**This review contains spoilers**
As the citizens of Barrow, Alaska prepare for thirty nights and days of darkness during the annual polar-night month, a mysterious and dirty stranger (Ben Foster) wanders into town with a freighter ship close behind him. Upon his arrival, The Stranger destroys all the communications in Barrow, a helicopter, and murders a group of sled dogs. After The Stranger causes an altercation with a waitress at the local diner, the town Sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) steps in, and arrests him.
As nightfall approaches, The Stranger is in jail, but a group of vampires slowly sneak out of the freighter ship, and invade the town. Eventually, it’s revealed The Stranger helped the vampires through a serious of careful steps and planning to make sure no one else would suspect anything fishy. The pack of vampires are lead by Marlow (Danny Huston), and soon enough, the vampires are able to take control of the town with ease. At the Sheriff’s office, Eben’s younger brother, Jake (Mark Rendall), narrowly escapes a vampire attack, but Jake and Eben’s grandmother, who works as a desk clerk at the Sheriff’s office, is murdered.
Eben must put aside bitter feelings for his ex-wife and fire marshal, Stella Oleson (Melissa George), who is upset about missing the last plane for thirty days out of Barrow, and work with her to survive the vampire attacks. Cut off from the outside world with no help, Eben leads and commands the team of Stella, Jake, Beau Brower (Mark Boone Junior), Barrow’s rowdy snowplow driver, who uses his snowplow machine to help in the fight, and the remaining townspeople in Barrow against the vampires.
But after their cover is blown in the attic of an abandoned house, Eben and the other survivors realize they won’t be able to just hide and wait it out for the first sunrise in thirty days. No, they’ll have to fight back for survival, and risk their lives to outlast the darkness.
Hartnett is a competent leading man, and he’s a believable fearless leader. Melissa George delivers the second best performance as Stella. During the early stages of the movie, Stella is someone, who comes off as whiny and unlikable, but as Eben and Stella start working together again, George’s character becomes someone, who you can root for. Sad to say, but Boone Junior’s Beau is the only character, who has some real life here. Boone Junior is entertaining as the angry old man, who’s not afraid of any danger, but the rest of Barrow’s survivors (including Jake) aren’t given enough of a personality to stand out amongst each other.
The vampires? Eh, I can hardly say anything about them. The vampires in 30 Days Of Night are feral cannibals, who just growl and yell a lot. Danny Huston is the only one, who actually speaks, but subtitles are attached to his dialogue, because Marlow speaks an ancient vampire language. Although, Marlow speaks one line of English in the film. When a young woman is begging for her life, she asks for God to help her. Marlow responds by saying “God? God……no God” before allowing his pack to torture and kill the young woman.
Director David Slade (I still can’t believe this guy directed a Twilight film) deserves a lot of credit for creating the perfect eerie, hopeless, and spooky atmosphere. When the vampires aren’t yelling or growling, there’s a chilling silence in the dark streets of Barrow, as the remaining survivors tiptoe to the next safe house. 30 Days Of Night gets some bonus points from me for confining the protagonists in a desolate death trap, that favors the antagonists with no means of escape. It feels like a refreshing change, because 30 Days isn’t hampered by a plot that involves vampires trying to secretly take over the world, inconspicuously living in the shadows, or one vampire antagonist or more stalking a victim or victims, who discovered their secret.
Unfortunately, 30 Days Of Night will bore you with dull and one-dimensional characters. As I said before, Boone Junior’s Beau is the only character with a real spark. Yeah, I understand everyone is terrified for their lives and the safety of their loved ones, and because they’re facing a life or death threat, everyone has a break through revelation. Eben and Stella slowly start to trust each other again, and Eben realizes he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life without Stella. Jake realizes he has to grow up and be a man, because he was spending most of his time at his grandmother’s house growing and smoking weed. And some of the elderly survivors would rather die, so they willingly sacrifice themselves, because they feel like they’ve reached the end of the line. That’s all well and good, but personality wise, it’s hard to pick out an individual amongst the survivors, because the VAST majority of the cast never rises above “OH NO! VAMPIRES! WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO!” reactions. Foster’s creepy and eccentric Stranger character had a chance to stand out. He had the perfect look as, this deranged and filthy homeless man, but his character doesn’t last too long.
Although, I have mixed feelings for the characters in 30 Days Of Night. Yes. They are boring and dull, but I still root for their survival. Unless the protagonists reach extreme unlikable levels (this doesn‘t apply to anyone in 30 Days), you can always rally behind the group of unlikely heroes and underdogs, who come together to fight and stop a seemingly invincible evil power. It’s a timeless formula, and more often than not, you can plug this formula into any genre of film, and it still works today.
But I hate the stupid ending for this film. So with one day left before sunrise, Eben and the group make a run for a utilidor, because they believe it’ll be a perfect stronghold to ride out the attack until sunrise. But as they’re making a run for it, Stella separates herself from the group to rescue a petrified survivor wandering around in the streets. Stella and the survivor hide underneath a wrecked car, but the vampires decide to drench the streets in oil, and they start a fire to burn the entire town to the ground, so everyone else will assume the attack was nothing more than a tragic accident. The streets are burning, Stella is trapped under the car, so Eben comes up with the bright idea to turn himself into a vampire, so he can fight Marlow for a distraction, giving Stella and the survivor time to escape. Eben injects himself with the blood of a turned friend, fights and kills Marlow, and he burns to death in Stella’s arms, as they watch the sunrise the very next morning (Eben promised Stella they would watch the sunrise no matter what).
This ending….didn’t make any sense. Just pay close attention. Stella had PLENTY of chances to escape without the vampires noticing her. Sunrise was hours away, and the vampires were focused on the fire. Eben transforms himself into a vampire, and yeah, he kills the leader. But what do the vampires do after the fight? They walk away, because they didn’t have enough time to do anything else. So in the grand scheme of things, his sacrifice and the melodramatic ending with Stella holding a dying and burning Eben didn’t make the least bit of sense, because everything leading up to this particular series of events was so unnecessary.
30 Days Of Night will satisfy true gore fiends, because this film is loaded with a lot of nasty and bloody gruesomeness, and some brutal beheadings. A few decent action sequences every now and then, and although I can’t stand the frustrating and nonsensical events leading up to it, the final fight between Marlow and a vampiric Eben was fun to watch. With the background of the burning town behind them, Eben fought with everything he had, and Eben slamming his fist through Marlow’s mouth and the back of his head for the kill at the same time is a memorable jaw-dropping moment, that’s capable of leaving you speechless. Personally, I would LOVE to go with a higher score, but deep down inside, I know 30 Days Of Night isn’t that good.