by Brody Rossiter
What the hell happened to vampires? Recent cinematic presentations may well have rejuvenated and re-branded the mythical creatures of the night, filing down their fangs and electing to replace their violent animalism with animal magnetism, but ultimately, it wasn’t just the bloodsuckers that were left a little cold in the wake of an increasingly lifeless Twilight Saga.
So now that Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have shed their pallid teenage skins and established themselves as incredibly promising acting talents, let’s all remind ourselves of one of the more inspired vampire flicks of the early 21st century.
Adapted from the popular miniseries of graphic novels of the same name, 30 Days of Night takes a simplistic narrative premise and smears it with bloody action-packed flourishes, believable casting and a foreboding atmosphere that once it takes hold, refuses to relinquish its icy, limb ripping grip.
Once a year the town of Barrow, Alaska experiences a month-long polar night; a phenomenon in which darkness lasts more than 24 hours. Though somewhat startling, the prolonged darkness is a merely an annual inconvenience for the residents – that is until a dangerous stranger arrives in town and plummets the extremely isolated settlement into a chaotic and visceral fight for their lives. After having their communications to the outside world cut-off and with the nearby airport closed until the next sunrise, Barrow essentially becomes a voiceless stronghold; a grim bastion threatened by ferocious ancient vampires hell-bent on dismembering and consuming every last one of the unsuspecting humans cowering before them.
Starring the vastly underappreciated, Josh Hartnett (see Penny Dreadful), alongside popular horror mainstay, Melissa George, the pair play an estranged husband and wife that become the leaders of the dwindling resistance against vicious marauders. The film is a clear example of the action horror sub-genre, yet that doesn’t mean it skimps on the gruesome subtleties. From the moment the sun begins to set, an ominous shadow creeps over Barrow, slowly transforming into a heavy and unrelenting blanket of blackness under which ancient abominations inflict ultra-violence. The terror is tangible. Whether residents are desperately hiding within a claustrophobic crawlspace or being devoured beneath the acrid plumes of an oil fire, the picture’s nail-biting battle of attrition is consistently thrilling and satisfyingly chilling.
John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 may well have established a harrowing blueprint for film narratives such as this, but 30 Days of Night invited vampires, and they definitely don’t twinkle in the sunlight. You better learn to hide.