Wednesday, October 31, 2007

30 DAYS OF NIGHT: Town Under Siege

30 DAYS OF NIGHT (horror thriller)

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston and Ben Foster Director: David Slade
Time: 115 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? It's Halloween season and if your idea of a celebratory night of fright is to watch blood splatter all over the screen in a mindless drivel of a movie, "30 Days Of Night" is right up your alley. However, if you are looking for a plot that will chill your spine, stay away from this effort based on a comic book by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie is ostensibly set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town of the US that never sees the sun for 30 days each year. On the eve of the countdown to this long 'night', strange things start happening. All the sleigh dogs in the outpost are brutally slaughtered, cell phones are mysteriously destroyed and the power station goes on the blink. Most of the townsfolk fly south to spend the winter, except for about 150 or so who are forced to stay put - including the town sheriff (Josh Hartnett as Eben Olsen) and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George).
As soon as the sun sets, the terror starts, predicated by an obnoxious stranger (Ben Foster) who warns: "That cold ain't the weather, that's Death approaching." Sure enough, the people are savagely attacked, bitten and eaten alive by hordes of visitors who look and act like a cross between vampire and zombies. Where do they come from, and why do they pick Barrow as their diner? Nobody knows, and after a while, nobody cares.

BOOS! & BOO-BOOs: The most part of the movie deals with the fight-or-flight options open to Sheriff Eben and the survivors - and they mostly choose to hide from the bloodsucking monsters that could not be killed by bullets (silver or otherwise). Knowing that they have 30 days of feasting, these vampires take their own sweet time to decimate the town.
Unlike most vampire movies that offer 'rules' on vanquishing the villains (usually driving a stake through the heart), there seems to be none here. The monsters only fear sunlight - so we are guaranteed lots of blood-splattering sequences alternating with scenes of panic and grief. Yes, Eben and Stella get to settle their differences while clobbering the monsters but most of the time, they seem helpless against the fanged hordes led by Marlow (Danny Huston, playing a hybrid of Christopher Lee and Freddy Krueger, and sprouting gibberish).

For movies like this to work, the audience need to root for a hero. The closest we get to one here is Eben but he seems to be more of a wimp than a champ, offering few workable solutions except the ultimate (but irrational) twist at the climax. Still, Hartnett, George and most of the cast put up solid performances despite a screenplay full of plot-holes and loose ends.

THE LOWDOWN: If you are looking to getting trapped in a blood-soaked nightmare for a couple of hours, this is it. However, if you need something more intelligent to scare you out of your wits, check into Room "1408".


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