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Sunday, October 21, 2007

30 Days Of Night

30 Days Of Night

Vampires stage a blood orgy in a tiny Alaskan town that spends a month of every year sunk in the darkness of polar winter in this gory adaptation of Steve Niles' popular graphic novel.

The northernmost point in the United States, frigid Barrow is home to pipeline workers, a handful of hardy individualists who cater to them — oil-company support staff, local business owners, law enforcement — and a couple of bona fide loners who just want to put as much distance between themselves and civilization's discontents as possible. The town's population, already in the low three digits, shrinks further as the dark days approach: Everyone who can't handle a month of unbroken darkness departs for points further south. Those who stay are a self-reliant lot, but they've never faced anything like the hell that's on its way, heralded by a series of strange and increasing unnerving events. First, Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) and his deputy, Billy Kitka (Manu Bennett), run across a pile of cell phones, burned to molten uselessness, in a pit just outside town. Then the Toomeys (Camille Keenah, Jack Walley) find their huskies — which constitute every sled dog in town — slaughtered, and a wild-eyed stranger (Ben Foster) wanders into Ikos Diner, hissing obscure threats and intimating that there's more to the cold than just a drop in the temperature. And then, as darkness falls, the power goes down and the undead come out to play.

Directed by HARD CANDY's David Slade and scripted by Steve Niles, old Hollywood hand Stuart Beattie and TV veteran Brian Nelson, the film hews fairly closely to the graphic novel, with the unfortunate exception of a new and distracting subplot involving Eben's estrangement from his wife, Stella (Melissa George). In the original story they're a close couple, and the tension between them adds nothing to the suspense inherent in the classic siege-by-monsters scenario (think NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, 28 DAYS LATER, DOG SOLDIERS, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH and many, many others). Mark Boone Jr. makes a vivid impression as eccentric loner Beau Brower, and Danny Huston is mesmerizing as the leader of the shrieking, slashing, wallowing-in-gore bloodsuckers. They effortlessly eclipse the rest of the cast, including vapid leads Hartnett and George, which makes it hard to care when the plucky survivors are picked off one by bloody one. --Maitland McDonagh


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