Let me start by saying that I’ve never read the comic book that this movie was based on. Almost always the books or comics are better than the movie versions (unless there is enough difference like the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner situation.) So, I’m talking about the movie 30 Days of Night without any other reference.

I went to see this film at the theatre when it came out and I’ve just watched it again on DVD. It is one quality horror flick. It’s by far one of the best representations of vampires in a long time. The new-romantic LeStat vampire stereotype is getting pretty old now, unless you like to sit in dark rooms and cut yourself, in which case you’re never likely to consider LeStat a cliche. I love Anne Rice’s books, but she has a lot to answer for.

30 Days of Night takes the vampire mythos in a new direction, presenting vamps as more feral and different. Not just dapper humans with moments of blood lust, these vamps are an entirely different creature. They look like monsters that used to be human. Although I couldn’t help but wonder why all the vamps in the movie had a distinct facial shape, particularly the almond-shaped eyes, while the boss vampire looked completely normal except for his desperate need of a manicure (and his teeth and blood-stained face, of course. That’s not really “normal”).

Cool vampires – but why does the Boss look different?

Anyway, the movie is great. There were a few things that struck me as odd. The vampire faces I’ve mentioned above were one thing. Another was the little girl vampire in the general store. She had tattoos on her arms. She was about 6. Does becoming a vampire cause automatic tattooing in this world? And, considering that it was night and the survivors were hiding out in a sealed off attic, it was surprisingly light. I suppose we can take moonlight reflected off snow for occasional bright times, but for 30 days solid? And I had to laugh when one of the characters went to use the toilet and another said, “OK, but remember not to flush.” Sheesh – a bunch of people, one toilet and no flushing? That would be worse than Glastonbury in less than a day.

The other thing that annoyed me was the passage of time. There are the first few scenes of the movie after the attack, then it’s suddenly day 7. A couple more things happen and it’s suddenly day 18. A lot can happen in a day, but these guys all just sat really quietly sharing rations? Hard to accept, though it was probably more the constraints of movie time than storytelling that makes this stand out. But these are small flaws in an otherwise very good flick.

There was one line in the film that really appealed to me. It’s a cliche and it plays on that old adage about the devil, but when the boss vampire says (in cool, animalistic Vampire-ese), “It took centuries for us to convince them that we were only bad dreams” it sets up the feel of the whole approach very well. Given that these are not your lace-wearing dandy vampires, it’s very powerful.

The filming of the movie was excellent, particularly the aerial shots as the vampires first move in. You can watch that scene over and over and see new things happening every time. And the story doesn’t shy away from harsh events. Most horror films are content to have a lot of blood and gore and gruesome slayings (and this one is no exception), but they also tend to have a fairly predictable ending – the hero-saves-the-day ending or the everyone-is-wiped-out-and-the-evil-is-free ending. This movie tackles some brutal concepts (Billy and his family), some harsh realities (what Eben has to do to fight vamps because humans are actually quite feeble) and an ending that mixes up the hero ending with the hopeless cause ending with something a bit all of its own. The end of this film is actually very strong and not at all Hollywood (other than the obvious opening for sequels, but there are several graphic novels so that’s no surprise).

He’s angry because he has a silly name. Seriously, Eben?

Here’s the official movie website.

And here’s the IDW Publishing page for the original comic books.