Friday, May 2, 2008

MOVIES- 30 Days of Night

30 Days Of Night is a disgusting gorefest of a movie that isn’t really that bad as far as the genre goes but that’s only because the genre doesn’t seem to go much farther than one can spurt blood out of an artery. The movie is based on a graphic novel that started life as a film treatment and eventually ate its own tail like the worm Oroboros. The movie, directed by David Slade and starring Josh Hartnet and Melissa George (recently featured in HBO’s In Treatment), has an interesting premise- that vampires would migrate north to take advantage of the long nights during the winter near the arctic circle. Beyond that, there really doesn’t seem to be much thought that went into it. Unless you consider artfully splattered tomato juice stains on snow to be interesting.

As the movie starts we find ourselves in Barrow, Alaska. But not the real town, just what looks like a redressed western set with lots of cornstarch scattered around. It is filled with various character actor stereotypes and movie cliché subplots and is approaching the annual month of darkness mentioned in the title. There’s the estranged married couple (played by the leads) who have been drawn inexplicably by fate back to one another. There’s the local color iconoclast (Danny Huston), the teenager dealing with his parents marital problems (Mark Rendall, who makes one consider that the cause of his parent’s marital discord might be rooted in the fact that mom apparently got pregnant with him when she was eight years old), the kindly grandmother who grows pot, numerous other bit players who do nothing to differentiate themselves other than to look slightly different from the other people so you can tell them apart, and the mysterous stranger who is the harbinger of doom. Ben Foster plays the last role in another portrayal that marks him as the Crispin Glover of this generation. (Foster seems to turn up everywhere nowadays. He’s in X-Men- The Last Stand as Warren Worthington a.k.a the Angel. He’s the latent homosexual/homicidal nutbar in 3:10 to Yuma. He’s the Jewish older brother who can kick serious ass in Alpha Dog. Every role different, every role tinged with a kind of madness that makes him impossible to take your eyes off of when he’s on screen.) Of course, none of these people can leave because no airplanes can fly in or out of Barrow under cover of night. As we all know, airplanes can't land in the dark. And thats only the first time in this movie you'll be asked to be stupid.

Horror movies are like science fiction movies. They fall into two distinct categories. Those that have something interesting to say and use the affectations of the genre to make a point, and those that use the affectations of the genre and have nothing to say. Other than the central conceit of the title, this movie has nothing to say. The vampires are simply predatory animals, made ridiculous by their resemblance to a certain paint huffing moron who is infamous on the web. (In fact, if you put “paint huffing moron” into Google’s image search this is the first image that comes up.) The attempts at fright devolve into the purely disgusting (seeing a little (vampire, so it’s OK) girl have her head cut off with an ax, seeing a woman surrounded by a group of vampires cut to shreds (a gang rape analogy), seeing numerous people being fed on) and the “things jumping out of the dark with loud noises” motif. In fact, the soundtrack is indicative of the overall (lack of) quality of the whole production. I don’t remember a musical theme, all I remember is the speeded up sounds of airplanes taking off and landing, and what sounds like oil barrels being hammered with shovels. In addition to being atonal and irritating, the soundtrack is about 10 times louder than the dialog. It seems obvious that another cliché of bad horror movies is being used here, when unable to provide real chills, resort to the kind of sound that frightens babies.

The Blu-Ray disk only shows the ugliness of the film better. I guess I’d recommend it because the scaryest thing about the movie are the pores in the actors faces. Still, it shows the kind of film grain that HD usually eschews. On wonders what kind of low budget stock this gorefest… crapfest…shitfest was shot on. If you think that horror movies are all about being startled and having an interesting backdrop to see the same old same old, please see this movie. If you think that horror movies are a metaphorical playground for the exploration of what the human animal finds truly frightening then read the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe or rent a couple of episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

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