It is a vampire’s dream: 30 days of total darkness.
Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost community in the world and for 30 days in the dead of winter, with temperatures well below zero, not a ray of sunlight falls upon the town.
The film begins with the annual closing of the town and the departure of many of its residents. However, the usual peace and quiet of isolation is increasingly disturbed by the presence of a stranger (Ben Foster). Eben (Josh Hartnett) is the town sheriff and, therefore, responsible for its safety but he is not prepared for the scourge that overtakes his town in a matter of hours.
Led by a nearly unrecognizable Danny Huston, the vampires have come to indulge and gorge on the townsfolk unopposed. All Eben and the decreasing number he holes up with have to do is survive until the next sunrise.
The film is based on Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith‘s graphic novel of the same name. These vampires are not the neat, eloquent, romantic creatures of Anne Rice’s fantasies; on the contrary, they are vicious and feral. Although dressed for the Monster’s Ball, they are predatory and attack rather than seduce. Above all, they are survivors, vulnerable only to sunlight and the destruction or removal of the head.
Director David Slade employs the effective horror tactic of not allowing viewers to see the fiends clearly during their initial attacks; instead, they are slowly revealed as the film progresses. Even some of the murders are performed off-screen, leaving the grisly nature of the process to the audience’s imagination. Filmmakers also revive horror’s terrible child in a young girl found feeding on an adult.
The make-up effects are distinct and effective, creating a realistically inhuman bloodsucker. On the other hand, their communicative howls are reminiscent of the T-1000’s death cries in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Foster is effectively creepy as the harbinger of death, speaking with authority, menace and no fear. In contrast, Hartnett appears weak and whiney in the beginning but his uncertain, non-Herculean heroics fit the average guy his character is meant to represent – a Bruce Willis-type would not have been convincing in the situation. In addition, the other characters are not really stereotypical, particularly as events lead them to reveal more of their personalities and secrets.
30 Days of Night is the big-screen vampire story for which fans have been waiting.