as the blood sucking creatures of the night.

Hollywood has made a LOT of money out of our love of this genre over the years, but not every vampire movie I’ve watched has left an impression on me. This one however…

30 Days of Night (2007)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s one of the better vampire/horror movies. It stars Josh Hartnett (The Faculty), Melissa George (Paradise Lost), Danny Huston (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) among others.

It’s based on the three issue horror comic-book miniseries of the same name written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith.

This is what it’s about:

“After the Alaskan town of Barrow is plunged into darkness for a month, a gang of bloodthirsty vampires descends on the town to feed on the helpless and unsuspecting residents. Sheriff Eben (Hartnett), his wife (George) and a dwindling band of survivors must try to last until dawn breaks over Barrow's monthlong twilight.”

Forget your sparkly, angst-ridden, broody, lovey-dovey vampires, this is what it’s all about! The vampires in this movie are exactly what vampires should be; ugly, mean, nasty, compassionless monsters with only one thing on their minds…blood (and there’s plenty of it).

Refreshingly unlike any vampires we’ve seen before, the ones in this film are much more savage and determined and even speak their own unique language which just adds to their unnerving quality. When the killing starts it’s a blood bath, which makes for some delishiously graphic and gory scenes.

The thing I like most about this film is how different it feels to most other vampire movies. The premise is refreshingly original and it has a really ominous tone right from the beginning. It also bothers to spend a good chunk of time introducing and establishing the characters before any vampires even appear on screen.

The tension builds perfectly as the townspeople are steadily cut off from the outside world, thanks to the sabotaging efforts of Ben Foster’s character who believes he’ll be rewarded for his efforts by being turned into a vampire. All of this happens in the final hours of what daylight they have left, and knowing what’s to come creates a genuine sense of dread before it even properly kicks off.

The location obviously helps too, with the bleak landscape and icy temperatures adding to the misery of the whole situation.

I’ve never been a fan of Josh Hartnett but I do like him in this film. I don’t know if it’s the cocky kind of characters he’s tended to play in the past but I’ve always had a weird disliking of him. This movie actually made me see him differently though, and his character is really likeable and easy to root for. He does a great job with it too and it’s probably the best performance I’ve seen him give.

The two stand outs for me though are Danny Houston as Marlow, the main villain, and Ben Foster as 'the stranger'. Both are superb, especially Houston who’s both terrifying and captivating as the uncompromising, almost animal-like leader of the gang of vampires.

My only issue with the movie is how it doesn’t fully convey the amount of time the story is set over. It’s a minor criticism but considering the film is called 30 Days of Night, it feels like most of the story takes place during the first night. As much as I’m not a big fan of long runtimes, I do think this one would’ve benefitted from an extra 30 minutes to really get across the weeks that the survivors are in hiding until the sun comes back up. Josh Hartnett’s facial hair and the occasional day count on screen are about the only ways this is shown.

I actually have this on special edition dvd with a copy of the graphic novel. Weirdly I’ve never read it but based on how the film looks I can imagine it’s pretty faithful to the art in the novel. Visually the film is excellent, with the help of some great CGI that for once in a film like this is used perfectly.

A straight-to-dvd sequel called 30 Days of Night: Dark Days was released in 2010 and attempted to continue the story but I haven’t seen it. It follows the character of Stella (Melissa George’s character from this movie) but she didn’t return for it.

Call me cynical but I’m always wary when a low key sequel to a big movie comes out and none of the original cast are involved…

If like me you like your vampires on the scarier side and have somehow missed this one I highly recommend giving it a watch. It’s definitely one of the better vampire movies of recent years, if not ever.

You can rent it from Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Sky Store, and (I imagine) many of the other increasing number of streaming services.

Seen it? Let me know what you think.

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