If the sight of blood alone were enough to frighten movie audiences, maybe the vampire flick “30 Days of Night” would have seemed scarier. The film is certainly eye-catching, between its breathtaking shots of beautiful landscapes and gruesomely maimed corpses. The idea, of course, is to bring life to images from the graphic novel on which the film is based. But after the third time in one scene that the camera cut back to two silhouetted figures watching a bright orange sunset, I got the feeling that director David Slade just couldn’t resist showing off how cool his film looks. After planning the artistry of each scene down to every color and shadow, no one got around to writing a script, and screenwriters Steve Niles and Stuart Beattie instead just ripped off clichés from other horror movies.
The story is set in Barrow, Alaska, a small, sleepy town that could have been a great backdrop for a better movie. Every year in real life, the town is shrouded in darkness for 60 straight days, though the time was wisely cut in half for the film. While most people opt to leave for those sunless 30 days, Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) are some of the unlucky townspeople who choose to remain. Though Eben is a walking Starbucks cup, constantly spewing awkward quotes about love and family at inopportune times, the audience is expected to become emotionally invested in his well being and marriage.
After the sun first sets, eerie, lightning-fast shadows begin attacking the townspeople. But the shadows inexplicably slow down, revealing themselves to be blood-hungry vampires. With their chilling howls and thick, bloody gums, the vampires are creepy enough at first, but the fight scenes are fast-paced and set to a heavy metal soundtrack. These confrontations thus play out more like a music video, and they [[no they]] are too stylized to create any suspense or mystery.
In fact, the most mysterious thing about the film is where the characters release their waste. The remaining survivors hide in a boarded-up house, and they are snatched through the bathroom window if they try to use the toilet. Do the other survivors just hold it for 30 days? While it may seem petty to fret over bathroom logistics, the potty issue is just one of many tiny but obvious holes in the film’s ill-conceived plot.
With his frequent use of harsh, unflattering close-ups, Slade must have thought he was directing an edgy thriller in the vein of “28 Days Later.” What he actually produced is a predictable and boring cheese-fest. A decapitated body is gross and all, but without any thought behind it, the gore isn’t enough to inspire nightmares.