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MOVIE REVIEW: 30 Days of Night—Dark Days

The word “sequel” usually makes my stomach instantly sour. Especially when prefaced with “direct to DVD”. There are very few instances I can ever think of when a sequel is necessary unless the first film is designed with an ending that immediately tells the audience that there is unfinished business which the first feature-length movie was unable to resolve. When the original film was not really designed to be a franchise then it causes a ripple effect of problems from plot development to casting when many of the actors that made the first film such a success often refuse to return for one reason or another. Therefore, when I heard they were creating a sequel to one of my all-time favorite vampire films 30 DAYS OF NIGHT I cringed and groaned as I shook my head in dismay. The last unnecessary sequel I had seen had been LOST BOYS 2: THE TRIBE, the bitter disappointment of the memory still thick in the back of my throat. I knew I needed to view the premiere, however when it debuted at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas recently, even if it was out of a morbid curiosity I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I went in with guns a-blazin’ ready to write a scathing review. There couldn’t possibly be one redeeming quality about this film. So, you can imagine my shock when just the opposite occurred. Within the first couple of minutes I settled back into my seat, my inner snarky dialogue silencing to be replaced with genuine enjoyment. The film had stylistic punch and a strangely reminiscent crime noir atmosphere, the narrative voice of the main character “Stella Oleson”, played by actress Kiele Sanchez (previously played by Melissa George in the first film), is compelling and intense conveying a perfect portrait of a woman who’s been through absolute hell and has only one thing on her mind now: revenge. In fact, I’d say I actually prefer Sanchez’s performance over that of George’s in this particular instance. Screenwriters Ben Ketai and Steve Niles, the original creator of the 30 DAYS OF NIGHT comic book series on which the films are based, wisely kept the plot simple and direct: Stella Oleson has tracked the vampires that ravaged her town and killed her husband to the underground of Los Angeles in her quest for revenge. There she meets up with a small band of fellow survivors who have located the vampire queen “Lilith”, played by Mia Kirshner, and plan to disrupt her plans of future massacres.

“At the heart of it it’s a vampire movie and obviously I have a great appreciation for vampire films and the horror genre, but at the heart of it it’s really a dark character story. It’s the story of this woman who’s lost everything and now has nothing to lose.” Remarked director Ben Ketai on the red carpet of the Fantastic Fest world premiere. “This is really a subgenre within the genre. The world Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith created with the comic book series is so unique and different from other vampire movies. It’s not TWILIGHT. It’s not INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE.”

The simplicity of the plot line allows the action to take the forefront of the film, similar to the original 30 DAYS OF NIGHT movie. Only in two small instances does the sequel’s pace slow a bit as they attempt to interject a small dose of romance between the leading man “Paul”, played by Rhys Coiro. Overall the movie really could have done without the romantic element, but I will say that the sex scene is truly hot! In addition to the fast paced, action driven screenplay, the superbly designed vampires that made 30 DAYS OF NIGHT such a legend are back in the DARK DAYS, black eyes, feral shark teeth and all! This was an absolute necessity and I applaud the ability to keep the same haunting portrayal consistent with the original film. This new L.A. band of vamps are just a terrifying and demented as their northern counterparts and are led by a stunningly beautiful and calculatingly cruel queen who truly feels removed entirely from the mortal world. If you are a fan, you will definitely not be disappointed.

As I mentioned before, I went into this screening with the absolute worst of expectations and in the end was surprised by the delivery of, not just a decent sequel, but an all around excellent horror film. I highly suggest adding this one to your NetFlix cue as soon as it hits shelves on October 5th. It is definitely an excellent rental selection for any true fan of the vampire genre.

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