30 Days of Night

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster. Thriller. Written by Steve Niles and Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson. Directed by David Slade.

FILM SYNOPSIS: For 30 days every winter, the isolated town of Barrow, Alaska is plunged into a state of complete darkness. It's a bitter time when most of the inhabitants head south. This winter, a mysterious group of strangers appear: bloodthirsty vampires, ready to take advantage of the uninterrupted darkness to feed on the remaining town residents. Barrow's Sheriff Eben (Josh Hartnett), his wife Stella (Melissa George), and an ever-shrinking group of survivors must do anything they can to last until daylight.

PREVIEW REVIEW: A cross between vampire and an evolved zombie, these creatures are a nasty bunch, but dumber than a bagful of hammers. For example, theres the snow; if youve ever lived around snow, you understand that footprints are easily detected in the snow. Yet, the blood-drinkers cant seem to follow their prey despite the fact that theres a foot of snow wherever you walk! Inconsistencies bug me. Stupid writing bugs me. A filmmakers contempt for his audience bugs me. Graphic torture and brutality in place of eeriness in horror movies bugs me. This film bugs me.

When Bela Lugosis Dracula was made in 1931, it was scary to filmgoers because they hadnt seen such imagery. Its no longer as frightening, though still atmospheric and eerie, a testament to the fact that weve become somewhat desensitized to things that spook us in the movies and, like junkies, we need more gruesomeness to satisfy our spine-tingler factor. The 1930s horror movies were in actuality morality plays, good vs. evil tales. In them evil was eventually defeated by good. Whats more, the makers of these movies were prevented from showing contempt for God. Oh, how Hollywoods ghouls changed.

In Francis Ford Coppolas 1992 Bram Stokers Dracula, his monster was an omnipresent creature who contemptuously burned a crucifix with a stare, rather than turning away from the significance of the cross something the vampire had done ever since Bela Lugosi first put on a set of fangs. This new spin changed the entire theme of the Dracula legend. No longer was God the conqueror of the devil; now man alone was in control of his fate. Before you remind me that the Count was only a work of fiction, I want to point out that its not the movies that disturb me so much as the messages contained in those movies. Coppolas Dracula is humanism in its most monstrous form. It denies the supremacy of God and perhaps His existence all together. So does this recent vampire flick.

Over the decades horror masters have continued to find a spin for their scary creations. The 1950s were mostly goofy with prehistoric lizards breathing fire and trampling over Tokyo; the 60s gave us Britains candy apple blood fests from Hammer Films; and the 70s showed promise with Jaws, Night of the Living Dead and All the Presidents Men. (Hey, if that guy wasnt a vampire, Ill eat wolfbane.) But audiences were beginning to find graphic depictions of the destruction of the human body to be more acceptable and somehow more satisfying. In the 70s and 80s, horror films became little more than gruesome showcases for studio special effects departments. Good vs. evil themes were replaced with personifications of evil. Malevolent and apparently indestructible ghouls such as Nightmare on Elm Streets Freddie Kruger, Halloweens Michael Myers and Friday the 13ths Jason returned sequel after sequel to kill as many randied teenagers as possible in 96 minutes. But now the murderers have taken on a decidedly more torturous zeal.

Certainly, there have been exceptions to that rule. With 1999s Sixth Sense, director M. Night Shyamalan returned to suspenseful Hitchcockian elements in order to unnerve the audience. Psychological tension was used in that film rather than pelting viewers with sadistic brutality. The strength of Shyamalans chiller lay in what is suggested rather than seen. Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, Shyamalans other great fright flick Signs, contained a subtext about a man losing, then regaining his faith. That film also had an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. It asked questions such as, Are the details of life governed merely by happenstance, or are they a part of a great plan? Do things happen by chance or do they purposely serve to develop our nature? Signs was the thinking mans horror film.

Thinking mans films are limited in any genre. And that term could in no way be applied to 30 Days of Night. Its spooky and action-filled, but its also gruesome, dumb and dreary. Gory and full of blood and f-words, it also shows disdain for God. In one scene, the head demon says there is no God. And that is the one and only mention of the Creator in the entire film. No one even wears a cross. Youd think somebody would be praying, considering their entire towns populace is being eaten alive by children of the night. Its as if the filmmaker goes out of his way to exorcise God from our consciousness. And that is the scariest element for me concerning todays horror genre. Its horrifying what many filmmakers want to believe in and what they dont.

Like all living things, the spirit of man needs to be nourished. I couldnt say it any better than the following quote from the film Ive Heard the Mermaids Singing. You might keep it in mind when attending any new release, let alone horror films. Your head is like a gas tank. You have to be really careful about what you put in it, because it might just affect the whole system.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Sony Pictures

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Does stupid dialogue count?

Obscene Language: Around 20 obscenities, mostly the f- and s-words and an equal amount of minor expletives (damns and hells).

Profanity: I only caught one misuse of Christs name, otherwise the film doesnt do much to acknowledge God in any manner.

Violence: Oh, a lot of violence, including the creatures capturing, torturing, and mutilating their victims; people are used as bait; they are terrified and physically and mentally abused; several monsters get their heads chopped off with an axe; this is very visual, the guys in the special effects department working overtime. Blood: The bloodsuckers splatter more blood than they consume. I guess the director thought the contrast of red blood on white snow would be an engaging color scheme. Supposedly these creatures live off the blood of the living, yet theres a bloody mess after each meal. I guess they havent heard the truism, Waste not, want not.

Sex: None

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: 113 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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