30 DAYS OF NIGHT (Columbia, 2007) D: David Slade, w/ Josh Hartnett, Melissa George. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
Given that vampires haven’t had any power to scare since Anne Rice turned them into poster children for whiny outsiders, it’s astonishing that director David Slade and company have made 30 Days Of Night as good as it is.
Much of its strength comes from its setting. Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the U.S., gets hit by a gang of the fanged just as the titular night kicks in, forcing our heroes to scurry like rodents. This gives Slade and company an entire town to play in, and they run riot with fake snow, a giant outdoor set and eerie lighting, creating a unique, marvellous look. The smart, funny making-of docs give us lots of details about how they did it.
Character and acting aren’t high on the agenda here. Danny Huston, the boss vampire, stands out for his animal alertness and enthusiastic cruelty. The rest of the cast does solid, enjoyable work.
Sadly, some of the ample action and gore translates poorly on the small screen. In theatres, quick glimpses of the villains in action were detailed enough to tantalize. On my modest home screen, those details are lost.
Extras Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and producer Rob Tapert commentary, eight-part making-of doc, unrelated anime series episode. Widescreen. English, French audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.