Oh the ides of December. That’s a thing, right? Well it is in Alaska, where the sun goes down for a month at a damn time. Sounds like the perfect place for a vampire, right? Well that’s what the antagonists of 30 Days of Night thought, too. Did it work for them? Well, you’ll just have to scroll down to find out. Unless you’re worried about spoilers. Those abound.
Reviewed by: Jack
This is a pretty simple concept overall: There’s a town in Alaska where the sets for a month a time in the winter. Enter vampires.
There’s some minor interpersonal conflicts going on, like the protagonist and sheriff Eben (that’s right, not Evan, it’s confusing, and incidentally played by Josh Hartnett), doing a will-they-won’t-they thing with his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) who wasn’t supposed to be stuck in Barrow Alaska for the month of darkness, but at its heart, this movie is about a town systematically stripped of its resources and besieged by a fast, strong, and unknown force.
After cutting the communications and then the power, the vampires make their way through the townsfolk, eating the vast majority of the relatively small population who stuck around to endure the darkness. Only a small band of survivors are left, who huddle together and start to form a plan.
Their plan? Live in an attic for a few weeks, then run to a general store in a blizzard, and end up in a giant industrial plant to wait out the vampires until the sun comes out. It mostly works, except that Eben has to turn himself into a vampire to get strong enough to punch a hole through the head of the vampires’ leader so that he can save Stella and then kiss her under the sunrise as he disintegrates into ash. You know, as a I write that it sounds crazy, but . . . I’m checking my notes again . . . and yeah, that’s what happens.
What the Movie Does Right
Concept. Let’s get this out of the way right up top: The concept is fucking cool. Obviously, vampires would go to a town where the sun is down for a month straight. It’s frankly shocking that there aren’t more movies based around this idea.
Also the vampires are a great and threatening villain. They’re mysterious at first but clearly strong, fast, and organized, and then as you get to know them, they’re more organized than initially thought and have a fully fleshed out language. Lot of attention to detail here.
The effects are largely very strong. There’s some really cool and unique cinematography, good practical fire effects, and the vampires look great as well. There’s a couple of minor dings to the effects overall, but they’re far outweighed by the positives.
What the Movie Does Wrong
There are some major plot inconsistencies, and I’ll start with the big one: There is nowhere on earth where the sun goes from rising and setting “normally”, straight to going down for a full month. Similarly, at the end of the titular 30 days of night, the sun will not just go back to shining bright, but will instead rise for like, 5 minutes that day and a few more the next day and so on. This movie clearly does not understand that. In the film, the sun sets for the 30 days going straight vertically down from what would be its zenith on a normal sunny day. Then the vampires bail immediately when it rises for the first time. For smart vampires, they’re pretty dumb. Similarly the movie jumps around in time pretty wildly. So, even though they have almost no supplies (including water), they can live in an attic for a substantial amount of time. Lastly, Eben sacrifices himself at the end of the movie by kissing Stella as the sun rises, but there’s no reason presented that they couldn’t just kiss in the shade from now on.
There’s also some pretty rough CG, though it is more rare than the excellent practical effects. Specifically, there’s one scene where the vampires puncture the pipeline, and the CG oil flowing through town looks terrible. Also, Eben disintegrating looks awful, and the effect will age even worse.
Story: 7 - I said it up above, but this is a really cool concept for a movie that is totally unique. The writing is a tiny bit uneven in places, but it’s overall quite strong.
World-Building / Immersion: 6.5 - You’ll be pretty pulled into this movie, and the town of Barrow Alaska feels excellently developed and fleshed out.
Scare-Factor: 6 - The vampires are a formidable villain, and the systematic cutting off of resources is horrifying. There’s also good gore, some of which might make you squirm.
Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 7 - This is kind of a mixed bag, but the good effects far outweigh the bad.
Overall: 7 - This is an under-discussed movie in the horror world. I wouldn’t have guessed that I would call this a must-watch, but here we are.