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30 Days of Night 1 & 2

30 Days of Night (October 17/07)

Based on the comic book by Steve Niles, 30 Days of Night follows the disparate residents of a small Alaskan town as they're forced to contend with a band of invading vampires (led by Danny Huston's Marlow). Josh Hartnett and Melissa George star as estranged married couple Eben and Stella, while Ben Foster offers up a typically quirky (yet thoroughly engaging) turn as a nutty, Renfield-esque figure (sample line: "that cold ain't the weather; that's death approaching!") There's little doubt that 30 Days of Night benefits substantially from David Slade's superb direction, as the filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a palpable sense of style that's generally impossible to resist (his unfortunate and sporadic use of shaky camerawork notwithstanding). Slade's willingness to allow the story to unfold relatively slowly ensures that the viewer does come to care about the central characters, and there's little doubt that the uniformly strong performances only cement this feeling (Huston's electrifying work as Marlow is clearly the highlight, though both Hartnett and George are quite effective). The decision to paint the various vampires as feral creatures (complete with pointy teeth and their own language!), however, proves to be the film's masterstroke, as it's ultimately difficult to recall as creepy and flat-out terrifying a portrayal of night-dwelling bloodsuckers in recent cinematic history. And while the movie does suffer from a flabby midsection in which nothing much happens, 30 Days of Night nevertheless comes off as a breath of fresh air amidst the relentless deluge of watered-down, teen-oriented cash grabs and remakes.

out of

30 Days of Night: Dark Days (October 25/10)

The 30 Days of Night saga continues with this direct-to-video sequel that picks up about a year after the events of the original and follows Kiele Sanchez's Stella as she reluctantly joins forces with a trio of vampire hunters (Rhys Coiro's Paul, Diora Baird's Amber, and Harold Perrineau's Todd), with the film primarily revolving around the foursome's ongoing efforts at killing the much-feared vampire queen (Mia Kirshner's Lilith). It's clear right from the get-go that 30 Days of Night: Dark Days possesses a surprisingly cinematic sensibility that immediately sets it apart from its DTV horror brethren, with the promising atmosphere cemented by an irresistibly over-the-top sequence in which Stella "outs" several vampires within an auditorium by shining bright lights on the audience. The movie's better-than-expected vibe proves to be short lived, however, as director Ben Ketai, working from a script cowritten with Steve Niles, has infused the proceedings with an almost unreasonably deliberate pace that's exacerbated by a variety of factors - including the presence of uninvolving, underdeveloped characters and an ongoing emphasis on aggressively shaky visuals. It's consequently not surprising to note that the viewer's interest ebbs and flows throughout, with the less-than-enthralling climactic battle aboard a cargo ship ensuring that the whole thing ends on a decidedly underwhelming note. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days does possess one or two admittedly compelling moments and a number of impressively brutal kill sequences, yet the film is, in the final analysis, simply unable to live up to the better-than-average standard set by its superior predecessor.

out of

© David Nusair