Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. A mild mannered reporter (his choosing of a handle) decided to drop us a line after seeing David Slade's 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. It's not a positive review. Reading through it, I don't get the impression that our spy has any kind of ax to grind and that he/she/it really wanted to enjoy the flick. I hope I radically disagree with our spy because 30 DAY OF NIGHT is my most anticipated Halloween release, but the mention of shutter-speed gimmickery has me a tad worried. Anyway, enjoy the review, but be warned of spoilers!
Hi Harry! Call me mild mannered reporter (as usual), if you decide to use this... Preface: Sorry if some of my comments sound weird - English is not my first language. Had the chance to go to a screening of "30 days of night" a few days ago. I was pretty pumped, since I liked both the graphic novel and the trailer. This looked like a seriously scary vampire flick with more brains than your average schlock horror movie. Well, turns out I was wrong... The story in short: Barrow, Alaska is so way up north that they have an annual "night cycle" of 30 days without sunlight. During the latest stretch of darkness, a horde of vampires cuts all connections to the outside world, and violently slays the population. Only a few survivors (led by Eben, the community's sheriff) manage to hide away for a while, hoping to last until the sun comes up again... Where to start? Visually, 30DON is all over the place - some of the location photography is surprisingly realistic, while a lot of other shots look fake as hell. The texture and the depth of the picture seem to change from scene to scene, CGI snow alternating with crystal clear images. Most houses are obviously spray painted white to simulate winter. This continues in the editing style - shutter speed gimmickry and nitrate trickery is as evident as regular TV movie setups, making 30DON very uneven in look and feel. I understand that it is VERY hard to film a movie that's basically 100 per cent night shoots and fake snow, but other movies ("The Thing") did it a lot better with less advanced technology. You never get the feeling just how cold and lonely a place Barrow is (apart from the opening scenes that were obviously shot on location - the rest seems awfully studio bound). But all of this would be irrelevant if the movie worked dramatically. It doesn't. In fact, the flaws in the script are so obvious that I can't believe the writer of the graphic novel had a hand in it. This movie has so many dumb "slap your forehead in disbelief" scenes that I can hardly believe Sam Raimi had ANYTHING to do with it. The audience audibly groaned several times. The pacing is totally off, due to a rather clumsy oversight on the part of the scriptwriters: our heroes are only in marginal danger, and under little pressure. Most of the time (pretty much 28 of the 30 days), they hide away, with the vampires being someplace else. It is mentioned on the very first day that the creatures ransack every house, looking for survivors - but it is never mentioned again, and seems to exclude the very house our heroes are hiding in! And the ransacking also doesn't apply to the general store, even though the vampires have gone to great lengths to minimize the chances of survival for the protagonists (yeah, leave the store with the food and tools intact and unwatched - good idea). Our survivors never really stand a chance, thus depriving the film of any "us vs. them" moments. Vampires come - humans run. Or die. That simple. But not very satisfying. It doesn't help that we never get any backstory on the vampires or their goals. When they finally burn down the town to cover their tracks (yeah, dozens of decapitated bodies won't raise ANY suspicion), we get the feeling that they just wanted to have a good time during a longer than usual night out. But I saved the biggest blunder for last: 30DON never manages to convey the a sense of time passing. The survivors are trapped for 30 days, yet nothing happens that couldn't have happened over the course of a single regular night. If you take out the "Day 13", "Day 27" etc. title cards, you could easily claim that this is your average "Assault on Precinct 13" variation. What does it MEAN to be trapped for 30 days, with vampires roaming around? How does it AFFECT people? Pain, loneliness, suffering, hunger - by God, even the menstrual cycle of the women? 30DON never addresses any of that. The survivors hide in one house, then stock up on food (never seen or heard from ever again), and then visit an industrial building for the final confrontation. It's that simple. And that overused. Don't get me wrong - there is tons of gore, some pretty extreme decapitations, and in the action scenes, it rivals "Planet Terror" for sheer splatter mayhem. There is also a nice "helicopter view" massacre sequence not unlike the car scenes at the beginning of the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. But this is rather distracting in a movie that would've worked better as a suspense piece. The actors are fine, even though they never get much to work with - the relationship between Josh Hartnett and Melissa George practically defines the term "filler", and a role reversal would've made a lot more sense. Eben's actions in the finale would've carried more impact if HE had been the one who originally wanted to leave Barrow. I realize that a LOT of the structural problems are already evident in the source material - but isn't the most basic task of adapting a graphic novel to make it WORK on the big screen? With a better script, this could've been a major horror release - it had the budget, it had the expertise, it had the actors, and it had a terrific hook. But they fucked it up. Badly. Worth renting on DVD - if at all. Sorry, folks.