30 Days of Night (DVD)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Josh Hartnett, Craig Hall, Melissa George, Ben Foster
Directed by David Slade
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
With most of 2007 sucking as badly as it did, things were looking pretty bleak for this reviewer. So bleak in fact that I went on record as saying, "If 30 Days of Night and The Mist suck, I am hanging it up." Well, I'm still here so I guess things ended up going OK. There's no doubt the big screen adaptation of Steve Niles' epic graphic novel 30 Days of Night helped to send last year out on a high note, but as far as I am concerned, there were some very annoying bumps along the way on the road to salvation. Let's start from the beginning for those of you who have no idea the basic premise behind this toothy bloodbath.
In the small Alaskan town of Barrow, things are not always sunshine and roses for its residents. Especially one month out of the year in which the sun doesn't rise at all. Sheriff Eben Oleson (Hartnett) was working out the last few details of his usual duties before this epic event. Most of Barrow's population was leaving, and that meant closing up shop and settling in for the lawman and his remaining townsfolk. Even Eben's newly estranged wife (George) was splitting, but as luck would have it, she missed her ride to the airport. Time to head home and face the music. But this month would bring more than just the tune of lost love for our duo. A group of vampires have other plans. Since there's no chance of sunlight, our fanged fiends decide to run amok on Barrow's streets and literally bleed the town dry. Can Eben help his community survive the month? Hell, can he even keep himself alive?
30 Days of Night plays as if it were a super violent roller-coaster ride that wants to travel at a relentless pace. For the most part it succeeds, but it nearly becomes derailed. Truth be told, there are a lot of hindrances, the most glaring being that other than the length of Hartnett's beard, you never really get the feeling that any time has passed at all. This is coupled with the fact that the vampires who should very well be out doing cartwheels through the streets never really do enough to seek out our remaining victims. There where times when I couldn't help but wonder "Where the hell are they?" These are supernatural beings who have lived thousands of years, but they cannot find five people holed up in an attic, despite them even landing on the very roof that separates them from their cattle by inches? That just didn't work for me. Speaking of not working ...
I can forgive the abovementioned problems as the positives in this flick way out weigh the negatives, but 30 Days of Night commits one sin that for the life of me I cannot give it a reprieve for: utilizing the god damned shaky-cam technique during the attack sequences. Every single time the vamps attacked, you know the moments that should be the most thrilling, the camera moves around as if its operator has yielded to an epileptic fit. To make matters even worse, it's WETA who provided the film with its effects. You may know their name from a series of small films called The Lord of the Rings. Ponder that if you will. You've got one of the world's best F/X houses supplying you with your intense carnage scenes, and you have to really strain to see what's going on because the director wanted to further convey the message of freneticism by shaking the camera. There used to be a time when switching to a hand held seemed daring. Now it seems as if holding the camera still is even more ballsy. Why can't we just see clearly what's going on? Is that too much to ask? Every time this happened, I was taken directly out of the film as it totally took away from what could have been one of the most memorable movies of the year.
On the brighter side, the supplemental material included here is quite good. Things kick off with a very lively commentary with Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and producer Rob Tapert. Listening to this trio, you can really tell how proud they are of this movie, and they should be. For the most part it's a rock solid effort. I wouldn't say this is a must-listen, but it's far from the usual dry commentaries we've been getting as of late. Next up there are eight behind-the-scenes featurettes: Pre-Production, Building Barrow, The Look, Blood Guts and the Nasty #@$&!, Stunts, The Vampire, Night Shoots, and Casting. Clocking in at nearly an hour combined, these bits do a great job of showing exactly what an at times arduous task it was bringing this project to the screen while trying to stay true to the source material. Just like the commentary, even though there's nothing here you really haven't heard or seen before, these extras do a more than serviceable job of entertaining without boring. Things are then capped off with Episode 1 of the anime series Blood+. Japanese school girls and blood-spurting violence? Count me in!
In the end, 30 Days of Night ends up being nearly the film that we wanted it to be. Though there are some of you out there who will no doubt cry foul pertaining to my complaints, which admittedly except for the shaky-cam thing are a little nit-picky, I cannot help but call it as I see it. Or would have liked to have seen it if someone just could have held the friggin' camera straight for more than two seconds during the scenes of mayhem.
3 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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