30 Days of Night
Went to see 30 Days of Night yesterday with KBK and a few others (JD, Aneel, and Louis, who was/is in town for a visit).
First, I read the graphic novel about five years ago. It had been sold to me as a “mind blowing revisit to vampires” by the dude at the comic shop, and the artwork was very Sienkiewicz-ish. I remember only a few details about the plot, but I know that I was filled with a profound sense of “meh”.
Partly this comes from having been steeped in “modern vampire” lore for the past 20 years, I think. If I had never played, say, Vampire: The Masquerade in the 90s, I might have, indeed, found it to be a “mind blowing revisit to vampires.” But I had, so it wasn’t anything especially new.
The story has a good gimmick, and in the comic it’s spelled out far more explicitly: vampires from around the world gather in a small Alaskan town for a kind of blood-sucker convention. Why this place? Because once a year, the sun sets and stays down for an entire month. So they’re going to be able to watch their vampire Power Point presentations and listen to Vlad Dracula give a keynote speech without having to sleep from the cursed ball-of-fire – all the while engaging in a Roman-style orgy of butchery.
(In the movie, they don’t really say why the Vampires show up in town, as the story is told entirely from the perspective of the humans. There are hints as to the fact that the vampires have a society, but otherwise they’re just The Bad Guys.)
I went into the film with exceptionally low expectations. I really like Josh Hartnett and think Melissa George is a total hotty (I think the dark eyebrow thing does it for me), so that’s a bennie, but it’s a film being released in Craptober, which is usually reserved for Hollywood’s bottom-of-the-barrel. That, plus the aforementioned “meh”-ness I felt about the graphic novel. . . well.
I can happily say that I was dead fucking wrong. The movie is, indeed, an excellent horror film, and actually does manage to revisit the vampire cliche in new ways.
A big part of this comes from the film’s excellent set-up sequences. It does a great job of creating the feeling of isolation before the credits even roll, opening with a scene where the sheriff is examining a spot where someone has stolen and burned most of the cellphones in town. Slowly but surely we encounter various problems where the town gets further and further cut off from the rest of the world: trashed helicopters, destroyed phone lines, and someone kills all the sled dogs.
At first, I thought Hartnett was doing a piss poor acting job, though. His character seems very detached and distracted. He makes a couple dickhole comments that he’s not aware of as being dickhole-ish.
Then we discover that he’s recently split with his wife, who moved to Anchorage and left him, and doesn’t really want to talk to him about it. At this point, the light bulb in my head clicked on: hahaha. I know this feeling very, very well, and with that bit of understanding everything he’s done makes perfect sense to me. Speaking as someone who knows exactly what he’s feeling, the dude fucking nails it.
The settings are appropriately creepy and the blood is wonderfully gushy. There are lots of nice touches (like the fact that the vampire’s breath isn’t visible in the cold but everyone else’s is). There’s an awesome death in crusher and a great overhead shot of the vampires butchering everyone in town.
But really, the heavy hammer for the story comes from the straight-up, balzout-fucking awful choices that the characters have to make to survive. The type of decisions that I never, ever want to have to make. And the movie does a good job of exploring those. Who do we save? Who do we let die? Holy crap, we have to chop a little girl’s head off with an axe, and kill our friends when they get infected.
Joe Bob says, “Check it out.”