Saturday, 25 October 2014

30 Days of Night (2007)

This is a good horror film.

Really, in terms of whether you should see it or not, that's all you need to know.  Either you have an interest in the horror genre, and should.  Or you don't, and shouldn't.  But just in case you feel like you need more information to make a decision, I've blathered on at some length below.

First things first, the plot: Barrow, Alaska is battening down the hatches before the onset of deep winter, when the sun won't rise for 30 days.  Unfortunately for them, this phenomenon has drawn the attention of a cabal of vampires, which plans to use the month of darkness to indulge in an orgy of feeding.  The townsfolk will soon find themselves in a battle for their lives.

Now I've been to Barrow, where this movie is allegedly set.  And just like for the purposes of the movie you are going to need to accept that vampires exist, you're also going to need to believe a lot of stuff about Barrow that isn't true.  It doesn't really experience a month of complete darkness, for instance.  Even on days when the sun doesn't rise above the horizon, there is some light.  It's also a lot larger than the film's depiction, and contains a lot more native Alaskans.  Really, the only one of these inaccuracies that irks me is the white-washing of the cast.

Potentially more problematic are some unanswered questions in the script.  How did the vampires get to Barrow?  How do they plan to leave?  (There are no roads leading out of town, a fact the film does get right)  Why do they hang around for the full thirty days, when they pretty much wipe out the town in the first 24 hours?

Those quibbles aside (and you could probably come up with explanations, the movie just doesn't do it itself) this is solid stuff.  The film, which is based on the comic of the same name, introduces the characters effectively, setting up who they are and giving us some reason to care about the upcoming carnage.

Once the vamps arrive we head into the standard survival horror kind of thing: outmatched humans try to stay alive against an enemy for which they're simply not prepared.  The film executes this much better than average, however.  We don't get the usual "idiot ball" antics of such films (people do irrational things, sure, but they're believable irrational things).  There's also some nice subversion of a couple of the more common tropes of the genre.  I'm a sucker for a subverted trope.  I was also pleased with the absence of fake outs and "jump scares".  This is a movie that keeps the menace looming, rather than going for a cheap "gotcha" moment.  I'm not sold on all the details of the last ten minutes, but thematically it works pretty well so I can live with it.

With a solid (if too whitebread) cast and a strong though not flawless script, this is, as I said several paragraphs ago, a good horror film.

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