Let me start by saying that I love horror films and I am a very big fan of graphic novels, especially the ones that are of the horror genre. Also, I am not a page-to-screen critic who relentlessly criticizes a film for not being exact to its predecessor novel. I understand that some things do not translate to screen and that in some instances time does not allow one to show all the details that words can convey. These are my novel-to-horror film standards, and I am sticking to them or am I?
With this being said, I admit that I enjoyed 30 Days of Night as a full-fledged horrific treat. I know after reading more than my share of very negative reviews, this really may open the floodgates of doubt for my comrades of film review. My only defense is that in a Hollywood horror film genre dominated by the Saws, Hostels and Turistas and with motivations toward more full-frontal torture and less pure terror, 30 Days of Night takes it back to the horror basics.
These basics of horror begin in 30 Days of Night with the perfect setting. The isolated small Alaskan town that experiences a month of night or darkness is one of the best vampire movie settings since the spelunking caverns of The Descent (Maybe, we are not 100% percent sure those were vampires). In 30 Days of Night, the setting is amazingly beautiful and disturbingly bleak on screen. Yet, unlike most dark settings, where the action and the terror are lost in the darkness of the screen, the filming/lighting is perfect. Also, the idea of total lack of communication with the outside world creates an even greater sense of isolation than the vast wilderness. I love horror films that were made before cell phones or ones that acknowledge cell phones dont always work-or even better, when all communication with the outside world is obliterated, as in this film. The second most obvious basic of horror is that your monster be either unknown or totally terrifying. I dont care what anyone says, the vampire is the most terrifying monster ever created. In 30 Days of Night, the vampires are scary. They have a mouth full of gnarly teeth, alien-like eyes, super human strength, an ear piercing screech and they will no doubt eat you. I have never been a fan of talking monsters, but I am okay with Danny Huston, as the head vampire, and his gang because it seems that he is one of the few who has advanced to the talking phase and he doesn't try to be funny or sarcastic. I lost all love for Freddy of Elm Street once he started killing people with laughter. I also like that the vampires of 30 Days of Night are messy eaters. Huston has more blood on his face and European club clothes than most of the mangled corpses, and we never see him clean once he starts dining on the locals.
Yes, I agree that there were problems with 30 Days of Night. A couple days before seeing the movie, I read the first of the graphic novel series. Maybe this was not such a good idea. I know I just admitted to being pretty laid back about the whole novel to screen transition, but I did find myself questioning some of the decisions of the screenwriter and the director. However, maybe this is one of the other reasons I enjoyed the film. I was constantly trying to guess how the film would play out some of the drama of the novel. Although I am sure everyone will not agree, I liked Josh Hartnett as Eben, the sheriff of Barrow. I think he did embrace the essence of a small town sheriff and I found his fear and compassion believable. What I question is why the film would present him and his wife, Stella, played by Melissa Georges, as being separated although in the novel they are together and she is actually as strong or potentially a stronger show of character than he. Like in Kubricks The Shining, where the screen version has Scatman Carruthers feeling the weight of Jacks ax, completely changing Stephen Kings ending of the black groundskeeper and the psychopaths wife and young boy walking into the sunset, 30 Days of Night lets Stella stand to the side and wait while Eben and his brothers (who do not exist in the novel) take all the glory of mutilating vampires and protecting the townsfolk, or at least the six that lasted. Her big rescue becomes the quintessential need of the mother figure (she already admitted she and Ebens separation was partly because he didnt want children) to save a small girl wandering aimlessly through the streets about 27 days into the 30 days of night. To top it off, this rescue is completely reckless and ends with her and the little girl under a truck in the center of town for the final showdown. Her positioning in the end is what motivates Eben, our hero, to perform a selfless (and kind of stupid) act that actually is the same as in the novel, but I guess the movie could not get him there without a damsel in distress.
These issues aside, I still stand behind 30 Days of Night. If you are in the mood for horror, this might satisfy your thirst (no pun intended) more than seeing a teenager tortured for the thrills of a Russian financier. This is a reference to Hostel Part II, and I only bring it up because the horror of a good ole vampire will always trump a European torturer anytime. Weirdly enough, arent many of our characterizations of vampires the original European torturers anyway?