30 Days Of Night

October 31, 2007

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RELEASED: 2nd November 

Comic book and graphic novel adaptations are now so popular, and so bankable, that barely a month goes by without a new one tearing up the screen. In 2007 so far we’ve had a couple of sequels: the second Fantastic Four and the third Spider-Man, which started the summer blockbuster season and broke records left, right and centre. But the most exciting was 300, the magnificently stylised adap of Frank Miller’s groundbreaking graphic novel. 300 redefined conceptualised visuals, just as Frank Miller’s equally stylised, equally ultra-violent neo-noir Sin City did two years earlier. The operative word in graphic novels is graphic – the best, most faithful adaptations are those that don’t hold back. 300, Sin City and A History Of Violence are all cinematic triumphs that, in terms of story, dialogue and visuals either transcribe directly from page-to-screen, or compliment its style by changing only what is necessary in the transfer from one medium to another. The latest such film is 30 Days Of Night

Based on the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking (again) graphic novel of the same name by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days Of Night is horror at its best: stylish, lightning-fast, incredibly tense, brutal and bloody. The town of Barrow, Alaska – the northernmost town in the US – prepares for a month of darkness. But after the sun sets for the last time in a month, hoards of vampires, led by Danny Huston’s unnerving Marlow, emerge from the dark and rampage through the town, leaving Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett, in a role that perfectly suits his expressionless but quietly intense looks), his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) and an ever-decreasing group to fight for survival. British director David Slade, who made an impressive debut with the shocking Hard Candy, has here pulled off a near-miracle: making the vampires genuinely, seriously terrifying. Their introduction sets the standard – they stalk with tactical precision, and the editing actually allows you to see them, always cutting at exactly the right time as they flash across the screen into the surrounding shadows. He refuses to use generic jump shocks, and thus increases the tension levels whenever the disturbing figures appear. It’s this controlled direction from Slade, who will surely go on to big things, that really drives the simple but marvellous narrative. The ingenuity of Niles’ story helps tremendously: this is not a flashy Blade rip-off, in fact just the opposite considering it contains a better story than any of the Blade films, if not the entire trilogy. But Slade is not afraid to pull out all the stops either. The main onslaught, as the vampires are identified and the town panics, is one hell of a sequence. The action is absolutely stunning – people are graphically chomped, there are decapitations, generally an overload of blood and gore.

“The most breathtaking view is an aerial tracking shot of the town, as the vampires reap bloody chaos. It’s truly amazing, as lashings of blood paint the snow red; people are attacked from every angle.”

Slade recreates the rich, amazing style of the comics with dark textures. The colour palette consists of deep black, snow white and harsh red, all used very effectively. But perhaps the film’s greatest asset is it’s sound design: a master class of minimalist techno beats, beautiful chords, sharp drums and atmospheric distortion. It blends perfectly with the visuals, adding yet more tension, menace and shock.

The film moves at a relentless pace, almost as fast as the vampires themselves. These are not your typical anaemic humans with false dentures. They have pitch-black eyes, stretched features and razor sharp teeth, and are alarmingly athletic, jumping from rooftops to rooftops. They even speak in their own language: an odd, monosyllabic tone.

“How refreshing it is to see the vampire genre be reinvented with this much style, and indeed substance.”

Perhaps the only problem is the timeline: days pass with apparently nothing happening, a subtitle appearing at the bottom of the screen to inform us just how much longer there is until the sun rises. Though I suppose it makes their bid for survival even more heroic, and certainly more of a relief if and when it comes. Also it allows far more time for yet more harrowing events to take place. And also 30 Days Of Night is an incredibly cool title. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire original concept was based solely around that title.

This film has all you can ask for from a horror: edge-of-your-seat tension, carnage, plenty of blood, visual sophistication and a knockout ending. Completely brilliant and totally mind-blowing.

THE CRUNCH

5/5 dark days ahead

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4 Responses to “30 Days Of Night”

  1. Ben Travis said

    I might end up seeing this after your very positive review.
    I also loved Night Watch – an original and exciting take on the vampire/good vs evil genre.
    If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do.
    Buy the two-disc DVD with the proper animated subtitles, and not the vanilla disc with english hard of hearing [it’s a russian film].
    Ben

  2. rustyoscar said

    I saw Daywatch, the sequel without having seen Nightwatch. a horrible mistake. i did not know what on earth was going on, but yes the animated subtitles were a treat.

  3. Ben Travis said

    Make sure you see Night Watch – Day Watch isn’t supposed to be as good. It’s a good watch. I really want to see 30 Days of Night now, as expressed in my latest blog post.
    I’d like to hear your view on the “predalien” and the 1-18-08 title…
    Ben

  4. rustyoscar said

    I on the other hand have seen Night Watch but not Day Watch, and indeed do own the two-disc edition. The director of both those films, Timur Bekmambetov, is currently in post-production his debut english-language feature, Wanted (another graphic novel adap), starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. It’s due out on 4th April next year. The trailer has been released recently on the web. My advice: download it now.

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