Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Orange On the Aisle: 30 Days of Night

Checked out 30 Days of Night, the horror flick based on the hit comics miniseries by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.

I never read the original series (I read some of the Bloodsucker Tales series, one of many follow-ups), but the concept sounded great and the trailer looked badass.

The concept: A crew of vampires descends on the town of Barrow, Alaska, which we're told is the northernmost town in the U.S., and which is about to descend into its annual 30 days with no sunlight. Vampires in a town with no sun for 30 days — a horror concept genius in its simplicity. And the head if the vampires thinks as much, saying, "We should have come here ages ago."

A repeated theme/criticism in the reviews I read noted there's no back story on these vampires — we don't know their story, where they're from, how they exist, anything. They just hop off a boat and get to killin', basically. Supposedly there's more back story in the comics, which saw the vampires starting out from New Orleans. Niles and the other screenwriters left this out of the film, wanting to maintain the notion of isolation with everything being set in Barrow.

The New Orleans story was the basis of a series of short episodes available from FEARnet On Demand. I watched them last year when the movie was about to come out, but I don't think they'll appease anyone looking for more back story.

But aside from wanting to know what was up with the boat that got the vampires to Alaska, the lack of back story didn't bother me. I was content knowing these vampires were just out for a good feasting opportunity, and ready for the gore. Of which there was much. This movie is damn bloody — these vampires aren't recruiting an army of the night, or brooding emo-style over their predicament — they're out for blood. A town's worth. Some of the carnage aspires to the creativity of recent zombie movies, including the excellent Dawn of the Dead remake.

But while the carnage is commendable, there are some problems with 30 Days. There are a few instances in which action on the part of characters we're led to believe would be very dangerous is handled off-screen. Early on, there are vampires all over town killing people in the streets, but a group of survivors moves from the diner to a house without being seen. I was expecting a scene with the survivors sneaking from point to point, relying on their town knowledge — one of the only advantages we're told they have — but no, nothing, they're just in the house all of a sudden. Pheww, I was worried.

Now huddled in the attic of this house, days pass by in large chunks — as we're told by the Day 15, etc. graphic. And while we were told the vampires were going house-to-house looking for survivors, they apparently got tired of doing this before hitting the hideout house.

And is the heat on this house? If not they'd freeze over the course of a month.

Oh yeah, 30 days? From the way the film was presented, this easily could have been set over two or three days and not lost anything storywise. There are so many jumps in the time, the whole 30 days thing is lost. If they didn't put up the graphics informing you of the day, you'd think the movie took place over a weekend.

If it was 30 days, what were the vampires doing that whole time? We can assume the survivors were trying to keep quiet and un-eaten. We know the vampires got tired of searching houses, so what, Wii Sports?

On a positive note, the cast was good, and the direction and look of the film was pretty slick. Pretty good overall if you can ignore some plot holes and are in the mood for some vampire gore.

* Ben Foster looked like a dirty, bug-eyed Ben Templesmith drawing come to life.
* Stay away form little girls in horror movies, unless an axe is handy.
* Maybe the eeriest images from the movie is right at the beginning, when we see the vampires' freighter boat in the distance as Foster's character heads into town to prepare for their arrival. (A boat of vampires traveling the seas looking for blood is pretty cool, and the basis of a Sean Phillips comic — possibly with writer Ed Brubaker, can't remember — that never happened. Shame, looked cool.)

— 3 out of 5 dives through kitchen windows

1 comment:

ron said...

maybe the vampires started a hockey team.