30 DAYS OF NIGHT. Vampires bite, people shoot, blood flows..
However, not always does the object of our expectations fulfill the hopes placed in it. Often idealized, in the viewer’s imagination, it can grow into the proportions of a grand, timeless work, and in the case of horror, which will be discussed here, a terrifying, bloody, and taboo-breaking one. Nevertheless, the spark of hope that once ignited could not be extinguished. It would seem that the film discussed below came to the screens at the right moment, when, riding on the wave of Twilight, there can never be too much vampire-themed content. However, David Slade’s film has nothing to do with the well-groomed bloodsuckers from the covers of youth magazines.
Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, acclaimed authors of many comics featuring vampires and demons today, jointly created a work in 2002 that earned them eternal respect among a lion’s share of graphic novel enthusiasts. 30 Days of Night, the story of Barrow, a town located in distant Alaska where night prevails continuously for thirty days a year, captivated crowds of readers worldwide.
Today, the cycle of vampire stories has many sequels and adaptations, with several authors contributing to it. The titular days of night is a period when the sun sets for a full month each year, covering Barrow with a blanket of darkness. What is a routine phenomenon for the townspeople becomes an opportunity for a free and quick feast without effort for the vampire population. According to the predetermined rules of the game, vampires are extremely susceptible to sunlight, and since some of them are not very honest players, they decide to tilt the balance in their favor by arriving in Barrow during the perpetual night. The population of the town is about 500 souls, ensuring food for the entire month for a large vampire family. However, before the creatures completely spread out in this unusual fast-food, they will have to face Eben Oleman, the local sheriff, for whom the town’s residents are more than just a meal on Count Dracula’s table. The pawns are on the chessboard; the game of survival begins.
30 Days of Night surprised with plot twists, dark humor, and Templesmith’s demonic drawing style. And 30 Days of Night movie? It’s challenging to compare two completely different media: film and comic, but it is possible to anticipate the reactions of fans of Niles’ graphic novel and those unfamiliar with the story presented in the film. The first group of viewers will probably approach the screening with curiosity and some excitement at the thought of bringing Templesmith’s phantasmagorical visions to life. Nothing could be further from the truth, although it must be admitted that the snow-covered and darkened town at the edge of the world is the perfect setting for a horror film. The creators of the comic could not have imagined a better Barrow: cool color palette, shades of blue-gray, solitary buildings where anything could lurk. It is regrettable that the only thing lurking around the corner is a vampire with a face sculpted by a computer graphic artist. Despite the artist’s participation in the film production, little remains of his vision. The main players – the clan of vampires arriving in Alaska – frighten not with fangs and claws but with artificial and plastic physiognomies. Unfortunately, computer effects must acknowledge the superiority of ink and brush, and Templesmith’s internal demons remain present only in the form we know from paper pages.
Taking into account the claims of the second group of viewers going to see 30 Days of Night, who probably desire a good action-horror film, fast-paced action, and a few vampire heads as trophies, Slade’s film cannot be denied that it fulfilled its task. The biggest drawback seems to be the unfortunate plot construction, weakening the dynamics and coherence of the film. Instead of serving the audience with an atmosphere of growing threat and impatient anticipation of daylight, Slade opted for a time jump, losing many of those thirty days of night. The slowly built atmosphere of survival horror is disrupted by the mentioned directorial trick.
The story of 30 Days of Night, despite Steve Niles’ involvement in writing the screenplay, departs in many moments from its older brother. It seems that during these five years between the film and the comic, vampires underwent a mental regression. Slade’s bloodsuckers communicate with inarticulate grunts, which according to the authors were supposed to symbolize animalization and align vampires with the predators of the world’s known fauna. Perhaps this idea looked attractive in the project, but in the film, it might be somewhat amusing. Moreover, a small inconsistency: for predators relying on instinct, vampires did quite well in developing strategic plans for attacking Barrow and actions within the town. Furthermore, Slade deprived the invaders of a sense of humor. In 30 Days of Night, humor played a significant role, contributing significantly to the non-stereotypical portrayal of vampires in the comic.
However, this does not change the fact that if we cut out the unnecessary and implausible scenes meant to deepen the relationships between the characters, we are left with pure action. Vampires bite, people shoot, blood flows from arteries like from fountains, and vampire heads literally explode after colliding with speeding bullets. Certainly, the camera work, reminiscent of Romero’s films, can impress many times, focusing on the emptiness of Barrow’s deserted streets, with the climax being the massacre scene shown from a bird’s-eye view. Poetry of blood, a massacre orgy – one might add. Overlooking the shortcomings (which film doesn’t have them!), 30 Days of Night is not the worst choice for a weekend screening. It won’t blow you away, won’t enchant you, will probably fade from memory within a few hours, may be a bit boring, but it will also provide gallons of gore and a dozen discharged bullets.
Words by Bartosz Czartoryski