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30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS

30 DAYS OF NIGHT: DARK DAYS-United States-92 Mins. 2010

Kiele Sanchez as Stella

Rhys Coiro as Paul

Diora Baird as Amber

Harold Perrineau as Todd

Mia Kirshner as Lilith

Directed by Ben Ketai

Screenplay by Ben Ketai and Steve Niles

Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

I’m at a loss of words. I just watched 30 Days of Night: Dark Days. It’s the sequel to the original film starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George. Hartnett was killed in the first film and George is replaced by Kiele Sanchez. The film is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Niles is also the co-writer of the screenplay just as he was in the original. I’m at a loss for words because 30DoN: DD is as disappointing a sequel as you are ever likely to see. There’s a very good reason it was placed in the discount bin at Wal-Mart. This film is one of the most anemic vampire films I have ever seen.

In a plot that has been used a million times before, Stella Oleson meets a group of people who ask her to join them in ridding the world of vampires. In typical clichéd fashion she reluctantly accepts. I kept waiting for her to say something like “I work alone” or “I got my own agenda.” The group tells her they are going after the queen vampire, Lilith. The film is talk, talk, talk, talk, some action, talk, talk, talk, talk, a little more action, the end. I’ve seen better acting on WWE Monday Night Raw and better direction at a high school play.

Am I being unfair to the film? I don’t think so. I paid for this film and I have a right to express my disappointment. The DVD box has a blurb that says ‘Dark Days makes Twilight look like nursery school.’ If that’s the case then the first film makes Dark Days look like Twilight.

Trivia

During publicity for the first film, Melissa George had expressed interest in reprising her role as Stella Olemaun in the sequel. According to producers, scheduling conflicts forced George to bow out and the role was recast with Kiele Sanchez.

Lilith bathing in blood is a clear reference to Elizabeth Bathory. Elizabeth Bathory was a sixteenth to seventeenth century countess, who supposedly killed numerous young women and bathed in their blood, in an attempt to retain her youth. She, along with Vlad III the Impaler, is one of the most common historical figures to be re-imagined as a vampire in popular culture.

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30 DAYS OF NIGHT

30 DAYS OF NIGHT-United States-113 Mins. 2007

Directed by David Slade

Written by Steve Niles and Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson

Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

Starring

Josh Hartnett as Eben Oleson

Melissa George as Stella Oleson

Danny Huston as Marlow

Ben Foster as The Stranger

As I was midway through watching 30 Days of Night one thing dawned on me; why didn’t someone think of this before? Vampires in Alaska? Surely somebody had the idea before this. Doesn’t matter, though. What matters is that it’s an idea that works. 30 Days of Night is one of the best American vampire films to come around in a long time. The film is based on the highly acclaimed graphic novel of the same name and written by Steve Niles with art by Ben Templesmith. It is directed by David Slade and it is his second feature film. Like his first film, the controversial Hard Candy, it is a film that he can be proud of.

The film reminded me of two other films, both directed by John Carpenter. The first is his remake of The Thing in that both 30 Days of Night and The Thing are about an alien menace that terrorizes a small group of people who are cut off from the rest of the world. The people take refuge and begin to work out a plan to either fight back or escape and that in itself reminded me of Assault on Precinct 13. I wonder if David Slade was influenced by Carpenter in the same way Carpenter himself was influenced by Howard Hawkes.

Josh Hartnett is impressive as the sheriff. His facial expressions remind me a bit of Tommy Lee Jones. Ben Foster plays The Stranger, the Renfield of the story. The vampires use him to prepare the way for their arrival as if he were John the Baptist preparing people for the coming of Christ. Only Jesus never had fangs. Foster always looks different in every role and it is sometimes hard to get a bead on him with his strange mannerisms. However, I feel that he was perfectly cast in this film. Marlow, the leader of the vampires, is portrayed by Danny Huston. Huston brings just the right amount of menace to the role without going over the top. His Marlow is one part Dracula and one part Don Vito Corleone.

Whether 30 Days of Night is considered a classic in the years to come remains to be seen. There have been better vampire films made since then (Let the Right One In) and there have been worse (Twilight). 30 Days of Night fall somewhere in between the two. Thankfully, it leads more toward the former.

TRIVIA

According to David Slade, veteran director Sam Raimi was slated to direct the film when the script was in its earliest stages; then Raimi opted to produce instead.

A picture of Steve Niles, who wrote the original comic book, hangs in the attic hideout.

Most of the night shots were actually shot during the day, using the day-for-night process.

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