Halloween looms, and as every year, its arrival is prophesied by a short string of what my father likes to call “boogeyman movies.” Lately there's not been that much gold, and that's probably because the ground's been dug up pretty good for most horror sub-genres (no pun intended). Sort of the nature of the beast — the classic horror monsters (vampire, werewolf, zombie, slasher, Tom Delay) have been done to death (yes, I can keep up the puns if you want), and there's little if anything new to say about them. The really precious nuggets tend to be as rare as silver bullets.
“30 Days of Night,” a recent comic book adaptation about a vampire attack on an Alaskan town during a 30-day period of total darkness, attempts to deal with this not by rewriting the vampire mythos but rather by ignoring it completely. No ruffles or capes or vests, no Slavic gentility or plantation-owning swamp goths, no seduction of the innocent, just a bunch of really strong and fast people with sharp teeth who want to eat your face. The movie aims to be no more complex than that, and it succeeds completely.
That's a bit of a let-down, though, as there's not a whole lot left to care about. The monsters are fully monstrous, concentrated but generic evil, so we don't identify with them. The heroes of the film are likewise generic enough that they come off more as plot vehicles than people, so you don't tend to worry that much whether they live or die. Even scenes where children are used as bait or fall directly in harm's way don't have near as much emotional punch as they should.
The movie has more than its share of scares and thrills, though, and the visuals are very good. You can almost feel the cold and the emptiness of the landscape just by the lighting and color palette alone. The action is well done, the monster makeup is impeccable, and there are a few genuinely frightening moments. Mostly there's splatter, though, splatter punctuated by moments of silence that, while tense, aren't quite tense enough.
For a Halloween thrill ride, however, this is certainly worth a trip. Let's face it: Watching someone's intestines get ripped out is fun, and I'm of the opinion that Halloween isn't Halloween without at least one scary (or trashy, or both) movie. “30 Days of Night” fits the bill nicely. It's not terribly inventive, mostly just evil vampires dropped into a zombie plague movie, but it's fun and thrilling and will more than satisfy your annual lust to see people suffer very, very horrible deaths.
— Matthew Reed