Movie Review: 30 jours de nuit
By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
In between meals the vampires in "30 Days of Night" converse in a language scrambling together a little Dutch, a little Hebrew and a little Arabic, so that a subtitle reading "We should've come here ages ago" accompanies dialogue that sounds like "Ak-mak poop-dek humuna-humuna-humuna-ptooooey." The film is based on a 2002 graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost burg in the U.S., where a diminishing handful of survivors must fend off the bloodthirsty so-and-sos long enough to see the end of the annual month without sun.
Fast and gory and pretty spectacular in its amalgam of Bram Stoker and "Northern Exposure," the graphic novel is very entertaining. Slower and gory, director David Slade's dutiful film version has its moments - including an eerily beautiful gliding overhead perspective of the vampires and their victims and the blood-stained snow - but it feels sluggish and attenuated. It's too bad, because the world could've used a new collection of vampires, a breed operating at the speed of light with the ferocity of a sales force working entirely on commission, the way "28 Days Later" and especially "28 Weeks Later" reimagined flesh-eating zombies for today's active lifestyle.
The script is simple stuff, simpler than the graphic novel, which at least managed to devote a page or two to the vampires' back story. Not here. They just show up, as if their charter bus hit a bad patch of weather and pulled over for repairs somewhere. Josh Hartnett, looking worried every second, plays the sheriff in charge of keeping a generic group of townsfolk alive. (Danny Huston fares best as primo vampiro.) We follow the survivors as they inch their way across town, day by computer-generated-scary-skies day, from an attic to the general store to the police station. When the words "DAY 7" appear on the screen, you can't help but think: Only seven? Twenty-three days to go? Damn.
Director Slade, who did the nicely acted piece of dung "Hard Candy," has some talent, but he's too in love with his individual pictures of slaughter to concern himself with the proper rhythm and velocity of a scene. Nearly two hours long, "30 Days of Night" makes you feel the cold (though it was shot in New Zealand) and feel the fangs, but it also makes you feel like 30 days is a pretty long time.
"30 Days of Night"
Directed by David Slade; screenplay by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson, based on the graphic novel by Niles and Ben Templesmith; photographed by Jo Willems; edited by Art Jones; music by Brian Reitzell; production design by Paul Denham Austerberry; produced by Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. A Columbia Pictures release. Running time: 1:53. MPAA rating: R (strong horror violence and language).
Sheriff Eben - Josh Hartnett
Stella - Melissa George
Marlow - Danny Huston
The Stranger - Ben Foster