"I'm so sick of vampires."
I hear this constantly. Having written a vampire novel, I know firsthand that they can be a hard sell, thanks in no small part to Stephanie Meyer's young adult series, Twilight. But Twilight isn't the cause of the problem; it's a symptom. For the past twenty years or so, we've seen a drastic shift in how vampires are presented in media, with a heavy emphasis on sex appeal and paranormal romance. These concepts aren't new to vampire fiction by any means, but lately the original concept of vampires being bloodthirsty monsters seems to have been mostly forgotten, or at least takes a backseat to romantic elements. Audiences have been yearning for a return to the terror, thirsting for something truly bloody to whet their appetites, and in 2007, relief came to cinemas with 30 Days of Night.
The film opens as a strange man trudges through the snow away from an anchored ship toward the small town of Barrow, Alaska. As the town prepares for the annual month-long period of uninterrupted night, Sheriff Eben Oleson is investigating a series of perplexing crimes and acts of vandalism. First he and his deputy find a pile of burned satellite phones, then the town's only helicopter is dismantled, and every sled dog in town is viciously slaughtered. As night falls, the strange man from the ship demands to be served raw meat at the diner. Eben arrests the man after he causes a disturbance. The stranger taunts the Olesons from his cell, warning them that "they are coming."
Eben doesn't have to wonder about the stranger's cryptic statement for long, because soon a pack of ravenous vampires sets upon the town, murdering everyone in sight and destroying all means of escape. The bloodsuckers have come to the town for what is essentially a month-long, uninterrupted feeding frenzy. Eben and a small group of survivors take refuge in an attic, but eventually they must venture out to seek supplies and more secure shelter, but the vampires stalk them every step of the way.
30 Days of Night (based on the comic book series of the same name) is a breath of fresh air after a barrage of undead pretty boy Romeos. The vampires in this film are cruel, calculating, and most of all... hungry. With their dark eyes and maws full of razor-sharp fangs, these vamps can best be described as walking sharks. Not only that, but they are truly evil. Humans bitten and not immediately beheaded by their attackers feel their humanity slowly slip away as the change takes hold of them.
Danny Huston plays the vampires' leader, Marlow, and he truly shines in this role. Marlow is savage, and while he is quick to anger, he doesn't mind playing with his food a little. In my favorite scene, a woman he's using as bait to lure out the hiding humans begs God to save her. Marlow hisses in her face "GOD?" before briefly scanning the heavens, only to sadly inform her "No God" before she dies.
I cannot recommend this movie enough. If you enjoy a good vampire story, then you don't want to pass this one up. While it takes a fresh approach to vampires that the genre sorely needed, it also pays homage to classics like Dracula, with the stranger's rambling and ambition for joining Marlow's undead legion being eerily reminiscent of Renfield. Check it out. You won't regret it.