widescreen – Blood, guts and 30 days


I dont care what they are, barks Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett). I just care what they do about them!

The cause for concern in Columbia Pictures new horror/thriller release, 30 Days of Night, is bloodthirsty vampires whove come to feed on a remote Alaskan town plunged into a month of darkness.

Directed by David Slade (Hard Candy) and based on a modern graphic novel, 30 Days is an attempt to revitalize the undead-bloodsucker genre. Stripped of any romanticism and pumped with a considerable amount of gore and faux atmospherics, the movie could have been the next evolution in the vampire oeuvre. Except its not.

Slades film starts off serenely as Barrow, Alaska, the states northernmost town, readies itself for a month of nightfall. Suddenly, ominous signs appear: All the towns cell phones are found burned beyond repair, all of Barrows sled dogs have been brutally slaughtered and the communications tower has been disabled. Gee, ya think somethings up?

Sealing the deal is the emergence of an unkempt stranger (Ben Foster), who shouts things like, Do you feel that cold? Its death comin for you!

Attired stylishly in suit jackets and button-down shirts, a boatload of vampires suddenly arrives in town and begins devouring the townsfolk. The vampires come with a ferocity and fury thats reminiscent of the zombies in Danny Boyles 28 Days Later.

Theyre fast, feral, howling beasts who speak in their own ancient language, conveniently subtitled for us non-vampires.

Theyre monsters, plain and simple, lacking any complexity or depth. There is no indication of where they originally hail from, or what areas of the world theyve visited prior to their Alaskan jaunt. But one thing becomes crystal clear as they begin treating Barrow like an all-you-can-eat buffet: They dont believe in rationing.

Once the vamps have slaughtered the majority of the town, they spend their remaining time attempting to locate a handful of holdouts, including Eben, his teenage brother Jake, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Stella (Melissa George), who are all hiding in a secret attic in one of the towns homes.

The vampires are woefully incompetent at hunting anyone out of sight, which seems absurd considering they are highly skilled at tracking blood.

30 Days features several gruesome instances sure to thrill gore hounds. One scene in particular, involving a massive industrial grade shredder and an ax, is as startling as it is nauseating.

Slade takes advantage of the striking cinematographic visual of newly fallen snow mixed with blood, and there is one stunning overhead shot as the vampires attack the Barrow residents en masse, leaving splotches of red throughout the towns pristine white streets.

But gore is hardly a replacement for genuine terror and dread two basic components of the horror genre which are both missing in 30 Days. Slade relies more on amateurish reflex horror, like having something dark skitter across the foreground, followed by a loud, abrupt noise.

As 30 Days progresses, it develops one gaping plot hole after another. Why do the vampires kill Ebens grandmother but spare his brother, Jake? How does Jake get away? Why do the vampires turn some townsfolk into their own kind, yet completely dispense with others? And just who exactly is the little girl vampirette who arrives out of nowhere?

Hartnett has mastered the nuances of clenched-jaw acting, using it to wholly define his character. He really should steer clear of horror movies and stick with indies like the wonderful Lucky Number Slevin. Melissa George should earn an Oscar just for having the courage to show up on the set.

If nothing else, 30 Days serves as a primer for couples on the cusp of divorce who want to heal their relationship. The first step? Move to Alaska and fight off the undead.

Contact the writer at rshulman@metroweekly.com