As night begins to fall for a thirty day spell over a small Alaskan outpost village, a motley crew of vampires comes waltzing in for a feast in David Slade's adaptation of the graphic novel, "30 Days of Night." Ever since "Interview with the Vampire" vampires have been depicted in films as something hip, cool, and sexy. Recently the idea of becoming a vampire is like making a fashion statement or becoming a Scientologist. In "30 Days of Night" the vampires are nameless, cunning, animal-like bloodsuckers and far from mindless zombies (which have been more popular of late). Finally, vampires are restored to film as monsters to be feared and not as some sympathetic and alluring subculture.
The film grabs you from its opening shot of a man walking through a desolate snow covered landscape away from an ominous boat docked in the ice and never lets go. Director Slade wisely avoids many of the seizure-inducing trappings of recent horror films. Sure, there are the prerequisite quick-cuts in the intimate scenes of carnage, but there are also haunting wide-angled shots and one expertly staged bird's-eye-view crane shot when the vampires first begin dragging people out of their houses into the street. While successfully adapting some of the great imagery from the graphic novel, Slade is fully aware that this is still a film and shies away from CGI and overly-stylized lighting and effects that would detract from the sense of realism necessary in a far-fetched horror film such as this.
Slade also makes good use of his cast. Danny Huston is perfectly creepy as the vampires' leader. Josh Hartnett, who is typically miscast and emotionless, actually fits well the role of a wooden Sheriff of a remote Alaskan town. Ben Foster, who always overacts, is used effectively here in a bit role as an over-the-top Reinfield-like character who ushers the vampires' arrival in town. Melissa George is pretty and sympathetic as Hartnett's estranged wife. Like many serious horror films of recent memory ("Dawn of the Dead" or "The Descent") the film attempts some character development that is often "emo" but never overplays its hand.
Aside from being better directed and better acted than your run-of-the-mill horror flick, "30 Days of Night" is also fantastically gory. Decaptation aficionados will especially rejoice. Refreshing, too, is the way it takes its gore and action dead seriously. There are no silly one-liners or graphic sight gags. The characters are deeply affected by what they witness and what they have to do to survive. This is pure horror, and it's relentless.
Yes, there are some missteps with the film's pacing and some huge leaps of logic in the amount of time that passes between events. However, for the shear originality of its central conceit, the intensity of the gore, and the haunting quality of many of its signature shots, David Slade's "30 Days of Night" is the most exhilarating horror film since Danny Boyle's original "28 Days Later" and the best vampire film since Francis Ford Coppola delivered "Bram Stoker's Dracula" back in 1992.