30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night on Blu-ray disc

by Christopher Bray

There's something about vampires that's just cool.  I don't know what it is, despite having seen several Discovery Channel  programs on the topic.  The most rational person would probably soil himself upon meeting one in real life, but we're drawn to stories about them nevertheless. 

Well, some of us, anyway.  And what's really interesting is how much some of the various interpretations of the vampire myth  differ from one another.  From the dark, living-death of John Carpenter's Vampires, to the cool martial arts in the air fights of the Blade series, everyone seems to be able to find a niche.

Enter 30 Days of Night, starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George.  What got me to want to see it was, first of all, the trailers looked neat.  Then I heard that Sam Raimi was involved, and I figured it had to be worth a look.  Well, it was.

The film is set in the small Alaskan town of Barrow where, for one month out of the year, the sun never rises.  We start out just hours before the last sunset, and most of the town is scrambling to fly out; only the most hardy people can handle that extended darkness.

As the town is going into hibernation, we see a group of dogs murdered mysteriously, and quickly we realize that they were sled dogs, and someone or something is trying to cut off the town's links to the outside, including their radio and cell phones..  There's a crazy-seeming, disheveled man who makes a scene in the diner and is arrested; we get the feeling he's involved, but aren't sure how.

Then the sun sets, and no time is wasted before people start dying.  First to go is the man who runs the town's main generator, and then the lights go out.  In the next few minutes, we not only see people get attacked on the street, but dark, man-like shapes jump into houses through the windows and drag people out.

The movie does a wonderful job of creating what is, really, a fairly typical scenario of people being chased by monsters and cut off from help.  The only real disappointment is an occasional feeling that it's too much like John Carpenter's The Thing, which is probably unavoidable considering the remote location and the cold; but it's not a bad Thing (sorry), and the feeling is short-lived.

Another aspect that adds to the suspense is that at some point we realize that these vampires aren't just mindless killing machines.  They are brutal and vicious, but we learn that they are also quite intelligent.  I won't spoil that point more, but suffice to say there's a moment when we start to wonder whether outsmarting the monster is even possible.

All in all, one of the better vampire movies I've seen.

The audio and video of the 1080p Blu-ray disc are superb. The video is ultra sharp, with excellent detail, rich color, and great depth. If it weren't for the graphic violence, this would make a great in-store demo of the Blu-ray/HDTV formats. Since the film's shot mostly at night, good black level performance is mandatory, and if your equipment's up to snuff this Blu-ray will look very nice on it.

Audio, which is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1, is excellent, with nice use of the surround channels.

Special features include:

8 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes

  • "Pre-Production" - As the script powers its way through development, Director David Slade and Producer Rob Tapert begin to assemble a team. See everything from high-tension story meetings with Writer Brian Nelson, to Slade picking out his equipment and crew. Also Steve Niles discusses the beginnings of his idea for the graphic novel.
  • "Building Barrow" - Production Designer Paul Austerberry takes the viewer through the steps in bringing Barrow to life on a sound stage in New Zealand. See side-by-side comparisons with Barrow as envisioned in the graphic novel, as well as meeting the construction crew and tracking their progress.
  • "The Look" - Director David Slade and his Director of Photography Jo Willems tackle the challenge of bringing the graphic novel to life on the screen. Learn about the important camera decisions, lighting techniques, and post-production tricks involved in creating the look of "30 Days of Night."
  • "Blood, Guts and the Nasty #@$&!" - From prosthetic moldings to selecting the right consistency of blood, WETA and David Slade walk us through the battlefield of carnage.
  • "Stunts" - Stunt coordinator Allan Poppleton will guide us through the construction of four of the movie's big stunt sequences, from David Slade's conception of a scene to stunt rehearsals, safety precautions, and final execution on the shoot day. Vampires will fly off of moving cars, crash through windows and wrestle with a bulldozer.
  • "The Vampire" - From graphic novel to screen, take a tour with WETA as they design and bring to life each of the vampires. Watch as Director David Slade meets with his team of vampire actors and instructs them on how to properly behave like blood-thirsty beasts.
  • "Night Shoots" - As the production moves into five weeks of night shoots, the cast and crew slowly begin to resemble the blood-thirsty creatures from the film. As Director David Slade explains, "At this point, coffee is more important than film stock."
  • "Casting" - Director David Slade and company discuss casting decisions. Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and many more discuss what their characters mean to them, the influences they've pulled from the graphic novel, and the experience of shooting a high-tension action/horror film.

    You also get a filmmaker and cast commentary with Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and Producer Rob Tapert, and "Blood +" Episode 1, a cartoon which appears to be an upcoming Anime series about vampires. And exclusive to the Blu-ray release is "30 IMAGES OF NIGHT - Graphic Novel to Film Comparison Gallery "

    30 Days of Night, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    133 min. 1080p 2.40:1, Dolby Digital 5.1
    Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior
    Produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert
    written by Steve Niles and Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson, directed by David Slade

    Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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