Night, Fright, Flite, Bite
by Mike Baron
Like all good fright fans, I dutifully trooped to my local metroplex to catch 30 Days of Night, the new wave vampire movie based on IDW's graphic novel. The film begins with the eerie image of a freighter looming in the fog and ice off the coast of Barrow, Alaska, a town that turns dark for a month each year. 30 Days is High Concept: "Wow, do you realize there are towns near the north pole that are dark for weeks at a time? What a feast for vampires!" What studio head doesn't understand that? Only Ivory/Merchant Productions would be immune to such a pitch, particularly in light of Hollywood's headlong dive into comics.
The freighter is never seen again, implication being that the vampires came in on it, crossing the Bering Strait from Russia. Next, someone kills all the dogs, messily, operatically, leaving behind heaping piles of red gobbets. "Boss - picture this - white snow stained with blood! Think of the visual!"
© 2007 Sony Pictures
Sheriff Josh Hartnett looks too young for the job, displays the appropriate shock and horror when confronted with a severed head on a pike. The sheriff's estranged wife Melissa George gets stuck in town as the sun sets. At first they dance around each other but by the end of the story they have reconciled, alas, for all the good it will do them.
Once the vampires appear the story takes off and never slows down. These are modern vampires in suits and party dresses, although they speak an unknown language with subtitles. I would have believed it more if they spoke Russian. Some of the vampires have peculiar facial characteristics, as if their eyes and nose were all pulling together to form a pyramid of flesh. These vampires scuttle in fast-forward, like the crazed zombies of 28 Days Later. They are super-strong. They run citizens down and chow down on the spot. Soon their elegant suits and dresses are spattered with blood. And they don't change clothes for a whole month! One longs for fastidious vampires.
As the vamps turn Barrow into a ghost town, the sheriff, wife and a few pals hide in a sealed attic, waiting for a white out so they can break for the power utility on the edge of town. Our heroes figure out that they are indeed under siege by vampires, and an experiment with a sun lamp proves instructive. Faced with sun these vampires burn. Not a word about crucifixes, garlic, or wooden stakes.
The good guys take to dispatching vampires in a variety of ways. But the vampires outplay the townspeople. It looks like the vampires are going to win - that is, they're going to eat every damn body before the sun comes up. The Sheriff decides there's only one way to fight these brutes - join them. Injecting himself with tainted blood the sheriff turns instantly into a vampire, runs out and does battle with the chief vampire.
It moves fast and it entertains, but it doesn't frighten. I'm trying to put my finger on it. Maybe it's this vampire-by-committee thing. Maybe horror works best when it's one on one.
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