Film Review – 30 Days Of Night (2007)

1 09 2008

Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the U.S., where every winter the area is plunged into darkness as the sun sets, and doesn’t rise again for 30 days. Setting the scene for ’30 Days of Night’, a scene perfect for vampires to have free reign over the small, isolated town.

See the trailer Here (Unfortunately no HD version is available)

This film is based on the graphic novel of the same name. Of which I read on it’s original release a few years ago. It was then when I heard the book had been optioned for a film I was taken with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation.

I thought from the moment I first read the book that the concept was fantastic and wondered how it had not been tackled before. Simple, yet effective. And I also felt it would make a great movie. Yet I still feared that this would become one in a long series of book to screen disasters. That the original source material would become subject to a brutality that would not only result in a terrible film but also cast a shadow over the book destroying it’s own credibility.

Thankfully, I feel I can say that ’30 days of night’ does not suffer from a fate such as this. Even if my own analysis of the potential situation is a little, if not overly dramatic. The film holds up well and my initial feeling that this could be translated to the screen proved somewhat correct.

The thing that attracted me to the graphic novel in the first place was its distinct artistic style, particularly the depiction of the vampires. I was thrilled to see that the drawings that seemed unfilmable, were recreated on screen successfully. Resulting in fascinating, visceral creatures that instill a dread into both characters and audience alike.

I was pleasantly surprised when I began watching, to see the brilliant talent that is Ben Foster in this film. I first came across Foster in the brilliant HBO series, ‘Six Feet Under‘, where his great performances as Russell made him stand out as one to watch. If you have seen ‘3:10 to Yuma’ you will know what I mean when talking about his talent. His great acting skill results in a performance that stands out above the rest of the cast in ’30 Days of Night’. I only wish his character of ‘The Stranger’ played a bigger part in the film. I hope that if the new Batman series continues into future movies, that Foster plays a part as one of the villains, as he plays evil with such perfection.

My enthusiasm for Foster cannot translate over to the leading man, Josh Hartnett. When I heard that he was playing the leading role, that was when the fear for this project began. I have never been a fan of Hartnett’s, I find most of his performances rather wooden, not as wooden as Keanu Reeves, but as though the wood has been soaked for a few days prior to being bent into shape. However, I tried not to let his presence on screen sway my judgement against the film, and tried to watch as if I’d never seen nor heard of him before. And to be fair, he is fine in this. He provides an adequate performance, that doesn’t detract from the piece, but he isn’t going to change my opinion of him any time soon.

The director’s name did not ring any bells with me as it appeared on screen. But when I checked online for information on David Slade, I was thrilled to see that he was the director of Hard Candy (2005). A small film which resulted in my first experience of Ellen Page, the fantastic young actress nominated for an Oscar in her role in Juno (2007), and a film I remember enjoying very much (I’ll likely write a review of Hard Candy and Juno sometime in the near future). With Hard Candy being a small, slow paced, Drama/Thriller, it seemed like quite a shift to go onto direct this film, with with its action and gore. Yet he has switched genre’s relatively well.

I feel as though I am praising this film at every corner, however, it does have its problems. Mainly caused by its story. Although Steve Niles, who created the series of books along with Ben Templesmith, co-wrote the screenplay, It still deviated away from the original story. It deviated only slightly but the books (to my memory), generated more depth in the vampire characters that the film did. The most notable change from the book, was the ending, which generated a much more interesting situation for the vampire side of the story.

With a graphic novel, surely the best way to shoot a film of the story, is to use the novel as a storyboard. Granted a graphic novel of a larger size would not be easily made into a film following every panel, but the 30 Days of Night book is relatively small and could easily translated to the screen much more faithfully.

Anyway, I feel I’ve hit a tangent. Despite its slight deviation from the source material, and the presence of Josh Hartnett, I enjoyed ’30 Days Of Night’. It won’t scare a seasoned horror film watcher, but there are a few decent jumps in the film that do the job asked of them. I’d happily recommend anyone to give it a watch, if only for the great performance from Foster as the creepy Stranger, though the film does have more to it than that. I think I’m starting to go in circles now, so thats it, if you are stuck for something to watch and this is available, you can’t go wrong with giving it a watch.

Cheers Mate

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