Described by film critic Roger Ebert as “better than it needs to be,” David Slade’s 30 Days of Night remains a rather impressive vampire horror movie.
These are not your standard-issue vampires, who play nice when they’re not thirsty for blood. They are strategic, plotting for war against the unsuspecting residents of Barrow, Alaska. Interestingly, Barrow is an actual town (though renamed Utqiagvik in 2016) that experiences nearly 2 months of darkness in winter. What a perfect cover for vampires!
That’s why Marlow (Danny Huston) takes his bloodthirsty and genocidal troop of vampires to the town, rendering most of its citizens into hapless victims of their fangs. These vampires won’t just scare you. They’ll probably make you think of true-life atrocities, which makes this movie seem deeper and more emblematic. Danny Huston does a masterful job as Marlow, whose name definitely seems like a tribute to Barlow from Salem’s Lot (another great vampire movie). Like Barlow, Marlow is a vampire you wouldn’t want to mess with. It also doesn’t help he has a crew with him, including his apparent vampire bride, Iris (Megan Franich), and Arvin (Andrew Stehlin), who comes equipped with a permanent sinister grin on his face.
A Certain Degree of Realism
Obviously this movie has a fantastical premise. The vampires have super strength, speed, and agility. Also, vampires most certainly don’t genuinely exist. However, this movie itself kind of addresses that when Marlow hints that they’ve tried to convince humans that they’re not real. It’s sort of a smart touch, and it plays on the concept of denial. Just as the main characters must hide from these tormentors, such actually has happened in real life, during times of genuine atrocity.
While 30 days of Night does have entertainment value and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it does make several nods in the direction of reality. It’s as if the movie says: “This is what life would be like if vampires really did invade a town.” It’s not much of a stretch to imagine also what it would be like to have your actual town attacked, especially by people who have no moral qualms about it (which is, of course, something that happens far too often in reality.
So, as happens very often in the world of horror, I found myself linking this movie to reality, with possible lessons about preparedness for brutalities of all sorts. These survivors must deal with their attackers, but also the weather and the darkness around them. They have to strategize ways to move around, to find cover, and to have each others’ backs. They also must fight when cornered and make very tough decisions involving self-sacrifice, if they are to have any survivors at all. Finally, the vampires are willing to burn the entire town to the ground, potentially destroying evidence that they were even there (again, hinting at denialism). In other words, 30 Days of Night has a lot of depth for an action-oriented vampire movie, in addition to the standard blood, gore, and monsters.
30 Days of Night seems to be quite underrated. While it’s not the most unjustly bashed movie ever, it seems like it would’ve been heralded as a near-masterpiece had it come out earlier in history. I genuinely think people undermine it because it’s not absolutely, 100% original in all aspects, or maybe were experiencing vampire fatigue at the time due to things like the Underworld series (not to pick on that, but it’s possible).
The story is decent, the acting is good, there is action, drama, even a certain amount of plausibility. For example, the vampires seem to act mostly at Barlow’s behest, which might answer the critique of “How come the vampires move fast sometimes but slow at others?” My biggest critique would simply be that it’s not a 100% perfect movie. Other than that, it’s all good. I should also mention that this movie stars Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Ben Foster, and Mark Boone Junior.
What are your thoughts on 30 Days of Night? Bare your fangs in the comments!