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30 Days of Night (2007)
Rated R

Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and Danny Huston

Rating:
**
out of
*****

30 Days of Night has a particularly inventive plot gimmick in its story of an Alaskan town. That town is Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost outpost in the United States. Due to its position inside the Arctic Circle, Barrow goes 67 days without direct sunlight. In the film, it goes pitch black for 30 days -- which isn't true, but 67 Days of Indirect Sunlight doesn't exactly roll of the tongue. Facts not withstanding, what type of monster would love an area of the world that was dark for 30 days at a time? If you answered "vampires," you'd be correct!

Barrow's sheriff, Eben (Josh Hartnett), starts to find weird things happening as the sun sets for its month long absence. First, he and his deputy find a pile of burned cell phones outside the city limits. Then, one of the townsfolk reports his sled dogs have been ruthlessly slaughtered. Soon, the power and phone service are disrupted. Coincidentally, a stranger (Ben Foster) wanders into town. After a near fight at the local diner, he's taken into custody by Eben and begins spouting off ominous warnings like "Everyone here is dead" and "They're coming for you." And come they do. Soon the town is overrun by athletic vampires who seem overjoyed that their prey have no way to call for help and nowhere to run.

30 Days of Night may have a great premise (as fact-stretching as it is) but it definitely does not have much action. As we watched the film, my friend remarked, "It's a movie about hiding." That's very true. There's little direct confrontation and what encounters there are with the vampires get progressively more over-the-top as the film strains to reach a two-hour running time. On top of that, the movie's oddball cast of characters do things that defy any logical explanation. For example, one man takes a ditch-digging machine and successfully mows down several vampires and fends off their attack better than anyone in the film up to that point. What does he do? He then plows the vehicle into a building and lights himself on fire -- apparently on purpose. It must have made sense to him, I guess.

Director David Slade does an excellent job keeping things tense for most of the movie, but there's never a payoff of any kind. The conclusion comes out of nowhere and is another example of a character being completely illogical. At least the casting is good. Danny Huston is in fine form as the leader of the vampire posse. Melissa George is adequately pouty as Eben's estranged wife, Stella. Even the usually sullen Hartnett is pretty lively here. It's too bad the script doesn't give these people much more to do than play hide and seek with stupidity.

Trivia: Writer Steve Niles originally conceived and pitched the story as a film for some years, but it was turned down by studios and thus reworked as a comic book. Eventually one of the producers who had rejected the original pitch worked on the movie adaptation. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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