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30 DAYS OF NIGHT

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior
Director: David Slade
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: February 26, 2008

“That cold ain’t the weather. That’s death approachin’.”

 

Film ***

Graphic novels are as of now the biggest commodity in the movie industry right now, especially coming off the heels of the successes of Sin City and 300. Despite being based on what is touted as a groundbreaking graphic novel, 30 Days of Night doesn’t represent an exact page to screen translation like the aforementioned films. However, what it does represent is a visually distinctive horror movie with an astounding sense of dread that seems to increase as the story progresses.

Essentially, what we have here is the appearance of a traditional vampire movie. But because of the unusual setting and the look and sound of the vampires themselves, we get some unique touches that help elevate this flick above the standard vampire movie. In addition, the movie manages to give the likes of both Blade and Vampires a run for their money in the gore department, and believe me that’s saying something.

The town of Barrow, Alaska provides perhaps the most effective horror movie snowbound setting since John Carpenter’s The Thing. The town, which happens to be the northernmost outpost of the United States, is preparing for the annual month of the year when sunlight is absent, hence the title. Little does the town know that it is about to get some unexpected visitors with some serious hunger issues.

It all starts when a visiting stranger (Ben Foster) starts causing trouble in the town. When the town sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), hauls the crazy man off to a cell at the station it looks as if the problem is resolved. However, the stranger is deliver an unsettling message…some blood-hungry folks are about to make a visit.

As the night closes in, the town of Barrow finds itself plagued with a band of vampires, who have picked the perfect time to feast, an entire month without the presence of the sun. Witnessing a few of the townsfolk fall victim to bloody bites, Eben along with estranged wife and fellow cop Stella (Melissa George) band together with a group of survivors. The goal is to fend off the flesh eaters and hopefully survive the month in the process.

I mentioned the unique touches on the usual vampire movie scenario, but make no mistake about it, the real star of 30 Days of Night is the style. The setting is crucial, and becomes an important character of the story. The style is key to the movie as well, as the look of the film doesn’t present a traditional array of colors. Only three colors are in abundance in the film; blue, black and red…lots of red if you get my drift.

And man, oh man, if you happen to be a gore fanatic then you are in for a bloody treat. Thankfully, this represents the first R rated horror movie in quite some time where the gore doesn’t come as a result of torture porn. This is a straight up vampire slugfest, and trust me when I say that when you see a human battle a vampire with an ax, you will see full contact and all the bloody aftermath. And I haven’t even mentioned that some of the vampires who get it from the humans include young boys and girls, which has got to be a first.

Credit director David Slade (Hard Candy) for crafting a bloody satisfying horror movie that fans of the genre are bound to get a kick out of. From a graphic novel standpoint, I’m not sure that it stands out. However, if you’ve been longing for a vampire flick with atmospheric bite, look no further than this.

Video ****

I’ve gone on quite a bit about the look and the style of the movie, which is made even more effective through this phenomenal looking presentation from Sony. The level of detail is simply outstanding from beginning to end, and the specific color palette allows for some remarkably striking imagery. A sharp and crisp visual presentation without a single flaw, and certain to be one of the best looking discs of the year. 

Audio ****

Now here is the selling point of the disc. The 5.1 mix on this release is thus far THE BEST sounding disc I’ve heard this year, as well as one of the best sounding discs I’ve heard in a good long while. The surround sound quality is alive practically from the first scene, and it never lets up for a second. Every vampire attack promises a big bang of sound. The sound of these vampires alone results in striking, effective sound. Dialogue delivery and music also deliver strongly, but it’s the relentless bloody attacks that take center stage here. A phenomenal job well done!

Features ***1/2

A well-packaged release from Sony, featuring a commentary track with stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and producer Rob Tapert, as well as 8 behind the scenes featurettes; “Pre Production”, “Building Barrow”, “The Look”, “Blood, Guts & The Nasty #@$&!”, “Stunts”, “The Vampire”, “Night Shoots” and “Casting”. Also featured are Bonus Previews for additional Sony titles, as well as a sampling of the anime Blood + in the form of the first episode titled First Kiss.

Summary:

To simply put it, 30 Days of Night is one of the more visually effective, and bloodily effective, horror movies in quite some time. Horror fans will get exactly what they want, as will vampire and gore fanatics. It is indeed a movie with quite a bite to it.

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