30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)

30 Days of Night: Dark Days ReviewReviewed by Sean Decker

Starring Kiele Sanchez, Rhys Coiro, Diora Baird, Mia Kirshner, Harold Perrineau

Directed by Ben Ketai

Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Producing a successful film sequel is a daunting task, particularly when its predecessor is a film as beloved by fans as 2007’s horror hit 30 Days of Night. Fortunately, director Ben Ketai’s 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, which streets to DVD and Blu-Ray on October 5th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, is a worthy successor to David Slade’s 2007 original. It’s dark, disturbing and nihilistic, and one hell of a ride.

Co-written by Ketai and originator and co-producer Steve Niles, the film stars Kiele Sanchez as ‘Stella’ (stepping into the role previously essayed by Melissa George in the original), a woman bent on illuminating the public to what actually transpired in her Alaskan town of Barrow a year prior–namely, the massacre of ninety-eight men, women and children at the clawed hands of a group of particularly nasty vampires. With her speaking engagements rather unsuccessful in convincing the masses of the supernatural menace, Stella is unexpectedly recruited by three other victims of related vampire attacks (Coiro, Baird and Parrineau), who alert her to the existence of Lilith (Kirshner), the vampire queen ultimately responsible for the genocide of her Alaskan town’s inhabitants. Together, the quartet set off to avenge the murders in the underbelly of Los Angeles.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days ReviewA faithful adaptation of Niles’ 2004 graphic novel of the same name, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days opens with a brief and effective recount of the events of the original film and then segues into a Se7en-esque title sequence, which serves to ground Dark Days’ narrative in the urban decay of downtown L.A. Exposition is kept to a verbal minimum with Stella’s pathos following the death of her friends and husband Eben in the first film laid out quickly via the pill bottles and handgun which occupy the bedside table of her seedy hotel room, and with that Dark Days is off and running.

Filmed for the most part in Vancouver, production designer Geoff Wallace succeeds in convincing the viewer of the narrative’s Southern California locale (not an easy task), while cinematographer Eric Maddison viscerally delivers, careening the camera when warranted and letting it linger when necessary. The results are action setpieces that are crisp and bloody and generate the air of intended dread required, while the film’s more character-driven moments are delivered with somber nuance, particularly a complex sex scene involving Sanchez and Coiro, as well as Ketai’s spectacular and beautifully framed finish.

In keeping with its predeccesor, the subtext of Dark Days is isolation, and while the original explored that of the physical, the sequel delves into the realm of spiritual isolation of the human soul post-trauma, which effectively serves to build on the universe created in 30 Days of Night.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days ReviewAs for the gore, Dark Days delivers as well. FX-man Todd Masters keeps the vamps frightening with lots of nasty surprises (at one point a cinder block serves as an instrument for head-bludgeoning), and for the most part the gags are delivered practically with some particularly brutal and organic setpieces. In keeping with the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mindset, the vampires are presented visually as they were in original, and Masters’ handling of Kirshner’s appearance in particular is quite effective and undoubtedly assisted in her delivering a truly menacing performance as Lilith, regardless of the slightness of her frame. She is truly malevolent, and Kirshner’s movements and approach to her role wisely riff on and recall the unsettling character of Marlow (as portrayed by Danny Huston) in the original. Horror aficionados won’t be disappointed in either her performance or the visceral destruction she and her horde of undead leave in their wake.

Here’s hoping that Sony will follow through with its plans to produce the filmic third and final chapter of the trilogy based on Steve Niles’ 2004 graphic novel 30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow. Dark Days leaves the possibility wide open, and while the sequel’s stunning finale is most satisfying, there are threads left to be tied. This reviewer would like to see the final knot.

3 out of 5

Discuss 30 Days of Night: Dark Days in the comments section below!

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Sean Decker

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  • Terminal

    You were very generous with this rating. It deserved one knife. Really terrible and boring as piss.
    “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

  • GJW

    Regardless,It comes out in October so for me it will be a nice little Halloween season watch. If it was coming out any other time I’d probably wait to…..we’ll…..whenever to see it but I’ll catch it when it comes out. I AM starting to be slightly annoyed by the whole “shaky cam” concept though.

  • Masked Slasher

    Glad to hear it’s a decent little flick. I had written this off, but this review has convinced me to take a look as soon as it hits shelves.

    • The Woman In Black

      I wasn’t so impressed, especially since it repeats the shaky cam of the first installment whenever there’s any vamp action. Plus, Sanchez is no George. The best part of the flick was Kirshner, and she wasn’t in it nearly enough for me. Baird was great, too. So, I guess I can sort of recommend it – just don’t expect too much variation from the style of the first.

      • Masked Slasher

        Sanchez was REALLY BAD on LOST, which is the only place from which I know her work.

        My expectations aren’t that high but I’ve got it on the ol Netflix queue for when it comes out.

      • Rob

        I liked the film okay, but it didn’t feel like it was in the same universe as the first one, it just felt like a continuation of Blood Trails and Dust to Dust.

        That said, Sanchez, while not as good as George, still had something about her that I liked. Though I was not impressed by Mia Kirshner at all. Of course this could be because after seeing her on Vampire Diaries, I can’t take her seriously as any sort of evil vampire.. She wasn’t menacing at all on that show, and I’m fairly positive that had Kelly Hu’s character not been killed, she would’ve gouged her eyes out and stomped her face in.

        Anyway, I am curious if they’ll make a third one, and if they do if it’ll be the Return to Barrow storyline, or the one focusing on the vampire Eben and Stella that’s set in between Dark Days and Return to Barrow.