Film name: 30 Days of Night
Release date: 2007
Genre: Horror, vampire
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston
Director: David Slade
Screenplay: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson
Studio: Sony Pictures
Length: 114 minutes
Jim and I were a tad frustrated by a low-action vampire film we watched recently. This sparked a discussion about why a good vampire film requires plenty of action.
Jim came up with 30 Days of Night. I countered with the Kate Beckinsale film Whiteout, which is set in a research facility in Antarctica. Both films had an extensive period of darkness at polar regions in common.
We agreed that this was a great way to ensure a continuing threat from vampires that made for great action.
Every year, the town of Barrow in Alaska experiences thirty days of night. The sun sets, and it won’t rise again for a month. Almost everyone who can do so flies south to Seattle.
However, a hardy group of locals stays put. This includes the local sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett). His estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) misses her flight out and is trapped in Barrow with him until the sun rises again.
Trouble begins as soon as the sun goes down. One of the local family’s pack of huskies is brutally killed, and the vampires then come for the family, too. They also attack a worker at a local power plant.
Eben arrests a stranger for harassing a waitress, and the stranger then warns him that trouble is on its way. This comes in the form of Marlow, the vampire leader (Danny Huston), who attacks the sheriff’s assistant and leaves the stranger alive for now.
The vampire attacks in 30 Days of Night were particularly bloody and ruthless. Jim and I were delighted, after our disappointment with our last vampire movie pick.
The thirty days of night leaves the locals particularly vulnerable to the sustained vampire attacks. The film’s structure and choice of location were excellent.
Plenty of the filming took place outside, giving a really vivid sense it what it is like to live that far north. Barrow made for a wonderful location for filming.
The narrative is sustained over the full thirty days. This happened almost without my realising it, partly because there was no signposting for the viewer. This led to a discussion here about how you do that when it is dark all the time.
I was genuinely surprised to realise that the action had reached day eighteen. However, it was essential that it was spread over the full month so that 30 Days of Night could conclude with the sun rising again at last.
Danny Huston was an absolute revelation as the vampire leader, Marlow. He was excellent in season three of American Horror Story, as the saxophone-playing mass murderer who dates Jessica Lange.
The development of a language unique to the vampires dehumanised them because it was delivered without subtitles. I loved how much effort went into delivering all that dialogue in another language.
The whole vampire language was invented, using click consonants which made it very alienating to the listener. A professor of linguistics was even used as a consultant to develop the material.
The lack of translation was very effective in instilling fear in the viewer.
Josh Hartnett and Melissa George were particularly impressive as an estranged couple hoping to work through their issues within the challenging environment.
Sheriff Eben has his younger brother to protect, and his grandmother is killed by their vampires so the losses sustained by the vampire attacks are very personal.
This gave him a fully rounded characterisation, and much of the attention remained on him. Melissa George’s Stella was resilient and dignified, and very much her own person.
30 Days of Night was a film that went to great lengths to deliver. Not just in terms of the location filming, but also with the invented vampire language. It’s one of the best vampire films I’ve ever seen,
Thank you for reading my review of 30 of Night.
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If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of Wizard at Large by Terry Brooks.