30 Days of Night

This review has been sitting on my desk unfinished for more than a week. I kept wracking my brain to try and figure out what exactly I should say about the movie, but I couldn't really work up the desire to do so. Tonight I realized that my apathy about the review, and by extension the movie, was an excellent place to start. It's just not good enough to really care about, and it's not bad enough to really enjoy. It just kinda...is.

Some of the problems I have with the movie stem from the source material, as I wasn't the biggest fan of co-screenwriter Steve Nile's original comic. The idea is certainly ripe for some creepiness: Vampires decend on the town of Barrow, Alaska for a month-long safari/feeding frenzy during the winter nightfall that lasts, unsurprisingly, for 30-days.  The problem in the comic is that it just dives into it with little setup, and never generates any real atmosphere. In the movie they spend more time establishing the world, but it still never gets pervasive enough to generate any real sense of DOOM.

The Vamps are of the "Boo!" variety, popping up out of nowhere in quick flashes, tackling their prey like Terry Tate, office linebacker. It's definitely less about suspense, and more about sudden bursts of action. Again, undercutting any real sense of atmosphere.

Speaking of the Vamps, they're very much of the "leech" school, straight down to their circular mouths full of sharp teeth. I can't really call them "bloodsuckers" though, as they get most of the red stuff on their chins, clothes, the floor, ceiling, the street,  hell... they do everything except drink. I had this problem with the comic too, and there it was mostly an artistic decision, here it's just kinda silly.

Director David Slade's direction is solid, even stylishly effective at times. Sadly, the editing of the attacks fails to generate any of the  "Gaaah! Whatthecrapwasthat!" moments they're going for. This strikes me as a huge letdown because his earlier Hard Candy (2005) had you rocking the edge of your seat. However, having said that, I will mention that I have the movie re-running in the background while I write this, and there was one genuinely creeptastic scene involving a lone woman used as bait to draw out the heroes... and the ramifications of her failure.

I'm looking through the last few paragraphs, and I feel I've been more harsh than the movie deserves.  It has some genuinely cool moments in between the bland bits, and I have to admit, if I was stuck in the situation presented, I'd be crapping my pants. These are not fluffy snuggle-bunny Vampires. So to give a better idea of the movie, I'll rip a quote from Roger Ebert's review of the Shaft remake: "The movie is what it is, but more than it needs to be." It's fairly well-crafted, but unfortunately never seems to quite come together, and is completely torpedoed by some major logic/continuity issues in the third act, which, ironically enough, is when the Cavalcaders started to really enjoy the movie because they finally had something they could, if you'll forgive me, sink their teeth into.

As far as recommendations for screening this for an event, you could certainly do far worse, but you can also do better. Both in terms of schlock, or in terms of actual horror. Lastly, a note: The Blu-Ray for this movie is really quite the spectacular, especially in terms of picture quality.