Review: '30 Days' tedious and lacks bite

The movie “30 Days of Night” draws its inspiration from a graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith that dared to reimagine vampires as feral consumers, stripped of their gothic pretensions and driven only by a frenzied lust for blood.

It’s a subtle twist on traditional Bram Stoker-Anne Rice vampire mythology, though it doesn’t really break much new ground. While some have credited Niles and Templesmith with ushering horror comics into the 21st century with their stark vision of ravenous killers running amok in a remote Alaskan town, their storytelling, as apparent in David Slade’s mostly faithful adaptation, is unexceptional.

The villains in “30 Days of Night” are no different from the rabid zombies who inhabited Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” — save, of course, for their aversion to garlic cloves and daylight — and when they arrive in Barrow, where darkness reigns unabated for one month each winter, panic ensues. Dozens are dead within seconds, torn to shreds in a series of hurried, frantically incoherent close-ups, leaving a handful of survivors to seek refuge in an attic. It is a strategy ripped from the “Night of the Living Dead” playbook, and a losing one at that.

Tempers flare. Beau (Mark Boone Junior) wants payback. Eben (Josh Hartnett) and his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George) know only that they need to keep moving if they want to survive. Then there are the unfortunate few who wander into the night, crying out for help, apparently having never seen “28 Days Later” or “Night of the Living Dead.”

The action is fast and gruesome, but beyond Niles and Templesmith’s unique setting, in which the typical race to daylight is stretched out to an agonizing marathon, “30 Days of Night” offers little to stir the imagination. It is a humorless exercise, shot in murky, monochromatic tones and liberally splattered with fake blood, but where is the suspense? Slade, in his long-awaited follow-up to the promising “Hard Candy,” relies on shattering acts of violence to set the mood, but never gives us reason to care about them.

Here, the survivors are only marginally more interesting than the vampires, who roam the streets in finely tailored suits, gritting their fangs and howling at the moon. Only one, played by Danny Huston, is granted speaking privileges, albeit in some arcane vampire dialect. He spends his time waxing philosophical about the impotence and futility of mankind in a series of monologues that must have seemed menacing on paper. On screen, they lack bite.

How do the other bloodsuckers communicate? Who does their dry cleaning during the off-seasons? And why does The Stranger (Ben Foster) — the only truly interesting character in the movie — want so badly to join their curiously uninteresting clan? These and other perfectly legitimate questions remain unanswered by the time “30 Days of Night” reaches its conclusion, which is clever to a point, but should be instantly familiar to fans of Guillermo del Toro’s far superior “Blade II.”

30 Days of Night *½

Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior

Written by Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, Brian Nelson

Directed by David Slade

Rated R

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Comedian and actor Bob Odenkirk is among the dozens of performers in Festpocalypse, streaming this weekend to benefit SF Sketchfest. (Courtesy photo)
Bob Odenkirk joins star-studded Festpocalypse gang

Virtual comedy benefit replaces SF Sketchfest this year

Most Read