It has been a long time since a movie scared the hell out of me. But it’s not often that we get a bloody, visceral, genre-melding tour-de-force like 30 Days of Night. Recent horror sequels and remakes are passe exercises usually as effective as mental masturbation. Director David Slade’s (Hard Candy) harrowing film will leave audiences soiled in fear.
A gang of vampires lays bloody siege to Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska, conveniently entrenched in darkness for the titular 30 days. Only a small band of survivors, led by the husband/wife sheriff team of Eben and Stella Oleson (Josh Hartnett and Melissa George), remains. What follows is an impossible month of eluding their pale foes.
Based on the graphic novel by Steve Niles, the film maintains a relentless pace evocative of a month-long sprint. The remaining survivors are so compelling in their paranoia and fear that we’re emotionally attached through every gut-wrenching moment.
Notwithstanding a few absentminded plot holes, like why the vampires appear dapper and heroine chic, the logic is unusually sound for a horror movie. Even though pretty-boy Hartnett doesn’t pass for an Alaskan or a sheriff, he makes for a plausible, albeit weepy, leader. George somehow remains primped and perfectly manicured for a month without a shower or makeup. Minor details like these can be ignored with such an engrossing plot.
Previous incarnations of the vampire mythos portrayed the bloodsuckers as romantic, tragic and conflicted. This marks the first time we see vampires as homicidal animals with a voracious bloodlust. Their unflinching desire to systematically exterminate the townspeople is unnerving and disturbing. Though they often resemble coked-out howler monkeys, these Armani-clad vampires are vicious and calculating in their genocide. In this case, 30 Days of Night truly has no equal.

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