October Horror 2016 - 30 Days of Night Picture

“I can smell your blood”

We’ve been covering the classics for a good amount of time for this October Horror, but it’s time we dial it back and return to the main course of what I enjoy about this film marathon: dark, bloody, ridiculous horror. Because while we can cover for as long as we can the history behind horror film-making at its finest and appreciate all the icons that make it so well celebrated, we know that for every classic forever remembered in the annals of horror history, there are plenty of great movies that don’t rise up as high; there are also the worst examples that the genre can offer, but that’s left for another time. It was inevitable that we turn away from the dramatic, more serious pieces of horror that was shown throughout much of the 20’s through 40’s, but to ignore all the other works for this month would just be unfair. So excuse this drastic break away from form as I move from the late 40’s to as far forward as the 2000’s with the film adaptation of the comic of the same name: “30 Days of Night”.

I didn’t read the comic, so I can’t say whether it is a faithful recreation of its story or that it is better or worse than its source material. However, what I can say for now is that it’s certainly a big disconnect from what is often attributed to the vampire mythology. With our previous films like
“Nosferatu” and “Dracula” do we see some of the traits commonly associated with vampires: they are charismatic, manipulative, able to talk themselves into almost any situation, and have this very regal appearance that rightly compares them to kings or nobles. Their thirst for blood is, for the most part, controlled, with their primal urges only coming up when seeing fresh blood being let loose from a cut of an unaware guest. Compared to most other monsters, vampires are so well dressed and presentable that it’s reasonable to assume any accusations of them being such dark creatures is just downright crazy. However this isn’t the case with the sort like “30 Days of Night”. While yes they thirst for blood and they have a fear of the sun, they are far from charismatic or restrained; they are savage, sadistic, are more attributed to predators than nobility, and have no problem with devouring the neck of their victims out in the open. To them, the act of draining blood is a mix between a sport and their own perverse entertainment, with every victim being ‘toyed’ with for as long as they wish. Of course they have all the time they can waste, for as the title makes it clear they have a whole month in a far-off Alaskan town to play with. Because with no fear of the sunlight coming the next day, they can be as violent and as cruel as they desire.
It’s an idea that opens a lot of room for some dark horror to be used, and from my viewing I can definitely say that they take it to their fullest.

For the town of Barrow, Alaska, a month long polar night is drawing near. Lasting exactly 30 days is a constant winter night, and many of the town residents leave the state while those left behind are preparing for the month long wait. However a string of terrible events come in on just first day: all the sled dogs have been viciously killed; cellphones have been stolen and destroyed; and the local helicopter and communications tower has been critically sabotaged. Worse yet is that the main power generator has been blinking out, causing the lights to black out. With local sheriff Eben Oleson being directed all around to answer calls of disturbing events, it soon becomes clear that something sinister has targeted the town and is pleased with the month long darkness to come.

And as soon as the first day of night arrives, all hell begins to break loose as screams of slaughter is heard from all around. Blood is split; homes are broken into; and throughout the area of Barrow the people are hunted down by vicious creatures of the night. Now Eben and a group of survivors must defend themselves, fend off these vicious beasts, and try to live out this month long night of bloody terror.

This is a truly dark film, both in its setting and the content occurring throughout the story. There are good number of areas that are used throughout the film, making them memorable both in their appearance and somewhat in the layout of the town of Barrow. While the night is a big part of the film and is obviously shown for approximately 90% of the movie, it doesn’t make the film out to be harder to watch or understand in terms of its action. A lot of the events are pretty clear, except in some of the 2000’s era action editing when characters are closely fighting off a vampire; it’s a little shaky in these moments, but for the most part you can clearly make out what’s occurring on-screen.

The town is normal enough to make the horror occurring within it to be effective in its shock-value, especially in the first third when there is a lot more happening in the open streets. The characters often move back and forth from location to location, using them to their fullest so as to make its audiences easily recognize them right up to the very end when it all goes wrong for it all. The constant appearance of snow helps to provide a good contrast against the shadows and blood, making it all stand out more prominently. It also helps to provide the necessary “light” that make out the shapes of characters, locations, and shadows more clearly. The snow is a bit of character in its self, with weather events and the splashes of blood changing and telling the story.

The main characters act competently. They are very believable, with the reactions to the horrors of surviving feeling real and relatable. You genuinely feel for these people as they try to survive, with a lot of the deaths leaving an emotional impact whenever they occur. It can very dark with both what’s shown on-screen and what’s implied through either dialogue or background noise. Although there only two or three characters that I feel are memorable, with the biggest example being the sheriff, they are in no way bad in their performance. They do their job greatly in portraying survivors trying to live throughout an awful month-long nightmare.

The vampires are frightening, at least in how they treat their victims. They don’t have much going in with their appearances, except for the slanted dark eyes, sharp gnarly teeth and the constant smears of blood across their mouths. While very few in the details, they do get across how vicious these particular vampires act. Of them all there are only two that stand out, the leader and the girl following him, and that’s only because they have more to do whenever they show up. Besides that they all act much the same: they screech when they hunt, bare their teeth and have no understandable dialogue except for one minor moment. What makes them interesting to watch is how sadistic they are throughout the entire film. They actively kill large number of people in the beginning and for the rest of the film they use some cruel tactics to mess with our protagonists. In one moment they use a crying woman as bait, in another play around with a victim before killing it, and there is one variant of the vampire that is just a child who says some genuinely creepy lines before dying in an awful scene. They, like the film, don’t hold back when it comes to disturbing material, and to me that’s what makes them so intriguing to watch.

For my closing critical paragraph, here are some minor thoughts on the film. The movie’s story is excellently paced out, with a lot of the action moments spread out between long slow moments of build-up and tension. The tension in this film is effective in making the shock moments a lot stronger, so the film’s more bloody, gory moments are genuinely scary as a result. There are a few complaints I have in regards to the film, mainly subjective issues such as the lack of explanation and lore surrounding these vampires, but my biggest issue is with how depressing the film can be. I don’t mind dark endings or bitter-sweet endings, I can enjoy them. However, the film is surprisingly grim with its story and much of the implications it leaves behind. It’s a momentarily enjoyable film throughout the middle, leading up to a depressing end that is made for certain tastes.

Despite my personal issues, I still recommend 30 Days of Night. It’s a welcome change-up of the vampire mythology that uses up a very unique and interesting idea. Go ahead and check it out.

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