30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010)
Reviewed 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.
A 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.
As 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
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