30 DAYS OF NIGHT directed by David Slade, written by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson, with Josh Hartnett, Danny Huston, Melissa George and Ben Foster. A Sony release. 97 minutes. Opens Friday (October 19). Rating: NNNN
I have to admit I'm fed up with movies about vampires. Biker vampires, cowboy vampires, kung fu vampires, gangster vampires, gangsta vampires, lesbian vampires (okay, maybe not lesbian vampires).
Mostly I'm tired of dandified charmers of the androgynous Anne Rice variety whining about their lost humanity and ashen complexions and that whole having-to-live-forever thing. Suck it up, I say.
Which is one of the reasons 30 Days Of Night is such a truly fearsome pulse-pounder. These wilding bloodsuckers - led by a besuited and befanged Danny Huston - are land sharks in a feeding frenzy. There's no seduction before they sink their teeth into you, no romance before they rip your throat out.
Directed by David Slade, whose previous outing was the chilling pedophile revenge fantasy Hard Candy, and based on the hit graphic novel by co-writer Steve Niles, 30 Days actually infuses fresh blood into a dead genre.
But while it's filled with plenty of arterial sprays - stylishly filmed against a blanket of white in a hyper-real fashion similar to 300 - it's not just about the kills.
Indeed, the film works best as a siege story. Relentless, unforgiving, no frame is wasted on unnecessary exposition or backstory. Barrow, the northernmost outpost in Alaska, has just been plunged into darkness for a month, turning it into a giant frozen dinner. The sun goes down, the vampires attack, and the townsfolk, led by Josh Hartnett's sheriff and his estranged firefighter girlfriend (Melissa George), struggle to survive.
One shot is particularly stunning - a sweeping bird's-eye view of the entire town as the vampires hunt down and kill the townsfolk. It goes on and on and drives home the losing battle being fought in red smears on a white canvas.
Obviously, Slade's learned how to create tension, dread and a sense of inescapable doom from genre classics like Alien and The Thing. When, after several days, the vampires use a young girl as bait to lure out any survivors, the scene plays out for the audience just as it does for the characters onscreen, with equal parts helplessness and hopelessness.
Finally, a vampire movie that doesn't suck. And that's the last cliché to come within incisor's length of this succulent little slice of Guignol.