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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Chills and Thrills
by Betty Jo Tucker

“Those vampires need napkins,” my husband observed after seeing 30 Days of Night. I have to agree, for the movie’s blood-thirsty creatures sport red gore all over their faces during a terrifying month-long rampage in snow-bound Barrow, Alaska. Gone are filmdom’s traditional seductive vampires, but this movie still contains chills and thrills galore.

Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night boasts a creepy atmosphere and incredibly scary monsters.  Director David Slade (Hard Candy) claims his goal was to bring the source material’s striking imagery to life. “I wanted the look of the film to be very close to Ben Templesmith’s artwork, which I very much liked,” he says.

Templesmith, who seems pleased with the result, declares, “Within reason, they’ve (the filmmakers) taken the look of the movie from the page. The color’s stripped back, the vampires look like the vampires in the book -- the integrity is there.”

Jo Willem’s exceptional cinematography and Paul Austerberry’s creative production design combine to enhance this movie’s special look. Use of a de-saturated color palette contrasting with blood red gives a highly dramatic effect, and the town of Barrow comes across as cold, desolate and barren, which made me feel chilled to the bone and isolated -- right along with the characters on screen.          

Regarding those vampires, Templesmith admits he was going for “eating machines,” not the classic “romantic ponce” image. While watching the film, no one could possibly mistake Marlow (Danny Huston) and his hungry vampire pack for gothic, affected vampires. No siree. Although they look almost human, they’re only interested in finding people to feast upon. Even the blistering cold fails to stop them.

However, Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) tries his best to save some of the town’s inhabitants, including his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) and his young brother Jake (Mark Rendall). Hartnett (Lucky Number Slevin) delivers an appealing performance here. He makes it easy to empathize with the character he plays -- a courageous but flawed man who’s able to rise above personal problems in a crisis situation. And George (The Amityville Horror) does a fine job as a strong woman tossed back into a relationship with a husband she’s left, then deciding to help him as much as she can.

Still, top acting honors go to Huston (Children of Men) for his mind-blowing vampire portrayal and Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) for another quirky performance, although one with too little screen time. Foster’s character, The Stranger, lends a foreboding feeling to the movie at the very beginning, and I wish he appeared in more scenes throughout.              

Because of its visual artistry and harrowing suspense, 30 Days of Night ranks as one of my favorite vampire films. While not as impressive as Elias Merhage’s Shadow of the Vampire or John Badham’s Dracula, its unique approach to the creatures of the night both frightened and fascinated me. Well-done!

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “R’ for strong horror violence and language.)

Listen to Betty Jo and Mad Movie Man A.J. Hakari discuss 30 Days of Night and other vampire flicks by clicking on this BlogTalkRadio link on Tuesday, October 23 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. 

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