30 Days of Night: Sparse, Mettlesome, Flat

Directed by David Slade, 30 Days of Night sees a relentless group of vampires invade Barrow, Alaska. The remainder of the community are left to duke it out with them for a full month of darkness.

Sparse, mettlesome, flat. If one were to question me on three words to aptly sum up my experience of 30 Days of Night, those are my three. This was not the case when I was younger, I had a massive appreciation for this movie. It was a comfortable favourite in the vampire sub-genre of horror for me.

This movie is nowhere near as good as I remembered it now. That’s not to say that 30 Days of Night is bad; it’s actually a pretty good watch for aesthetics but this brings me to my three adjectives. Let’s work backwards.

What’s ‘flat’ about this movie? The characters. They’re nothing but dead flesh. There’s no energy, there’s no urgent sense of community among everyone as their behaviour never sees a change after the vampires invade.

The movie had the chance to flesh out this town in its first act and instead it focuses on this half-assed relationship between Josh Hartnett and Melissa George, which is a recurring thread this movie never properly explores. Why do some inhabitants come to this isolated town? What are they trying to get away from? There’s great dramatic potential that is squandered in favour of a relationship that feels noticeably weightless.

What’s ‘mettlesome’ about this movie? The visuals, the vampires and the violence. When this movie hits home with the gore and the tension. There’s a sense of strength and vigour to it that lends itself stylistically. The vampires are terrifyingly primal and you can really feel how much of a threat they are in this setting.

One of the best scenes in the movie involves the community members trying to beat a little girl vampire, and it’s actually really well done. It’s genuinely quite freaky and I loved how it resolved itself. The movie also looks phenomenal. The blizzards, the vampire prosthetics. This is where David Slade excelled with his direction.

What’s sparse about this movie? These key moments where the characters are fending for themselves. There wasn’t enough to satisfy for an hour and fifty minutes, and the characters were far too uninteresting to become totally invested.

The best performances are from Ben Foster, Manu Bennett and Danny Huston. Tonally, I also found it to be too heavy at times. I also felt the movie was rushing too much, especially the time jumps from like ‘Day 3 to Day 8’; the movie should feel like an eternity in a good way but it ends up being the opposite for all the wrong reasons. The pacing and editing were a bit problematic there.

30 Days of Night elicits strong moments of violence and tension, but the flat-lined performances made all its highlights appear with a detrimental brevity. It’s an okayflick.

Written by Seán Mac G.

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