Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Poles are for Vampires

Just imagine what vampires could do if the sun didn't go down. Well, you don't have to, because 2007's 30 Days of Night shows us what might happen; it turns out to be an exciting horror film having also the quality of a western, the vampires functioning sort of like marauding Apaches in a John Ford film of the 40s or 50s. Director David Slade shows his usual flair for action editing and I really appreciated Josh Hartnett for the first time in the lead.

Set in the town of Barrow, Alaska--which was reverted to its Inuit name of Utqiagvik in 2016--the film begins on the last day of sun before the titular thirty days set in. Slade takes the opportunity to give us some dark, ominous clouds.

The film is unfortunately an example of the late 00s trend of orange and teal colour correcting but Slade's compositions still work well in several scenes. I like this moment after Eben (Harnett) first manages to kill a vampire, one that had formerly been a friend.

Eben was apparently Inuit in the source comic but Harnett does such a good job in the role I'm sure no-one minds the change (who would complain about that?). It might've been interesting having an Inuit in the role but Harnett gives a good mixture of steely and vulnerable. Eben's forced into hiding with a handful of other survivors of the vampire pillagers. Among the group of humans is Stella (Melissa George), Eben's ex-wife.

I like that the film doesn't spend time giving us exposition about their relationship, just giving us enough to explain why the two are particularly important to each other. Both are police, so they have to balance that with the care they owe everyone else.

The typical pre-Anne Rice vampire was a metaphor for aristocracy and sometimes foreigners, particularly foreign, unProtestant sexuality, as in Dracula. The vampires in 30 Days of Night function a little more like zombies--the strange, unwashed hordes, the physical threat they represent perhaps working as a metaphor for guilt and anxiety about an increasing homeless problem. The vampire as foreigner fear is also in play, though, because a vampire language was created for the film and they mostly speak in only that weird tongue. It's subtitled for us but I think it would've been better if it wasn't--I think making the viewer feel excluded might've been unnerving, but it's effective as it is.

I also liked how particularly strange looking actors were cast as the vampires, generally actors with a peculiarly elfin look. Danny Huston plays the leader and former Uruk Hai, Andrew Stehlin, plays a big vamp named Arvin. My favourite, though, is a lady named Iris played by Megan Franich.

It's a good movie with a really effective ending that's surprisingly bittersweet.

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