Saturday, October 20, 2007

Review: "30 Days of Night" (A)

An isolated Alaskan village. Complete darkness for 30 days. Ancient, blood-thirsty vampires.

If this wasn't enough to draw you in to see
30 Days of Night, I don't know what is. Except for maybe the fact that David Slade of the genius film Hard Candy directs. In fact, I was so ready for this movie that I dragged a friend to go see it at midnight the night before it opened, despite the fact that she had early class the next morning.

This movie is utterly gorgeous, to start. I was practically overwhelmed that a horror movie was this fucking pretty to look at. The cinematography is genius. I'm not sure who will appreciate the macabre beauty of blood splatters against the snow except hardcore horror fans, but this movie is definitely a feast for the eyes.

One of the best things about this film is that it takes a tired myth - vampires - and ... well, re-vamps it (seriously bad pun). The teeth, for instance, are rows of sharp-edged fangs. Instead of biting victims and sucking their blood, these vampires have to rip and tear and the feeding is messy. It isn't "oh, yes, I love human blood, but I only have a trickle coming down the side of my mouth" kind of feeding. How lame is that, anyway? I also loved the long nails - the one scene with the girl literally being clawed to pieces gave me the chills. I did , however, have the reaction of wondering why it always seems to be a woman that dies in such drawn out and tortuous ways. The consequence of being a feminist who loves the horror genre, I guess.

The acting in this movie is quite good. Josh Hartnett and Melissa George were well cast, in my opinion. They both do well with showing the small-town mentality and the shock that comes with their safety being so compromised. George manages to balance vulnerability and kick-ass woman so well. Josh Hartnett has definitely earned some more points with me (already had some from
Sin City) and has risen up on my ladder of celebrities worth my attention. His character involves so many complexities and the end ... well, that was just the maximum amount of cool I think I can take. The comic-relief character had me giggling throughout - even when he died, I was laughing, yet I was also sad. Weird dynamic, but somehow it worked.

Also? Ben Foster? That creepy dude from the beginning? He was brilliant - the one scene with him standing in the cell and making that speech ... I loved it. And usually when you have one person talking for a long time in a horror movie, it's the kind of crap expository monologue that appears in the last 30 minutes to explain to the audience what the hell is going on. Here it's just creepy as all hell and is the perfect set-up for the entrance of the vampires. Speaking of, Danny Huston as the lead vamp was phenomenal.

This movie is grisly, but in all the right places. I think it's important to note that it actually doesn't go overboard. Although I will admit to perhaps not being the best judge when it comes to that - I tend to be on the "more is always good" side. And yes, the movie is a horror film, but the character evolution here really is great. The blood and gore doesn't overwhelm that. In fact, in one key scene, the lack of gore enhances that development.

One thing I have to mention in regards to the vampires is that whenever they would shriek or do something particularly animalistic, the audience would laugh. I didn't really get that. My tip to my friend? Don't picture them as humans doing the things they do. They stopped being human the moment their heart stopped beating. Now, they're just animals relying on base instinct to get what they want, which just so happens to be human blood. They're also ancient - we're given insight that they're centuries old, which probably explains why they speak the way they do.

All my love for this movie aside, I did think it was a tad too long. Then again, that could just be the atmosphere of the film - by the end of it, I too wanted it to be day 30 and to prevail over the vamps. The fact that I felt that way is a good thing and a compliment to Slade's direction. But one thing I really did actively dislike about the film was the music (but only at certain points). Sometimes it just felt ... off. At one point, a pounding, dramatic beat started up so loud it was vibrating the movie seats, but there wasn't anything really going on. I had a "what the fuck?" moment in the theater that interrupted the flow of the movie, which annoyed me. And if I were to nitpick, I also didn't like the way they told us what day it was. That being said, these really were just minuscule annoyances.

So, yes, if you couldn't tell ... I highly recommend this movie. This review is practically an open love letter to David Slade and everyone else involved in the making of the movie.

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