Horror review: 30 Days of Night

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, OCT. 24, 2007

As 30 Days of Night unfolds, hunky sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and his pretty wife, Stella (Melissa George), are on the outs. They’re living in Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska, and it’s the day before the sun sets and doesn’t reappear for a month. She’s trying to catch the last plane out before darkness hits and the isolated location goes into shutdown mode, but she gets waylaid by an out-of-control snowplow.

A rocky relationship is the least of this couple’s worries, though. Someone or something has slaughtered all the sled dogs in Barrow and sabotaged its only helicopter, so there’s no way out. And a horde of gymnastically gifted Euro-vampires, led by one named Marlow (The Number 23‘s Danny Huston), is set to pounce off rooftops and rip throats apart.

At first, it looks like nothing can stop the bloodsuckers as they dive through windows and drag off their screaming victims or just finish them on the spot. Hard Candy director David Slade cleverly conveys the vampires’ brutal ferocity in one gliding overhead shot, showing the carnage unfolding against a red-splattered snowy landscape. Sheriff Oleson and a few survivors hide out, hoping they can evade detection until the darkness runs its course

Just when it seems like all hope is lost, the sheriff discovers that he’s handy with an axe, and from then on there’s a whole lotta head-loppin’ goin’ on.

These aren’t your typical Jason Voorhees style decapitations, though, where one mighty swipe separates noggin from neck. The only axe available in Barrow is a decidedly dull one, so Oleson has to swing it a couple, even three, times to get the job done. Hard-core gore hounds will appreciate that.

The film owes a lot to John Carpenter’s The Thing, which was set in a similarly chilly and remote location, but that 1982 remake of a ’50s monster flick had the benefit of astounding creature-FX work, whereas 30 Days‘ incessant shots of snarling, bloody-jawed vampires grow tiresome after a while.

Unlike this adaptation of a 2002 graphic novel, The Thing was also suspenseful and scary and sported Kurt Russell as a cool, longhaired hero you could really root for, while Hartnett’s bland cop exudes zero personality. I realize he’s supposed to be the strong, silent type, but would it kill the guy to speak up a bit?

Actually, in several scenes, I guess it would.

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