Reel Rewind – 30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night (MA)

Directed by: David Slade

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster

Two and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

Audiences have witnessed countless goblins and ghouls come to life before their eyes in film. Vampires have terrified audiences since Nosferatu took his first victim in the classic 1920s film. Since then there have been various versions of vampire lore.

Fright Night had some fun and took some satirical jabs at vampires in the 1980s and Francis Ford Coppola made the sumptuous period horror Dracula with an A-list cast in the 1990s. After 85 years, director David Slade has proven it is quite a difficult task to bring something new to the genre.

In a contrived set-up, the sleepy town of Barrow, Alaska is about to be plunged into darkness for an entire month. Everyone is packing up and preparing, some even moving on to the next town to escape it.

On the last day of light for a month, sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) discovers some strange goings on in the isolated town. He finds a stack of burnt mobile phones and dogs have been slaughtered. Enter the Stranger (Ben Foster), a mysterious man who is clearly not a local, who causes a disturbance in a café. He warns the sheriff that something bad is going to happen, but nothing could prepare Eben for what will follow.

The town is invaded by a pack of vampires and the town’s people must survive an entire month before the sun rises again. Thrown into the mix is the presence of Eben’s estranged wife Stella (Melissa George), who had run out on him and skipped town. She had been called back for work but missed her flight out of there. The two must work together to help people survive.

It is good to see so much Perth talent up on the big screen in a Hollywood movie. The film is based on a graphic novel co-written by Perth resident Ben Templesmith and stars WA actress Melissa George. Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of new ideas, twists or even novelty value.

After giving us the controversial, intense and stylish thriller Hard Candy last year, the viewer may have expected much more from director David Slade. He was able to tighten the screws of suspense so skilfully in his first film, and made audiences squirm with one particular scene that will go down in film history.

Slade demonstrated an interesting style with the use of vivid colours and claustrophobic close-ups. He fails to capture the same white-knuckle experience in 30 Days.

The main problem is the tempo. It begins well enough, but stops dead in its tracks far too soon, when the survivors decide to sit around hiding from the vampires and wait for the sun to rise. And with little human drama and few interesting characters, it becomes hard to get involved in the action.

Slade does manage a few effective jump scares and the soundtrack is creepy. Ben Foster as the Stranger – and the voice of doom – is a standout. The character could easily have been cheesy, but Foster takes it deadly seriously and sends a chill up your spine. There are also too many lapses in logic and continuity and so many questions remain unanswered.

As appeared in Examiner Newspaper 2007.

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