Wednesday, August 14, 2013

30 Days Of Night: Dark Days (2010)

**This review contains spoilers**

Ten months after the events of 30 Days Of Night, Stella Oleson (Kiele Sanchez) is trying to move on after the death of her husband, Eben. As one of the few survivors of the vampire massacre at Barrow, Stella dedicates her life to convincing everyone, who’ll listen in the real existence of vampires by traveling the country and the world, promoting her tell-all book about the attack.

But along the way, Stella is met with resistance from a human servant of the vampires named Agent Norris (Troy Ruptash). After exposing and burning three vampires to death, who hid in the crowd of her latest book reading with UV lights, Stella is recruited by a small group of vampire hunters. Motivated by their own tragic run-ins with vampires, Paul (Rhys Coiro), Todd (Harold Perrineau), and Amber (Diora Baird) do their best to convince Stella to join the fight, but she refuses at first. Although, Stella changes her mind after meeting, Dane (Ben Cotton), the leader of the vampire hunters, who happens to be a vampire himself, and a pep talk with Paul. And unbeknownst to Stella, Dane recruited her through a series of letters discussing vampires and the incident in Barrow.

Stella agrees to join Dane, Paul, Todd, and Amber, as they search for Lilith (Mia Kirshner), the vampire queen, who controls and orchestrates her own pack of vampires. But the vampire hunters will have to fight off a turned Agent Norris, and find a way to foil Lilith’s plans of returning to Alaska with another freighter ship full of vampires for a thirty day feast.

Melissa George wasn’t bad as Stella in the original, but at the same time, she didn’t set a high bar for the character with her performance, so I don’t have a big problem with Sanchez as a replacement. Sanchez is a decent enough leading lady, but her character strays into unlikable territory in certain parts of the film. Mia Kirshner would get my pick for best performance, but her character doesn’t receive enough screen time. Lilith speaks a little English (“show me” and “Stella”), but the vast majority of her dialogue is the ancient vampire language we heard Marlow speak in the first film. Kirshner does a good job of blending together sexiness and the commanding presence of a leader, and she never leans too far one way or the other. Rest of the cast is average or mediocre at best, so there’s no need to mention them one by one.

Lazy writing and cookie-cutter, generic characters are a problem for Dark Days, but the sequel deserves some credit for a handful of noticeable changes. First, you can really see how traumatized Stella is after Barrow, as she travels all over with the mission to spread vampire awareness. And Stella isn’t some scared survivor in Dark Days. She’s a fearless ass-kicker, who’s more than willing to get her hands dirty, and do the nasty stuff.  Plus, the protagonists aren’t a bunch of scared survivors, trapped in a dark town with no sunlight for thirty days this time around. They’re vampire hunters driven by revenge, who are willing to do and risk everything to stop Lilith and her clan.

Unfortunately, Dark Days really suffers from a cast of some the most generic characters you’ll ever see. Stella is the angry and frustrated outsider, who’s hesitant to trust other people, but as the film progresses, she assumes the role of leader after earning respect. Before Stella takes over, Paul is the soft-spoken lieutenant, who tries to be the peacemaker. Todd is the Yes Man, who just goes along with everything, and Dane is your typical quiet but firm leader, who lets his actions speak louder than words.

And  Diora Baird’s Amber is pretty annoying. Baird’s performance isn’t to blame, but the direction of her character takes so many wild and confusing turns. Amber is supposed to be the tough and uncooperative rebel in the group, but every time the group faces some real danger, Amber turns into this panicky wimp? As the group infiltrates Lilith’s ship at the end for the final showdown, Amber completely freaks out, and she begs Stella and Paul to run away with her? It didn’t make any sense.

I ranted about the stupidity of the ending in the original, and the ending in Dark Days is just as bad. So after the big final battle with Lilith and her crew, Stella returns to Barrow to dig up Eben’s grave. After witnessing a resurrection ritual on Lilith’s ship involving a good amount of fresh blood, Stella decides to try the same thing on Eben‘s dead body. Stella slits her wrists and arms to pour out as much blood as she can before passing out from blood loss, and she squeezes her blood over Eben’s burned corpse. Of course, Eben comes back to life, and guess what happens as the screen fades to black to end the movie? Eben bites Stella in the neck. Eh, I can understand Stella wanting to see Eben alive again, but she had to know he would come back as a vampire, right? So stupid.

The revelation of Lilith’s big sinister plan is disappointing and deflating, because “OH NO!” Lilith is going to Alaska for another thirty day feast! Seriously? That was the main story in the first film! And my god Dark Days is predictable as predictable can be. Stella falling in love with Paul, Stella emerging as the leader of the group, the one on one showdown between Lilith and Stella at the end, and Stella being the sole survivor at the end. Dark Days just goes through the motions from the opening minutes all the way up until the credits start rolling.

With all that said, I always enjoy Dark Days as stupid fun. Dark Days still provides plenty of gory and bloody moments, with Stella smashing a turned Todd’s head into mush with a cinder block as the highlight. The action sequences? Yeah, they are repetitive (a lot of shootouts/fights in dark tunnels, or dark areas like inside the freighter ship), but there’s enough carnage, blood, and dismembered bodies to overlook the monotony. Still, don’t expect anything great or mind blowing from this one, because Dark Days suffers from your usual straight-to-video horror sequel problems (average overall cast, average to mediocre special effects, and a so-so story).

Rating: 5/10

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