30 DAYS OF NIGHT, based on the graphic novel of the same name, promises a new vision of the vampire and it delivers. Unfortunately, that new vision is dull, derivative, and more likely to induce a coma than a nightmare. Tired stop-action strobe effects, townsfolk dumber than an ice floe, and vampires more notable for their untidiness than their menu make this an unintentional comedy, and not even a very good one at that.
The month of night takes place in Barrow, Alaska, self-proclaimed top of the world, where the wobble of the earth plunges the tiny burg into darkness for the ci-mentioned length of time in the middle of winter. Many leave. Those who stay include the sheriff, Eben (Josh Hartnett at his most wooden) and his ex, Stella (Melissa George), who missed the last flight out of town, and other assorted family members and hardcore wilderness aficionados. There’s also the creepy new guy in town played with psychotic intensity by Ben Foster. He marches himself and his mouthful of teeth that have never been introduced to floss into the local diner, orders a drink, raw hamburger, and freaks out when told neither is available. The former because liquor and a month of night don’t mix, the latter because I guess, in the absence of any other explanation, that these wilderness folk don’t much cotton to sushi. The stranger is pegged as the guy who killed all the local dogs, burned a mess of cell phones, and gutted a helicopter before putting the innards of same though a very nasty looking piece of mashing equipment at something called the utilador on the outskirts of town. It’s important to pay attention to something that odd at the start of sub-par films because the point of taking time on it at the beginning is because someone and/or something will be going through it later on. And so it is that the rest of the film is just so much filler marking time with slashings and generally idiotic behavior until that moment comes.
It’s also important to pay attention to Eben and Stella, two mixed-up kids on the outs who only need a pack of vampires on the loose to make them realize that they are still crazy in love. Alas, neither Hartnett, with his flat delivery and stilted body language, and George, who is more waif that vixen, despite being bundled in a parka and snow pants both snug enough to cut off her circulation, fail to generate any chemistry at all. He seems bored, she seems worried about her camera angle and lighting. The rest of the cast is no help, even though Foster, as the Renfrew of the piece exhibits a fine vigor with such lines of purple prose as “that cold ain’t the weather, that’s death approaching.”
The biggest let down is Danny Huston as the head vampire. He is saddled with several rows of lamprey-esque teeth, claw-like nails that look like a bad batch of press-on fakes, and lines delivered phonetically for reasons that defy explanation. Perhaps it is the cumulative effect that renders him into the dazed and disoriented monster lumbering across the screen with all the menace of a logy sloth instead of his usual charismatic, even ebullient, screen presence.
30 DAYS OF NIGHT presents characters who believe for reasons never explained that a snowstorm will give them cover from vampires, and who bustle about in a town under siege from same with a wanton disregard for common sense. It makes this a slog and then some wherein the audience begins rooting for the bloodsuckers very early on just to get the whole painful exercise over with. And,like everything else to do with the flick, said audience is let down there, too.