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October 31, 2007 > 30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night

By Shari Wargo

Twelve years ago, Steve Niles tore out an article about a town in Alaska called Barrow that in the depths of winter, was dark, deathly freezing, and prohibited the sale of alcohol due to increased suicide rates during a period of no sunlight. Niles kept this article in mind, recalling that every year a related human-interest piece could be found at this time of year. He began to think about the characteristics of the town and soon developed a story involving vampires and Barrow, Alaska where for thirty days the town didn't see sunlight - "30 Days of Night." Illustrator Ben Templesmith joined Niles on the project and Idea and Design Works Publishing (IDW) soon picked up the idea as a series of graphic novels.

"30 Days of Night" brought the horror genre back to comic books and it was a success. With a growing group of devotees, Columbia Pictures decided to transform these graphic tales into a film in early 2000.

Slate and Nelson tried to keep the graphic novel feel to the film, while also giving viewers a realistic and character driven story. In the tradition of films based on graphic novels, "30 Days of Night" has a somewhat beautiful and artistic quality to it. The film starts with a contrast of light and dark - white snow and dark clothes of a lonely traveler -and then continues with the introduction of Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett), a black silhouette to the immense sunset around him. The film also ends with this concept, the sunlight and brightness of the earth against the dark of man.

In the first minute, we see a stranger (Ben Foster) move through the snow toward a mystery ship, and already the picture looks defined, raw, and real. There's a close-up of the stranger's face with a sepia effect to it, and we see just how gritty a person can be in a place so vast with snow, associated with pure and beautiful. It is in this first minute of unique texture that one might see a resemblance to the movie "300" or "Sin City." The effect is so real you may need to glance away to remember that you are in a movie theater.

Part of this raw feeling comes from the use of computer generated (CG) effects. CG was used to make a New Zealand landscape look like Alaska and create an amazing sunset and sunrise. These effects are also responsible for a magnificent ending (that I will not give away).

Unlike most horror flicks, this movie doesn't haunt viewers with intense music to create tension just before something happens. Instead, the viewer is allowed to follow the story with the characters. Slate and Nelson then manage to take us by surprise with vampire attacks.

There are few "big" actors, helping to keep the focus on the story. The film is really well thought out. The vampires are centuries old but wear contemporary gothic clothing. They are smart and methodical in their actions to take apart Barrow in order to attack. This realistic and modern vampire story uses real situations. At first, residents of Barrow don't think that the menacing strangers are vampires, because "vampires don't really exist." It is through a series of altering events that the surviving few begin to realize what they're up against, and learn how to deal with their problem.

"30 Days of Night" exploits the notion of a clash of civilizations in a way so realistic, it's different. This contemporary view of a very old idea punishes the heroic and questions stability.

Though this isn't a movie that will give you nightmares, it will give you a visually stunning experience. So, if Halloween thrills haven't satisfied the macabre in you, this is the perfect haunting experience for a dark and scary night. "30 Days of Night" is now playing in theaters.

Rated: R

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