Oh, horror of horrors.
Goodness. Regardless of whether or not 30 Days of Night ends up succeeding as a film, which I'm not entirely convinced it does, it sure as heck scared the crap out of me last night in the theatre. Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles (story) and Ben Templesmith (art), the film takes place in Barrow, Alaska during the winter's 30 day absence of sunlight. The most northern community in North America, the community hunkers down for the month of darkness when strange acts of violence and odd behaviour start happening.
First, Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and his deputy Billy discover a pile of burnt cell phones (everyone's in town), and then he's called out to find that someone's entire pack of sled dogs has been slaughtered. The culprit, a filthy, rotten-toothed stranger, called aptly The Stranger (Ben Foster), rolls up into the local cafe asking for raw hamburger meat when Eben apprehends him. No one knows what's going on, but nor do they know what's about to hit them as a league (again is that the right word) of vampires descends upon the town for a feast they've never seen the likes of...and it's as bloody and as horrific as you'd think.
The rest of the film pits a core group of townies against their bloodthirsty enemies led by a frightfully made up Danny Huston; the former trying to stay safe, the later trying to eat them. The vampires, with makeup and prosthetics done by Weta, are ridiculously horrifying, and they all speak some language I didn't recognize (if anyone knows, please enlighten me) in strange philosophical sentences that sounded more like doctrine than any kind of normal dialogue.
On the whole, the film felt forced in places, and I'm not sure Josh Hartnett, who will live forever in my mind's eye as the luscious Trip Fontaine, was the right choice for the town sheriff charged with saving his community, his brother and his ex-wife. He's a little too teary in places, but man, can he ever wield an ax when necessary. Also, as Kate pointed out, there was a whole subplot about his having asthma that seemed contrary to him running all over the place in the dead of winter in Alaska and a) not being out of breath and b) not coughing like a maniac. As a girl who has lived through winter with plenty of disease-induced lung problems, I know of what I speak.
Also, my RRHB, who read the original graphic novel, made a lot out of the fact that the film didn't do enough with the vampire's backstory. That by keeping the focus entirely upon the humans in the film, you didn't get enough of the reasons why they picked Barrow or the in-fighting that apparently went on within the sect once they arrived. And if I'm listing complaints, Ben Foster might need to invent another character other than crazy to play. It seemed a lot like he stepped right off his horse in 3:10 To Yuma, pulled on some boots and a parka, and whipped up the same kind of mental instability he played in the other film. Regardless, he's an actor who's got a spark of something that I certainly appreciate, and he did scare the living crap out of me, which I guess was the whole point.
In that sense, to me, whose not a horror movie aficionado by any stretch of the imagination (the last scary movie I saw in the theatre was The Exorcist when it had its anniversary many years ago and afterwards I told the RRHB never again, I was THAT scared), it sure did the trick. There were numerous points during the movie where I had my hands clasped on my lap and was physically shaking because I was so scared. I fell asleep with the light on last night and even when I went to bed I still had to tell myself over and over again that it's just a movie. So, if you're looking for bloody, scary fun, it's not a bad place to spend a few hard-earned dollars, just don't expect it to be one of the best films you'll watch all year, because it's certainly not.
And just one last question, if the film takes place so far north, where are all the Inuit?