01 November, 2007

Word of Mouth: "30 Days of Night"

In Barrow, Alaska they have 30 days of sunlight in the summer and 30 days of night in the winter. Which makes it a popular holiday destination for vampires. In the winter obviously.

I saw 30 Days of Night on Halloween and, although it didn’t keep me up at night, it’s an effective vampire horror.

This is based on the quality comic book written by Steve Niles with beautiful art by Ben Templesmith. In truth the story in the book is flawed and includes a pointless sub-plot which requires the world’s first completely silent helicopter that can land and take off in a storm.

There’s a plot flaw in the book regarding the man who prepares the way for the vampires in the town – is he a vampire or not? That is clumsily and inadequately explained in the book but neatly and poignantly dealt with in the film.

What is fascinating is seeing the transformation to the screen and the fleshing out of the characters and their relationships. For instance in the book the main characters are both police and happily married to each other. In the film they have separated and she is now working for the fire department. This gives the subsequent events more depth and complexity.

The other additional characters, while not dealt with in depth, all have a purpose beyond being walking blood smoothies. They have enough about them to draw the audience into caring emotionally about what happens.

Although the film still works, the passage of time for those 30 days was messed up. I prefer a short time period for stories - particularly horror ones. While the 30 days thing adds something different it means that, even if you don't show all those 30 days, it will seem to drag.

In this case, the direction is very weak at showing that things have happened on the days we’ve skipped. We needed to get more of a sense of the townsfolk being under siege and scrambling for food and water. If they're not going to do that then they might as well have set it on one night. Remove the captions saying what day we’re on and it could almost be the same night as before anyway.

It could also have done with a sense of the vampires ruthlessly and constantly hunting them down in every building. We know they have the energy, strength and speed to do that but conveniently they spend too much time doing zombie impressions.

Steve Niles adapted his own book for the first version, then the excellent A-lister Stuart Beattie did a version which Niles approved of. And then the director, responsible for the over-rated logic-free flop Hard Candy (see my review here ) brought in the screenwriter of that, Brian Nelson to re-write.

30 Days of Night is an entertaining horror that despite its sparse story doesn’t outstay its welcome and is recommended.


Lucy said...

Someone else who feels the same about Hardy Candy as me! Yay! I thought I was the only one.

I will give this a try after your review but that was the main prob for me too - the fact that it's apparently set over 30 Days. I'm always saying to my Bang2writers: keep it in a short a time frame as possible to increase drama/tension/etc. Hence 24, Nick of Time, People dying in one night (Halloween, Dog Soldiers) or an unpspecified but presumably short time frame like the Alien Franchise. Whilst I like the notion of the dark being neverending, I can't help but think 30 Days is way too long. Why can't it just be dark all the time, why specify it?

Robin Kelly said...

I know it's only a film but I still get angry at Hard Candy as it could have been so much better.

They have to specify the days, Luce, because the sun going down and the sun coming up are crucial plot points and we need the countdown.

The goodies have to survive until the next sunrise which gives a clear goal.

By the way If anyone has Stuart Beattie's final draft I'd love to read it.

Lucy said...

Ok, okay, clear goals, sure...Maybe I should put it this way then:

why have THIRTY days?

Just seems too long.

the artiste said...

'Cos it's to do with Alaska or something, tho isn't it 6 MONTHS of dark over there? I saw that in INSOMNIA or some crap, it had Al Pacino in I think, was bad bad bad.

30 days is too long. Sunrise to sun-up in one night is goal enough. Some nice moments, but ultimately felt like they were trying to give this story more than it really deserved.