That rare beast, a vampire film you can get your teeth into

The glut of vampire movies in recent years is probably enough to sate even the most ardent fang-flick fancier, but 2007’s 30 Days Of Night is one you may have missed.  Based on the cult comic book of the same name, it’s a proper grown-up horror film – an exercise in bleak, existential terror.

Once a year in the remote snowbound town of Barrow, Alaska, the sun sets and does not come up again for an entire month. A pack of vampires discover this ideal hunting ground and, as the light dwindles, descend on the town for a feeding frenzy.  Josh Hartnett plays the local sheriff trying to keep a handful of survivors alive long enough to see the dawn.

The plot may not be especially original, but in the hands of Hard Candy director David Slade and with Sam Raimi on production duties, the film’s execution is a cut above. Stark, minimal and strikingly shot, its relentless air of grim isolation harks back to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing.  It features some brilliant set pieces and camerawork, including a stunning prolonged aerial shot as the vampires first lay waste to the settlement.

The bloodsuckers themselves are superbly realised.  These are old-school Nosferatu – ancient, feral and demonic, their black eyes and oval faces seemingly based on sharks. They behave like pack animals, loping over roofs and screeching like hyenas as their human prey huddle together in their hiding places. It’s great to see a film so true to the unvarnished spirit of these folk monsters. Danny Huston as Marlowe, the vampire leader, is particularly terrifying.

30 Days is a brutal film with some viscerally graphic scenes. It’s uncompromising in its intensity and does not let up. Nor does it strive for cheap effect, the script remaining lean and understated right through to the end credits. Along the way it subtly explores its themes of family, community and sacrifice, without forgetting to serve up some gratifyingly kick-ass moments, such as when bearded man-haystack Beau Brower, the town outsider, takes on the fanged tribe in his snow-plough.

In a genre currently saturated with teen-market remakes and torture porn, here’s an old-school horror film with integrity. If you think the Twilight saga sucks, try this.

Leave a comment