Title: 30 Days of Night
Graphic Novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
Movie directed by David Slade; starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and Danny Huston
In honor of today’s dvd release, I thought I’d write a review for 30 Days of Night from graphic novel to the big screen.
Before watching the movie in the theater, I purchased and read the graphic novel by Steve Niles with art by Ben Templesmith. I very much enjoyed the novel, especially because of the artwork. The colors are splashed and runny watercolor, dreary inky blackness with slashes of blood red cutting through the murk and gloom. It’s unconventionally stunning, and memorable because of it. I loved that certain frames would be almost panoramic in their beauty, but then the next few frames would be scribbled and ragged. I love reading graphic novels, and although my experience with them is pretty limited for me, the art in 30 Days of Night was different from anything else I had ever encountered in the genre. These were guttural and simplistic, and I would recommend buying the book if only for the unconventional nature of the art within.
Story-wise, the premise is delicious and something you want to sink your teeth into (hardy-har! I start with the lame puns again). The Alaskan town of Barrow is at ‘the top of the world’, above the arctic circle and preparing for its upcoming 30 days without sunlight. The story follows Eben, sheriff of the town, and his wife/deputy Stella. Having already taken out all cell phones, cars, and killed every sled dog in the town, as night falls, creatures of darkness descend on the town. And by creatures of darkness, I mean Vampires. Not your sexy leather clad vamps that you find in paranormal romance novels, but hideous, dangerous, bloodthirsty animals. Led by ancient vamp Marlow, they swoop in on Barrow and immediately begin to make hamburger meat out of all the unsuspecting residents. Those that manage to escape the initial attack hide out and try to stick out the 30 days until the sun rises again, in a sort of zombie cabin story. While the premise is intriguing, pretty quickly readers realize that the story is more of the same old cliché. Character development is pretty sparse, but seeing as the novel is only around 80 or so pgs long, that’s to be expected.
That is, until the ending—which I am so glad was preserved in the movie. Talk about an interesting twist.
Then, last year the movie version hit theaters, and I eagerly attended on opening day…err, night. Directed by the talented David Slade (of Hard Candy fame), I was excited to see how the book would translate in movie form. For the most part, I was not disappointed. The visual direction was spot on—using frames from the art in the graphic novel and extrapolating with movie magic. The dark, oppressive feel that was portrayed so well in the book was masterfully adapted in the movie—as was the slick, heady violence of fresh crimson blood on the bleak landscape. Mr. Niles did not shy away from gore and violence in his book, and Mr. Slade honored this in his film. There is a whole lot of blood and carnage in this movie.
The acting is decent—no one is gonna win an academy award, but nothing horrendous either. I actually liked Josh Hartnett in the role of Eben. I also liked the liberty the movie took in having Eben and Stella estranged. Yes, it is a cheap character ploy that amounts to cheesiness ultimately, but it gave a bit more insight to these characters that was not provided in the graphic novel at all. Another point I should mention, that I loved about both the book and movie is the restraint the writers displayed in regards to who the vampires are, where they came from, what their history is, etc. There was no data dumpage in either format. More often than not, when trying to rationalize the irrational and explain origins it comes across as hokey and contrived, and is a tempting pothole for many a horror story. 30 Days of Night is content to leave things as they are—vampires invade because there is no sunlight for a month and they are free to wreak havoc and carnage on an isolated town. That’s all we really need to know.
Marlow and Creepy Vampire Chick
There was, however, one aspect of the movie that I was extremely disappointed with: The Vampires themselves. They looked wonderful, all jagged teeth and distorted faces, dripping with dark blood…but who the hell made the executive decision to have them speak a different language?! All the vamps communicated in a series of growls and clicks (which were subtitled for the audience), in addition to Standard English. At first it was kinda cool, but after the third vamp-only interlude involving Marlow cocking his head from side to side speaking (an unconvincing version of) gibberish to the other vamps’ opening and closing their formidable jaws making hissing/squealing noises, it got old. Furthermore, it doesn’t even make sense! Many townspeople became infected and resurrected as vampires. Upon resurrection, how on earth would they be able to magically speak and understand this new language that they had no understanding of in their former lives?! Is the vampire language naturally imbued in their blood? It was a bad decision, in my opinion.
The same shortcomings the novel had were understandably present in the movie. There’s no way in hell any humans would have made it 30 days to see the sun rise—in all honesty, they’d probably be toast within the first week. The overall plot has been done numerous times before, 30 Days of Night could be considered a rehash of every cabin story since Night of the Living Dead, just this version happens to be at the North Pole. With Vampires. The shocking ending of the novel was preserved in the movie—and while extremely badass and cool to read/watch, again doesn’t make logical sense. But I’m willing to suspend disbelief—we are talking about vampires after all.
Verdict: Overall, I enjoyed the graphic novel and I felt that the movie adaptation did it justice. While this isn’t the most groundbreaking or original work out there, it’s certainly worth checking out. I know I’m picking up my dvd tonight.
Graphic Novel – 7 Very Good
Movie – 6 Good, Recommend With Reservations