"30 Days of Night" takes place in Barrow, Alaska, the Northernmost outpost of the US. The movie begins, as the title would suggest, right before the one time each year that the area is sunk into a month of night. Under the cover of a month's worth of darkness, a band of vampires take advantage of the darkness and move into the area, dispatching and feeding on anyone they come across. First, they get those in the outlying areas. Then, they descend upon the town, cutting off the phone lines and eventually the power.
One of the last remaining townsfolk who haven't left for the month to get away from the darkness is sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett), who has just captured a stranger (Ben Foster) - who continually warns him that something or someone is coming for the town. He's joined by a band of other locals, including his estranged wife (Melissa George, from "Alias"), although given the fact that they are understandably unprepared, they quickly find that their numbers are dwindling as they try to figure out a way to save themselves.
"30 Days of Night" is not another one of those horror flicks that is restrained by a PG-13. The picture is certainly an R, and a pretty hard R, at that: the vampire attacks are quite graphic. This is also not one of those movies where the vampires kind of stroll along, either (although they have strolling capability when they want to be all slow and dramatic) - they zip through the city streets like the wind, snatching victims before they even realize what hit them.
The performances are quite good, especially Hartnett, who I've never really been terribly impressed with. Hartnett offers a gritty, subtle performance that really anchors the picture. He makes a good, believable hero and does a nice job - as does the rest of the movie - grounding the picture. Hartnett's performance, combined with excellent production design and other technical elements - really makes this picture feel about as gritty and grounded as a vampire movie can. Visually, this is really a striking, haunting picture, with stellar cinematography and a great town set. Some of the quieter images in the dark, snowy picture will really stick with the viewer after the credits roll. Director David Slade gets the isolated, bleak, claustrophobic feel the picture needs to work spot-on perfect.
I had a few minor concerns with the picture, starting with the running time. This is a picture that could have been moderately more sleek and punchy at 95 minutes, but at nearly two hours, it starts to feel overlong. There's also not much detail to the vampires, who we never find out too much about. Some of the supporting characters are also sketchily developed.
Still, despite some concerns, I thought this was a solid horror/thriller, with good performances and strong visuals. It could have been tightened somewhat, but over it's better than I'd expected.
VIDEO: "30 Days of Night" is presented by Sony Pictures in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is quite good, with excellent sharpness and detail, even in the darkest sequences. No edge enhancement is seen, but a couple of traces of artifacting were spotted. No print flaws were seen, and the film's desaturated color palette appeared accurately presented. Overall, this is an excellent transfer of material that I have to imagine was difficult to present just right on DVD.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is about as aggressive as one might expect, with the surrounds used aggressively and smartly in order to place the viewer in the midst of the situation, as the vampires go on the hunt. Audio quality is terrific throughout the show, with strong, deep bass and clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: A commentary from actors Melissa George, actor Josh Hartnett and producer Rob Talpert is offered, making one wonder about why director David Slade didn't want to participate. Overall, this is an amusing and insightful track, as Hartnett playfully jokes with George and the three chat about the difficulties of production, as well as what works and what doesn't. We also get some fun behind-the-scenes stories and a good perspective of what it was like for the actors and working with the other actors.
The DVD also offers a lengthy 8-part "making of" featurette, which explores pre-production, make-up effects, stunts, night shoots, casting and more. The documentary runs a little under an hour total. Finally, we get an episode of "Blood+ One", the anime vampire series. Finally, we also get a large batch of trailers for other Sony pictures.
Final Thoughts:Still, despite some concerns, I thought this was a solid horror/thriller, with good performances and strong visuals. It could have been tightened somewhat, but over it's better than I'd expected. The DVD presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, as well as above-average supplements. Recommended.
The Film B+