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13 Days of Horror: 30 Days Of Night

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“You can feel it. That cold ain’t the weather, that’s death approaching.”

Synopsis: Barrow is the northernmost settlement in Alaska. The closest town is 80 miles south meaning that every winter, when the weather harshens and the sun retreats below the horizon for a month Barrow, the already-remote town in a hostile polar environment, is inaccessible to the outside world. It’s the perfect Christmastime destination for a pack of hungry vampires don’t you think?

Although a number of the big ‘uns like Twilight and True Blood have retreated to their coffins and been lowered into the ground the vampire trend still lingers on. Whilst reflecting on this trend I thought I would revisit 30 Days of Night for Live For Films’s 13 Days of Horror seeing as I honestly cannot remember a more solid film released since the vampire genre revolution/saturation began.

One of the reasons I so vividly remember seeing 30 Days of Night at the cinema was that, despite being three years older than the film’s certificate-15 rating I had to argue my way into the screen as, thanks to my insanely youthful appearance, my age came into question. In retrospect I almost sympathise with the cinema clerks’ efforts to not let me into the screen as they must have been feeling the same way about the film as the BBFC did when they upped its certificate from 15 to 18 for its DVD release – this despite there being absolutely no edits made to the movie between releases. 30 Days of Night is a brutally visceral and chilling film.

Made during a time when Josh Hartnett was still a thing, the film employs an unfortunately base plot of alpha male badassery, romantic awkwardness with Melissa George and pick-’em-off idiocy with the sometimes likeable but mostly arrogant and moronic townsfolk as they hide from their hunters through a series of obvious plot stepping stones. Though there’s not much in the plot that audiences haven’t seen before however, 30 Days of Night works so damn well. Josh Hartnett’s asthma-ridden leader (ugh) is so grounded in likeability and Average Joe-ness, and his relationship with his wife, from whom he is separated (ugh), is played so well by Melissa George due to their minimal interactions but warm chemistry in their icy backdrop. In fact, apart from a few borderline-cameo character duds, the whole cast is great.

Aside from great character work and a metallic, throbbing score (by Brian Reitzell) there are two things that make 30 Days of Night an outstanding horror: the polar setting and the vampires. Nothing gets my rocks off more than a film set in an icy climate, it’s just the best – have you seen The Thing?! A freezing environment provides more hazards and dangers than a traditional suburban-set horror, and more often than not we are treated to some beautiful scenery too. Contrasting that beauty then are 30 Days of Night’s unique vampires. These aren’t just primal monsters who maim and eat carelessly; the beings here are conniving and collected, their intelligence just as threatening as their violent attacks – and did I mention that their leader is played by none other than an almost unrecognizable, incredible Danny Huston?

Those things make 30 Days of Night a great horror but what makes it a great film is director David Slade. Though he has only three films under his belt (the others being Hard Candy and Twilight: Eclipse – lest we not judge) David Slade is one of Hollywood’s more stunning directors. His crisp visuals, so clinically clean and palatable are mesmerising and his methodical framing and pace are just so damn attractive that he could make a film about Barbie dolls going on a shopping spree an enthralling piece of cinema.

Combine all of the above with you in a dark room and no distractions and you have not just a fine horror film but an excellent piece of film-making. Really bloody, goddamn good stuff.

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